Alternatives to Flash

With the hype of youtube and other world renowned websites boasting an arsenal of flash, it can be easy to get caught on the flash bandwagon. There are plenty of reasons to use flash but understanding where and when is another task in itself, here are some things to consider when thinking about incorporating flash into your website.

Do you really need flash for the outcome you’re after. While you can add a lot of custom animations and fine tune every detail personally, you have to take into consideration, unless you are a flash programmer or have experience in flash it is most likely that you wont be able to update the content yourself via the Content Management System (CMS). This means more time and more money to update content. You can have a look around and find many different methods to achieve some of the effects that flash brings using other more open web technologies. Take for instance our website the image slider on the home page isn’t done with flash but uses another kind of technology (which is built into the CMS).

Flash files are typically bad for SEO, generally search engines can’t access the content within the flash file which results in a lot less of your content reaching the search engines.

Flash files are also quite large compared to other methods of animation. So you have to think about how this increase in file size will affect the speed of your pages loading. It can also increase your bandwidth usage considerably. If you have an auto-playing flash monster on your homepage, it will chew up bandwidth pretty quickly.

With the update to HTML (web code) looming there is another reason that Flash will become more and more obsolete. Even sites that relied on Flash in the past are slowly moving away from it; YouTube currently has an opt-in strategy to test the new HTML5 way of including videos and movies into your website which doesn’t require the flash player. With the explosion of mobile devices occurring now and typically poor (or no) flash support on mobile devices the push towards non-flash methods is gaining momentum (although that topic is perhaps another blog post in itself).

There are a few things to consider when deciding if you want to incorporate flash into your website, there are plenty of animation methods around some of which are far easier to maintain and provide some equally fascinating animation effects, here’s a list of some examples of sites that are using flash like effects (without using flash!).

Here are some examples of websites we have built recently that use non-Flash based sliders.

Web Circle – Our home page has a JavaScript image slider that can be updated via the CMS.

CSD Marketing – Homepage slideshow built into the CMS.

Shine Academy – Homepage slideshow again built into the CMS based on JavaScript.

Business Plans – Animating testimonials on the homepage.

Aus Trophies – Sliding product showcase and category images all using JavaScript.

These sorts of trends change quickly so its something that we will follow closely but for now we think it makes more sense to use more open technologies that are easier read by search engines, easier to update by the client and will display on more devices.

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About Steve

Steve Worley was the lead developer at Web Circle, a progressive Brisbane / Gold Coast web design agency with a relentless drive to discover and implement "what works on the web". Check out the Web Circle People page for more info.

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