Posted Monday, July 26, 2004
Looks like every client wants a Flash site these days but the reality is...as flashy as these sites may look, there are many negatives you may want to consider before delving into Flash.
Deadly Sin One - Long Load Times
This is the most obvious problem with most Flash sites. Flash files can get large in a hurry and if the page takes too long to load, your visitor will move on without even seeing your site. Ideally, you would want your Flash web page to load just as fast as a 'regular' page with text and images. And yes, it can be done!
Problem #1 - Images
The whole reason why Flash was developed was to be able to use vector graphics on web pages. Vector Graphics are infinitely smaller than pixel based images, they can be resized to any size and animated without creating large file sizes. Unfortunately, many designers use regular pixel based graphics like photos in their Flash design and end up with huge files. Rule #1 for good Flash design should be...Use Vector Graphics only!
Problem #2 - Sound
What is a good picture without sound? Once you have this great Flash animated page, you want to add sound to it. This is the #2 culprit resulting in large file sizes and slow loads. The trick here is to use loops. Flash Music Loops are ultra short slices of music, that when looped in Flash play great background music sound tracks that load fast and sound great. You can find Flash Music Loops at (http://www.flashmusictracks.com) These loops that are near CD quality and most are only 15k or less in size. They also offer a free Flash Music Player that allows for the music to continue playing even if the visitor switches to another page, you can even select a different music track or stop the music at any time while browsing, totally impossible with any normal Flash implementation. Another thing that helps keep file sizes down is to use low-res MP3 files for button effects and sound effects. You don't really need 128k MP3 quality when most computer's speakers will sound just as good with 24k or 32k MP3s. Another easy file size saver...use mono!
Deadly Sin Two - Missing Links
This fact is often overlooked. When you use Flash Buttons and Links, search engines will no longer find your links on the pages. This can be extremely disastrous for your search engine rankings. Search Engines need to be able to follow links to successfully index your site. Plus, the more well placed links the robot finds on your site, the higher your ranking will be. When you use all Flash, you won't have any visible links and you effectively kill any chance of being found on search engines.
What's the answer here? Use a Flash/HTML hybrid page. Even if you have Flash links, still try to duplicate those links on the bottom of the page in HTML code so the search engines can find them.
Deadly Sin Three - Compatibility
This factor used to be important but today it's no longer relevant. In the early days of Flash, many web users didn't have the Flash plug in and they moved on to another site rather than to download and install Flash just to visit your site. This is no longer an issue. 99% of all web users will have browsers that can 'see' Flash pages and you no longer have to design a Flash and Non-Flash Version for your site. If your visitors run for the hills rather than stick around to visit your site it's the load time, not compatibility that is to blame.
So what is a man to do? You want Flash but you still want quick load times and good search engine rankings. It can be done but you need to design your Flash site with all these factors in mind. It is possible to design Flash Pages that actually load faster than many 'regular' pages with lots of graphics. A good hybrid design with enough HTML elements can get you ranked well with the search engines. The FlashMusicTracks website mentioned above is a perfect example. It uses Flash Banners and Logos only, everything else is HTML. The site looks good, sounds good and everything loads very fast.
So, you don't have to be afraid of Flash killing your web business if you use Flash wisely.
About The Author
Article by Alan Steward, Webmaster and Sound Designer at (http://www.musicleads.net).
You are free to use this article on your website or in your ezine as long as you do use it in its entirety.