Flash on a website? Not just no, but HECK no.

Although it happens less and less, I’m occasionally asked about using Flash on a website. I had an extensive conversation when I spoke at the SMPS Southeastern Regional Conference a few weeks ago and then working with our creative director last week, I found the perfect example of why not to use Flash. Although I thought this topic was dead, it obvious isn’t yet, although it probably be should be.

hooters ipad screenshotA client of our parent company, Design the Planet, cited Hooters.com as a reference for their website redesign (Design the Planet’s niche is themed restaurants & bars so that wasn’t that off the wall). If you look at the screenshot on the right, you’ll see one huge problem – no content. Hooters is using Microsoft’s equivalent to Flash, Silverlight, which needs to be preloaded on the device. In this case, my iPad doesn’t have Silverlight loaded and it can’t be loaded.

More people are searching the web on mobile devices and Apple’s iPhone & iPads make up 50-90% of the market depending what source you use. Apple had a very public and bitter dispute with Adobe about the use of Flash on their devices and I doubt Apple & Microsoft get along any better. So why would you want to tell people visiting your website on an Apple mobile device – that’s too bad, you can’t visit our website. What that really says to a customer – we don’t care enough about you to make our website work for you or we’re not up with the times and technology is not our strong suit.

The worse part about Hooters using this much of Silverlight, their logo and website navigation is in Silverlight so you can’t even navigate past the homepage. Whenever we have used Flash, we either have a “skip intro” section that goes to a non-Flash interior and/or use Flash as an image instead of the structure of the website. If a user doesn’t have Flash installed, the website shows a static image. However, if Flash is enabled, the user has a better overall experience.

All websites should be made to fail correctly or as the web development industry calls it, progressive degradation. Progressive degradation means the website is optimized for the best and most current web browsers, but is still viewable and functional in older browsers. For example, a website may have rounded corners in Firefox, but the corners are square in Internet Explorer 7 because it does not support the latest versions of HTML. Or our logo on this website, on an iPad or iPhone it is static, but if you have Flash enabled, it swings in on the crane hook. You also want to make sure your navigation is always accessible regardless of the browser otherwise it’s like having a book that you can’t turn the page.

In summary, if you want to use Flash to improve the customer experience, that’s great, but make sure visitors that don’t have Flash enabled can still access your website via a non-Flash version or mobile website instead of just giving them the hand.

Have you been to a website that made you leave instantly because you couldn’t access it?