What is Flash, and Should I Use It?
Flash is a multimedia technology that can be used to add animation or video to a web page. Since its introduction in 1996, Flash has become the industry standard for adding such content, with statistics suggesting that almost all desktop computers in the United States have a version of the Flash player software installed. Popular video sites such as YouTube use Flash to display the videos to their users.
In 1993, FutureWave Software released SmartSketch, a software program designed for the creation of computer graphics. In 1995, they modified the software to add frame animation, and released the resulting software as FutureSplash Animator. In 1996 the company was taken over by Macromedia, which released the software as Macromedia Flash 1.0. Macromedia continued the development of the software until 2005, when the company was taken over by Adobe. The current version is Adobe Flash CS3, released in 2007 as part of Adobe Creative Suite 3.
So, that’s the background – now comes the tough part of the question, should you add Flash content to your web site. To be honest, there are arguments both for and against this, so let’s see if I can make some sense to help you come to a decision.
Firstly, you must admit that a well-executed Flash animation does look good. It can add that extra touch to a web site, and may even attract visitors who just want to see the Flash animation. However, that may not be the type of visitor you are trying to attract. Using Flash on your web site will eat up a lot more bandwidth than if the site did not have Flash, especially if those extra visitors come just to see the Flash. If you are on a restrictive web hosting plan, then you may want to consider whether you will need to upgrade your plan in order to use Flash.
As mentioned above, Flash will use more bandwidth. This will also make for longer loading times for your web pages, especially for those people who are still using a dial-up connection. With time, as broadband reaches more and more of your intended market, this problem will be less of a factor. Surveys from July 2007 show that over one-half of all U.S. households have broadband access already, and by 2012 close to three-quarters will have some form of broadband access.
Finally, and this point may matter more to you than all of the others, as things stand right now search engines do not index Flash-based pages well at all. There is no HTML code, or only a minimal amount of code, for the spiders used by search engines to access. This could mean that your site fails to rise to prominence in the search engine rankings. I did say as things stand right now, as there are some recent developments in the field that may change the way that search engine spiders index Flash-based web pages in the future.
My view? If your site is aimed towards modern technology or computers, or will have a lot of multimedia content, then it’s something worth having, especially if by using Flash you can showcase your capabilities. If not, then consider if you really need to use the technology. Oh, and if you do use Flash, please remember to give the user the option of bypassing it – some people do find Flash annoying and intrusive.
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