Why Flash and Animated Websites Can Be Bad for Business

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I love special effects, video games, and Sci-Fi movies. But I can’t stand a slow-loading animated website when I’m trying to accomplish a purpose. If I’m trying to get some information or buy a product, I want the shortest distance between my mouse and my goal. This is why Flash websites can sometimes do more damage than good. Sure, you’ve got a goldfish swimming behind the article you’re trying to read and fireworks following every move of the cursor–that’s a nifty trick–but I can’t read anything on the site, and it takes forever for all the graphics to load.

Most people who work in the web-world know that Adobe Flash-based websites have numerous issues. They don’t work on many mobile devices; they load slow; they can’t be read by Google (which means they get poor search engine ranking).

That being said, what if there was a solution that worked better than Flash–something that loaded faster and played nice with Google? Would we all start building websites that snow, sparkle, flip upside down, and make burps when we click buttons?

Well, there are alternatives to Flash these days. HTML5 is the most promising, and as it is more widely adopted, you will see more websites with HTML5 animation. But this is where I think we need to pause . . .

Just because we have these tools doesn’t mean we should run out and start dousing our sites in animated menus, dancing puppies, and scrolling banners.

Here are 5 reasons I think you should think twice before creating a website that relies heavily on any kind of animated effects.

1. Shiny/Flashy/Moving Things are Distracting

Things that blink, buzz, and whir serve a good purpose. There is a reason why we have traffic signs that blink, sirens that scream, and alarm clocks that buzz. These things are designed to tear our attention away from whatever we were trying to do in the first place and PAY ATTENTION. This is never a pleasant experience. Ambulance sirens scare the hell out of me, but I’m generally forgiving because they are serving a public good. If your website starts screaming, talking, spinning, or blinking, it might just scare the hell out of me as well. But my reaction will not be so forgiving. In fact I will never go to your website again.

2. Slow Load Time

Even if you have super-fast internet, your fans and customers may not. You’ve got about 2 seconds to engage your audience before they click onto the next thing. Loading excess animations and video will slow down your site load time. Also, putting a video or song on your website is great, but don’t make it auto-play. If your visitor wants to watch or listen, they will push play and they will usually wait a reasonable about of time for it to load. But most users like to choose whether to watch a video or not.

3. Animations Often Force an Experience

The internet is full of options. People like options. If a fancy animation loads when you land on a website, you are forced to watch it before you can go on to what you were trying to accomplish. The perfect example of this is a “splash page.” This is a page that loads prior to landing on a homepage and usually features some kind of animation or ad. Now if I’m trying to locate a concert date, buy your eBook, or perform any other transaction on your site, a splash page serves a s a barrier between your site and my intended action. If I’m on a mobile phone it could break your website completely.

4. Inconsistent Mobile and Tablet Experiences

More and more people are using phones and tablets to access the internet and leaving their desktops to gather dust. Creating animations that work well on a big screen and a tiny phone screen is a tough challenge and it often fails. The best mobile experience, in my opinion, is a simple one. I’m usually in transit when I use my phone and I want my information fast. Ask yourself what you want people to do on your website and make that super easy to do on any device.

5. Search Ranking

Search engines, like Google, are great at reading text. They are not-so-great at reading images and animations. Sure, HTML5 will be easier for Google to handle then flash, but because of the potential for keyword stuffing and hidden text, words that are embedded in images will probably not be given the same weight as text on the page.

All this being said, I love special effects and animation and there are some awesome interactive websites that are exceptions to the rule because they are designed as a novelty or a multimedia experience. But if you’re trying to grow your fan base and readership and sell some merchandise, you don’t need special effects. You just need a great-looking website that is easy to use.

What are your thoughts on animated websites and Flash? Answer in the comments below.

 

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12 comments to Why Flash and Animated Websites Can Be Bad for Business

  • great advice.  the trend of single page artist sites is growing, and when you’re trying to remove links from your page, you have to be very minimal.

  • Thanks Kevin. It’s all about striking the perfect balance between minimalism and maximality (I didn’t know ‘maximality’ was a word, but spell check is letting it slide–so I’ll just go wit it).

  • I think every person/place or business that own or operate a website could benefit from this advice.

  • Great points, but i think you guys could expand on #4.

    We’ve all been aware that Apple has no plans to implement Flash into any of their devices, but more recently, Adobe (the company that owns Macromedia’s Flash) has announce that they will no longer be developing flash solutions for mobile usage. This means, soon Flash will not be available for ANY mobile device.

    And, with the growing market moving their surfing to the mobile environment, Flash is quickly becoming a dying technology, and could leave your users with nothing to see—literally a blank screen when visiting your site!

    This means full sites, applets, widgets—a whole list of third party bits and pieces a lot of artists have been placing on their blogs and official sites—will be useless to the majority of your users.

    Not to mention, for those not savvy with web development, haphazard use of code and the incompatibility of Flash could potentially lead to holes that could cause your site to not function correctly at all!

    If you’re into developing your own sites. A great alternative is JavaScript, and of course the upcoming HTML5/CSS3.

  • Well, the tricky thing about Google–is they don’t reveal their search algorithm. What they do say is that “hidden text” (text that does not appear on the page in traditional formats) may have little value or even damage your ranking.

    The issue is, Black Hat SEO gurus see a way to get artificial rankings by hiding keywords in animations and ruin it for everybody. Then Google has to demote sites that use this technique for search ranking.

    I can’t predict the future, but I do know that plain ol text on the page will have more value for search than animated solutions (at least for now and in the near future).

  • In addition to all the issues you’ve raised (which are pretty much deal-breakers in & of themselves), there’s also the problem that most Flash sites make it impossible for a visitor to link directly to any deep content.

    “Go to the home page, skip past the intro, click on the 4th link down on the right hand side, then click on the big photo on the middle of the page…” Yea, probably not. So in addition to not getting much search engine traffic, it probably won’t get any referral traffic or social media mentions either. Not to mention a user can’t bookmark a page to get back to later.

    Given all the massive search and usability problems Flash sites create, it’s beyond me why anybody’s still building/paying for them.

    Paul

  • Right on! I like movies in the cinemas, not on a website when I want some information. 

    Just deleted 2 Flash panels (great looking ones, I might add!) from my Home page – I hope 

  • I blame graphic designers who have no concept of development and want a web page to act like a video presentation of a magazine page.

  • Michael Currey

    Thank you so much for writing this… We have a competitor who tells everyone he meets that the WIX sites he build for their businesses are “all they really need”. I’m going to try and get everyone to read this!

  • Ha. Thanks Michael!

  • Alayna Rani

    if you use swf object to embed your flash sites then they are completely search engine optimised and viewable on ipads/mobiles – perhaps you didn’t realise this when the article was written?
    also statistics provided by adobe state that flash websites, when optimised properly load much faster than a regular website, or just as fast. ie faster than using google fonts, or webkit, html5 etc.
    The reason why some people know that flash will make a resurgence and is a great product is because Flash offers the exact same viewing experience on every single browser (PC) and for mobiles a simple text site (or html5) site can be displayed. Really, who wants to see html5 or flash animations on a tiny little screen anyway (that is definitely where animations are over the top and a distraction).
    You don’t get the same kind of beautiful design options when coding with html5 as the site will look different on every browser – as it is not an embedded SWF file.
    Flash’s capabilities are still light years ahead of html5, so why people choose to go backwards in time is beyond me.

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