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Making Good Use of Flash: When You Should and Shouldn't Use It!

By Josh Barinstein
Posted Tuesday, June 22, 2004

If you are considering Flash for your Web site production,
there are reasons why you would and would not want to tap into
this great technology. Flash is everywhere these days, it is
true. However, as we've seen in the past, not every available
interactive tool should be used in every application! Here are
some questions to answer before diving in:

1. Is Flash going to help me in communicating with my
audience?

The first thing you need to decide is whether or not it makes
sense to use Flash. Will you be able to communicate better
with your audience in how you address their concerns? You need
to keep users' needs and perspective in mind at all times.

If Flash is going to annoy them, or otherwise get in the way of
you reaching them, then simply don't use it! However, for
subtle animations that help enhance the experience, or for
media-rich content, on the opposite end, Flash is an excellent
tool.

2. Will my audience have the plug-in?

Estimates say that up to 85% of users do have the Flash
plug-in, with browsers now shipping with it. That still leaves
15% without the plug-in, and those with an outdated version.
Unfortunately, many won't bother to fetch it in spite of a smart
site giving them the option.

Know your audience and if this will mean a loss of business for
you.

3. Is some additional download time acceptable?

Flash can be optimized, but some movies could potentially take
a bit of time to load. Will your audience commit to waiting?
Another important question to answer. Those on the slower
connections may not wait.

4. Am I trying to accomplish things that plain HTML can't?

One consideration to make is whether a static, HTML site will
do justice to your content. If your site needs to come to life
in some way because it will engage your audience better, then
Flash could be the answer.

5. Will I still have good exposure on the search engines if I
use Flash?

Doing too much in Flash will sacrifice exposure on the search
engines. In other words, the engines will not have enough text
on which to base their indexing. If access to your site through
the search engines is important to your success, be sure that
you don't overdo it on the Flash side.

6. Do I rely on non-vector graphics?

Non-vector graphics, such as photographs, are not easy for
Flash to process. This means that animations in Flash using
this type of imagery will get easily bogged down.

Another concern is that Flash does not cache (or store)
non-vector images, therefore they must be reloaded each time.
Not a pleasant thing for your visitors! This is in contrast to
HTML-based scenarios where the browser will cache the imagery
for instant retrieval.

As you can see, Flash is not always the right solution. This
is true of any aspect of Web development, where you need to
research your options carefully and choose the right
combination of tools that works best for you. If you seek
outside help, make sure you find a team with the right
expertise and a solid track record to back it up. Good luck!

About the Author
Josh Barinstein is President of Red Frog, Inc., the Southern
California ad agency that provides worry-free experiences and
powerful results in the areas of Marketing, Print design, and
Web/CD-ROM development.

Learn more at (www.RedFrogInc.com) or by calling us at
888-955-0550.