March 4, 2010

Flash Can Scare Visitors Away


Hostway Team

By Joanna Fletcher

Flash is a fantastic program from Adobe that lets you produce graphics, animations, videos and games to introduce your Web page to visitors, yet most experts advise against a Flash intro. And no, they're not just killjoys with no vision. There are serious technical reasons to avoid the Flash introduction; add in some classic human behavior, and a Flash intro can actually drive away potential customers.

Skip Button

Adding a tiny “SKIP” button somewhere on the window does not help, as visitors do not want the bother of searching for it. On the Internet, almost no one can claim to have an exclusive market, and your top competitor's Web site is just a few clicks away. Anyone who has found you online should not be put off at the last minute by having to sit through what is essentially a commercial or vanity piece.

Poor Usability

In this age of almost infinite choices, people react badly to forced viewing. Alienating visitors is not a great sales tactic, and you can say goodbye to conversions. Even when viewing the Flash piece is a choice on your homepage, ensure that your developer does not disable the “back” button.

Some people are using dial-up Internet connections or very old and slow computers. Other people are using state-of-the-art hardware, fast web hosting, and your Flash piece may seem slow. People process information at different rates, and what may feel like appropriate pacing to you on your system may be ridiculously slow to someone else, or vice versa.

No SEO Value

Text embedded in a Flash intro is ignored by many search engines. Although it is possible to program Flash for better SEO, finding a good Flash programmer on top of the latest techniques could be tough, and you will usually have to pay for any required updates. Having the flexibility to refocus your site as you develop your market is crucial, and far easier with a traditional HTML site.

Those Web designers who spent two or more hard semesters learning to produce beautiful Flash content will strongly disagree with this perspective and may push you towards an impressively professional intro. They must keep in mind that there are only a few instances in which Flash intros may be advisable for today's Web-savvy consumers.

The highly Web-savvy have security concerns about Flash, as it basically provides a bridge between a customer's computer and the animation. In order to do this it must gather data from the customer, and create a marker like a cookie, without the customer's express permission. Those customers will click away rather than allow Flash into their computers.

Flash can produce movie-quality Web content and is commonly used to create online games; newer versions of the program can provide 3D content. Multimedia or Web-industry companies might feel confident assuming that anyone who visits their site is copacetic with the latest standards and technology. It is a risk few should take if they ever aspire to reach beyond their little tribe.

About the Author

Joanna Fletcher is a netizen who has lived, worked and played in virtual space for most of her life. Her entrepreneurial flair is topped only by her tolerance for failure.

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