Flash is Adobe’s platform for adding animation to websites and was the software of the time—in the late 1990s. Flash animation is now considered to be a gigantic technology mistake for your website. Even glancing at the Wikipedia definition (above) includes the following:

[users] find the extensive use of flash animation… intrusive and annoying, giving rise to a cottage industry that specializes in blocking flash content. Flash has also been criticized for adversely affecting the usability of web pages.

I will also hearken a quote from the granddaddy of the interweb, Jakob Nilsen (who is the guru of internet standards and usability) who explains that:

current Flash technology tends to discourage usability for three reasons: it makes bad design more likely, it breaks with the Web’s fundamental interaction style, and it consumes resources that would be better spent enhancing a site’s core value.

Flash Intros Are Not Great User Experience

Besides being completely unusable on most mobile devices, many find the sites annoying even on PCs. Most users want to go to a site, find what they are looking for and move on. This becomes difficult when they have to watch the site animate into a pretty picture. Websites exist for their visitors, not the other way around. I see almost no use ever for a Flash animation intro (or really, any website intro), unless your website strategy includes annoying visitors and wasting other people’s time.

For many years Flash animation was the only way to deliver rich interaction and while users expect rich experiences, what once could be done almost exclusively in Flash is now easily accomplished with JavaScript and a bit of ingenuity and a higher level of web standards. At first glance, even the savviest developer would have a hard time discerning which technology was used for a website without peeking at the source. The list of websites that are ditching Flash in favor of web standards is growing every day.

Flash is a Black Hole for SEO

You’re just not going to achieve the kind of SEO success for a Flash site that you can for an HTML equivalent. If your website strategy has any SEO expectations, stay away from it. This SEO expert goes as far as to call Flash wrong, and that ” not every search engine is able to crawl and index the content of Flash movies. Even those that can often do it with errors.”

Website Management is a Nightmare

If you will be constantly editing your website, Flash can easily become more of a hurdle in keeping it updated. This is mainly because you always end up wanting to edit more than what is possible. The trend is to ditch Flash for WordPress-powered websites that use JavaScript to enhance the experience, allowing for quick and easy updates to content.

Your iPad doesn’t run Flash

If your website uses Flash animation, it won’t play well on your iPad or iPhone. Turns out, a lot of people want their sites to look pretty on the iPad. So the internet’s already starting to look different. One of the more interesting effects of the iPhone was that it drove a ton of websites to format their content for the phone. Consider the scenario if you are a restaurant owner with a Flash website and your potential clients are down the street, searching for nearby restaurants. When they land on your site, they see nothing. Not your address, your menu, or any of your website that is in Flash.

The Apple and Adobe battle

With Apple’s anti-Flash stance, it has become too hard to argue for a completely Flash-based website when it would leave out a potentially large audience. Steve Jobs explained Apple’s position on Flash:

Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices… Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash [exclusively] to create apps that run on our mobile devices

Of course, there are some websites where Flash animation can be a good choice or at least a “possible” choice. Some examples include highly visual and artistic sites such as portfolios, or sites with videos or games. Just don’t ever forget that every website has a primary purpose, and if Flash animation doesn’t contribute to that, it’s probably a detriment and a liability. As more and more designers and developers realize the benefits of Web standards and start using some of the features of HTML5 and CSS3, we’ll see fewer Flash-driven websites.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/e3000/211592000/)