It started about 9 am. I was working on the computer and was frustrated by an incredibly slow loading website that was designed to be flashy instead of content rich. I tried to sit patiently while sipping my morning coffee, but it wasn’t working. My right eye began to twitch, and the right side of my head soon began to hurt. I got up out of my seat, and went into the kitchen to get another cup of coffee. When I returned, the site was still loading! I sat down and well, what do you think I did? I went elsewhere to look for what I was searching for! Most times, I hit the “back” button as soon as I see the loading message.

Flash is basically a tool for creating interactive games and animated or interactive websites. The biggest problem with Flash is that it can make a website hard to look at and take forever to download. This makes browsing the Internet difficult, time consuming and downright painful. Your website should load in less than a few seconds to keep your viewers from giving up and searching someplace else, just like I did. There are some sites that Flash works well on and are very clever and worthwhile, but mostly they are just overloaded and slow for the sake of using Flash and don’t add to the user experience.

Flash websites have all of the information embedded within one Flash file and so there is no text for a search engine to find. Flash can be made to be indexed by search engines, but it can be difficult to achieve and you never really know how a search engine will read the limited data. Some predict that when the web becomes more of a TV watching experience, Flash will replace almost all HTML language. I am not so sure about that.

Generally, HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is the best tool for the job because it will increase your engine stats and traffic to your website. As with all media, a website design should be created with your target audience and intended use in mind. Using Flash just for the sake of being trendy is the wrong way to build a website.

If you really look at sites that use heavy Flash, you will discover that most of the time they do not have any real content and use Flash to fill that gap. If a website has no real useful content then it will fall short despite its good looks. Flash intros of any kind are ALL annoying and most viewers look for the button that says “skip”, which will appear even while a movie is being downloaded. Flashing banners or graphics tend to put viewers on edge and distract them from reading your message. It doesn’t mean you can’t use Flash, you just need to use it sparingly and only if it supports your content.

Most businesses overlook the fact that when consumers are searching for information on the web, they usually skip a Flash intro. And, since Flash doesn’t work on many mobile devices (PDAs, iPhone, iPod and the new iPad), many potential viewers are blocked from your site. I wonder if Steve Jobs, creator of Apple Computers, knows something the rest of us don’t? Hmmm.

A little bit of Flash, used sparingly, can be impressive. Adding something like a flashing logo or photo might be neat the first time, but distracting every time a viewer visits. Be honest, and ask yourself if distracted viewers really purchase products or services. Flash should be avoided unless it adds something meaningful to your corporate message and your site’s content. Make sure you choose a website designer whose first goal is to provide a satisfying user experience that makes your users return and want to spend time at your website.