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To flash or not to flash? that is the question...

By Angela Rohner
Posted Friday, October 1, 2004

The Downfalls:
This is one of those popular debate topics in web design forums. What types of web sites should use this new technology and what types of sites should not? If you have ever visited a site that asked you to download the Flash 3 or 4 plugin, then you know exactly what this article is trying to portray.

For those that are not familiar with Flash: Flash is a plugin and program developed by Macromedia that gives sites dynamic animation and interactivity. The only downfall is that in order to view sites that use this technology, you must first download the plugin, which on some computers can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 mintues depending on your connection speeds.

This is not an obstacle for most surfers, since many are now leaning towards cable connections. But for some, it isn't a matter of fast or slow loading - some surfers are very cautious about what they download from the internet, and they may see this "Download Now" box as threatening to their system. Some surfers do not even go into sites that require plugins for this reason only. And some do not enter because they do not like waiting for components and animations to load. These are the people that want the information that they went to the site for - not to watch an animated bear introduce them to the site.

E-Commerce and Flash Don't Mix:
It is not advised for E-commerce sites to use Flash Technology. The purpose of an e-commerce site is to sell items to consumers that visit their site. The visitors want to see the products and get the information quickly and easily. By implementing an e-commerce site in Flash, that company is limiting the amount of consumers that go into the site, and could potentially lose sales because of this.

Most sites that use Flash also offer an HTML version for the customers that do not have the plugin, or that choose not to download the plugin. This is strongly advised for all companies to do that use Flash in their E-commerce site. Let's put it this way: If you owned a company that sold products, and this company was on an island in the pacific very close to the shore, would you require that everyone that wants to go into your store obtain a boat to get to your store? Or would you build a bridge for them to cross?

Better yet, you probably would have been better to build it on the main shore in the first place for "easy access". This is the problem with Flash today. Until at least 98% of the consumers out there have their Flash plugins already installed, it is not advised to implement an E-commerce site in Flash. Of course, that is ultimately the company's decision.

The Good Side of Flash:
Yes, Flash does have its good points. Flash is very beneficial to Entertainment web sites. Sites that are mainly for entertainment purposes and do not run the risk of driving sales away are ideal for Flash Technology. Informational sites are also starting to use Flash in parts of their sites to depict moving images and sound as a guided tour or clips of information that make the site more interesting. Flash is also great for children and game sites. With Flash Technology, your site can interact with the visitors in the form of games or funny cartoons. It adds fun and excitement to the web with sounds of music, voices, and colorful moving images and pictures. So yes, Flash can be very good for some sites.

Bottom Line:
If you have an E-commerce site, do not limit those that can view and purchase from your site. If you own an Entertainment or Artistic site that needs the technology of Flash, but that will not hinder the purpose of your site, then by all means, Flash like there's no tomorrow.

About The Author:
Angela Rohner is the webmaster and founder of (http://www.acehosts.com/) (http://www.thebestdesigns.com/) and (http://www.edezines.com/) Angela has been an Internet User since 1994, and a Web Designer, Developer, and Marketer since 1997. She is also the creator of the popular Sarah McLachlan fan site, (http://www.sarahfan.com/) which she launched in 1998. Sarahfan.com is now one of the most visited Sarah McLachlan fan sites on the Internet.