I have used Macromedia Flash for all the wrong reasons in the past and i would like to take some time to warn you, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes i have. Quite some time ago now i used to recommend using full Macromedia Flash websites to my clients all the time, and what’s worst i did a good job in talking them into it, autch….. Sorry for that if you were an old client of mine i hope you can forgive me. But on the other side at least i know better now, i learned from my mistakes and i won’t ever make those mistakes again.
The main reason i thought that Flash was the best thing ever had to do with with the fact i got involved in the online Flash community. There i saw how you could gain great status by knowing this program very well. Also being able to create those interesting things you can with Flash just by using some Actionscript was amazing to me. I wanted to become a part of the web design world and entered it from a Flash angle. I was learning Flash Actionscript all the time, day in day out, never thinking any further like about the importance of things like SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and making actual money from a website. Instead i dreamed of creating those full Flash sites jammed with animations etc, thinking that would be the greatest thing ever, the marketing side really didn’t even come to my mind at that time. Flash Actionscript and the Flash community was my world and you could say i was blinded by my love bigtime. I think a lot of Actionscript users out there are still as i was, blinded by that love.
So after having learned lots of actionscript to a level a was sure about my skills i started to receive assignments to create certain websites. In my blindness my answer to everything was something like: ‘Use Macromedia Flash and you will get a beautiful custom website with smooth transitions and effects that will impress your audience so much they will keep on coming back and you might win some awards with it.’ As you can see i was far gone and on the border of insanity, i had my head way up in the clouds and could only see it from my side ( the blind love for Flash / Actionscript). I couldn’t see it from the client side of things and that’s more related to marketing a website and how to get relevant traffic to it to make some actual money from it.
I am so glad those days are long gone and i have seen the light regarding to when and how i should use Flash. Nowadays my personal preference is how i setup free-webmaster-resource.com, a CSS, PHP, MySql and Macromedia Flash combination (unless the assignment is more of presentation like and need lots of animation, sound and video). I used Flash a little bit in this website, only in the header, and even then there isn’t anything moving etc, just a rollover. It just does not add to the site if i start to make all sorts of moving stuff in my header. With a setup like this i can also apply SEO (search engine optimization) techniques to reach a bigger and free search engine audience which results in a higher advertisement income. So my personal favorite is the cross-over website and not the full Flash website when it some to your average website thats not like a presentation.
So when shouldn’t i use Macromedia Flash?
1)You should not use Macromedia Flash in your web design if it does not add something to your website! I mean if it does not add something to the overall user experience then just don’t add it to your site. To give an example, it does not matter to an average user (that must provide your income!) how good you can use Actionscript. So please don’t try to show off your skills by coding that creepy mouse follower or those blinky thingies all over your website. Things like that don’t add to a website at all, they rather tear it down. A professional will notice things like that immediately and recognize you as an amateur (not that being an amateur is bad, not at all, but this tutorial is for people aiming a bit higher and that seek to become more then an amateur). Users are king and Queen and we as web designers and developers should serve them well, this is especially difficult if you see how much little animations one could create with Actionscript, the possibilities are endless. By not showing your visitors all those unnecessary effects you show them that you are thinking about how they experience your website. And secondly your content will be much more clearly visible and thats what its all about. I know its tempting to setup those little effects when you first start to use Flash and especially Actionscript, but just don’t do it, you will loose income and traffic from this 100% most definitely sure.
2)Another mistake in using Flash is if normal HTML could easily do what you are trying to accomplish. I made those mistakes often when starting out with Flash. An example is that some people create a full Flash site with lets say, a title, some text and a menu to a few static pages. When you click a button in the menu you are taken to the other page without any transitions, no cool flow, just bam and the next page is visible. Its quite useless to use Flash in such a manner because one would use Flash to create an interesting flow with some great transitions, not for static things like that. In HTML there are no things like transitions between pages, its purpose is just to serve a user data without any motion and such stuff. Making a page that acts like a HTML page does with Flash is not good at all, it screams inexperience, and you might want to avoid that.
3)When you have a website that contains a lot of data don’t try to use a full Flash site unless you have enough money to setup a pay per click campaign to attract visitors . A website needs to generate income and that’s it. Using Full Flash for big data sites will effectively hide all your hard earned content from the search engine spiders, so you don’t get the free highly targeted search engine traffic. If you decide to use that full Flash site you just have no way to effectively apply SEO (search engine optimization) and thus you are missing a very big audience that uses the search engines. Only by setting up PPC campaigns you can make up for that but it can cost a lot of money. Another thing to consider is that using Flash itself causes some extra overhead, this is because instead of getting the data with PHP from a MySql database and displaying it, you also need to send it to Flash in a correct way and handle it from there. If you have loads of data this could give some extra delay in the loading time of the website.
4)If you want to generate money from your website with some banners or ads, don’t use a full Flash website. You won’t be able to easily setup affiliate links, banners or other type of ads like you would normally.
So when should i use Macromedia Flash?
When you need to use video, audio or animation like e.g. in a presentation or cd-rom, then Flash is the best tool out there. Especially Macromedia Flash 8 has some awesome options regarding to video. Or if you want to create powerful applications driven by a database like MySql and a server side language like PHP , then Flash is your ultimate tool. Because with those types of creations (applications, presentations and cdroms) don’t require you to get targeted audience from search engines. So the whole search engine trouble with Flash doesn’t count. Also if you want to have a small effect like in my own header here http://www.free-webmaster-resource.com Flash can provide that easily!
Macromedia Flash is an ultimate tool to use but you should not fall too deep in love with it. Take a step back and think about the things like: do i need lots of visitors from the search engines for free or do i have enough money for a pay per click campaign, do i want to setup affiliate links or other types of banners to generate an income, do i really need animation or can i leave it out and just serve my user what he/she came for etc… I hope you won’t make the same mistake of wanting to use Flash for everything like i did and that you will explore the possibilities of creating websites that search engines like and your users like too. (For example a CSS, PHP, MySql and perhaps some Flash). Ofcourse this only applies if you don’t need to have things like video, audio and animations to create that ultimate user experience. Just remember one thing and that is: you don’t have to showoff your skills with all sorts of effects nobody needs/wants to see!