Reasons to Use Flash
- Cross-platform compatibility
Flash is well-supported on something like 95-98% of the Web browsers out there, and if you build a site or application in Flash, you know that it will be viewed correctly by anyone who has the Flash plugin. It is operating system and browser independent.
Flash was originally used primarily as an animation tool, and that is what it is best suited for. It is easy to create animations in Flash, and then easy to view them.
Video works well in Flash applications because it doesn't require an OS-dependent plugin like QuickTime or MediaPlayer.
Games can be fun, and Flash games don't have the browser support issues of Ajax the bandwidth limitations of server-side games written in CGI.
- Vector graphics
Vector graphics can look smoother and more attractive and Flash allows developers to create applications with smooth lines requiring that the customer have a vector-graphic tool installed on their hard drive.
- Adds, well, flash to a site
- Image replacement for special fonts
Web designers who need a special font family in their Web designs can use an image replacement technique called sIFR (or Scalable Inman Flash Replacement) which replaces text in the design with Flash to get specific fonts.
Flash applications can perform script actions, collect data, and do most of the same things that server-side scripts can do.
Drawbacks to Using Flash
- Bandwidth and Speed Limitations
Unless the designer works very hard to optimize Flash most Flash applications and websites can be very large and slow to download. In many situations, the entire Flash site must be downloaded before it can be used. And while it is possible to add in graphical countdowns and other features to make the time pass more quickly, many people still won't wait.
- Usability is impaired
One of the most important buttons on a Web browser is the back button. It is used all the time by most people browsing the Web. But a Flash site typically removes that functionality. When a customer hits the back button after delving deeply into a Flash site, s/he is taken back to the website they were on before they visited your site. Then if they return to your Flash site, they have to renavigate to where they were. Some people might be willing to do their work twice, but most won't.
- Accessibility is also impaired
Because most Flash sites are based on images, and don't generally have a lot of alternative text, they can be very difficult or impossible for a screen reader to read.
- Search engines can't read them either
Search engine spiders are a lot like screen readers, they can't parse images. Plus, many of them have trouble following links that are not standard HTML links - and most links in Flash are not in HTML - they are in Flash. Because of this, many Flash developers have a very difficult time getting their Flash sites to rank high in search engines. In fact, most Flash sites that do rank well, do so because they have two versions of the site - one Flash and one HTML. And then they have to maintain two copies of the same website.
- Flash requires a plug-in
While a large proportion of Web browsers have the plug-in pre-installed, the fact is that Flash does require a plug-in which some people and companies don't allow.
- Some people just don't like Flash pages
Similar to sound and animated graphics, Flash has developed a reputation among some customers as being more of an annoyance than a benefit to a Web page. This is especially true when the Flash serves no purpose other than to decorate a page - such as an animated banner or splash page. While these customers may be less common than those who don't care, they are often more vocal and more likely to sway opinion away from your site if you use Flash gratuitously.
Should You Use Flash?
Only the designer and site owner can make that decision. Flash is a wonderful tool for adding games, animation, and video to your Web site, and if those types of features are important, then you should use Flash.
Use Flash Where It's Effective
There are very few sites that benefit from using only Flash. The drawbacks to SEO, accessibility, and customer satisfaction make it impossible for me to recommend using Flash for your entire site. In fact, even Google recommends only using Flash in select situations:
Try to use Flash only where it is needed.
Never Use Flash for Navigation
It can be very tempting to create Flash navigation because you can add exciting transitions, rollovers, and vector graphics using Flash. But the navigation is the most important part of your Web page. If your customers can't use your navigation for any reason, they will simply leave - bandwidth and accessibility issues can both contribute to a Flash navigation structure being unusable.