I recently received both fan mail and hate mail in response to comments featured in Backbone Magazine surrounding Flash-based websites.
My statement: “Most Flash intros are not created with the visitor and business in mind, but rather as an opportunity to showcase a programmer’s abilities,” also sparked exchanges on Ubuntu Forums, drawing more than 1,700 visitors and over 70 comments.
“You miss the point completely,” e-mailed one website developer. “Something needs to jump out at the reader, or you blend in with the rest of the Web.”
Another wrote: “It is, Mr. Web Copywriter, YOUR comments that are a blatant disregard for design. What do you know about design anyways?”
Well, appreciating the works of several elite designers, I recognize good design is about function as much as it is about aesthetics. The majority of web users, especially when visiting business sites, want to gather information. They want relevant content, and they want it fast. In fact, 51% of 258 web users who participated in a recent Webcopyplus poll indicated “slow load times” are most likely to drive them away from a website.
So why would anyone agree to put a Flash intro on a business website, making visitors wait extended periods just to watch a logo or image dance around? Additionally, why would any business agree to hinge its success on a Flash-based site, which impairs navigation, browser compatibility and search engine rankings?
While some business owners simply aren’t aware their sites are based on Flash, many who do are not aware of the usability and search engine ranking issues associated with the technology. And even when they are, some still desire it.
One business owner recently told me she delayed the launch of her new site for several months just to get a “cool” Flash intro added. When I mentioned its implications and asked why she wanted to add Flash, she replied, “Well, it impresses people, doesn’t it?” Obviously it does. One blogger went as far to state: “…clients love Flash eye candy. So you can’t blame the developers for doing it.”
Actually, you can. Clients should be educated on what will benefit them; a simple, fast-loading and functional website that offers relevant content. That’s what web users want. Give it to them and you’ll build a strong brand and loyalty, generate additional leads and ultimately convert more sales.
Without a doubt, web types from all corners of the industry should be making a collective push to advance the state of the Web by promoting usability to deliver positive online experiences.
So unless your site is streaming videos or games, seriously reconsider the use of Flash-based sites and intros. Most tech-savvy folks seem to be of the same mind; only 5% of more than 230 Ubuntu bloggers preferred websites to have Flash at the time this was written.
For the sake of usability on the Web, that’s probably 5% too many.