Should you design your site in Flash? This has been an area of controversy ever since the first flash based websites hit the internet back in the mid ’90s. When I first started using Flash 2 back in 1997 it was basically used as an animation tool. Sites like GaboCorp, (archived version here) and Eye4u, began using flash to build websites that used cool motion graphics to create seemingly seamless web experiences. While these sites were impressive they did have their detractors.
Almost from the moment flash sites started springing up there were people putting them down. Why? Well, they went against the convention at the time. People like Jakob Nielsen didn’t like flash because it “constitutes a usability disease”. To some extent that was true. Flash designers came up with new ways to present their vision. It didn’t always follow conventional thinking. Navigation was often difficult, to say the least, if it was there at all. As quickly as people had begun to praise flash the opposite happened. Long ‘skip intros’ became a websites downfall.
You can still find websites with skip intros. The experimental sites are still there. A lot of ‘designers’ still use flash for their portfolio websites because of the ‘wow’ factor. But not all flash is bad. The current version of 2Advanced is a great example what fash can do today. Of course I still like version 2, and I am amazed at how far flash has advanced in the last ten years. And sites such as CityCenter.com have merged flash and video for a high gloss presentation.
Flash still has it’s place on the web but it still presents some obstacles. The main problem would be the inability of the search engines spiders to see inside of flash. If the spiders can’t see it they can’t index it which means the site won’t show up high on the search query. If you want visibility, your probably better off not using flash
If you really want to have some flash content, why not use it sparingly. A introductory animation on the home page can still make a great impact. Slide shows and product showcases can be presented using flash. Video presentation using flash can often be downloaded faster than QuickTime or WMV video. Just look at YouTube!
I am not against flash. Far from it. I am a flash fanatic. But flash is not always the best way to present your product on the web.