Flash Equals Evil Website Design

Flash Equals Evil Website Design

Flash IconFlash is pure, unadulterated evil to your business and it has little to no place in your website design plans. It is evil because it loses your company money. Keep reading to see how and how to fix it.

Flash is to Website Design as ex-Girlfriend’s Name is to Tattoo

As a leading website design company in Charlotte, we get a lot of requests for website designs built with Adobe Flash. We get nearly as many requests to remove Flash from small business websites. It could be that Flash is the website designer’s equivalent of tattooing your high school girlfriend’s name on your arm. It might make sense at the time, you think you’ll have it forever, but very soon you want it gone and to never return.

What is a Flash Design?

A Flash Website is a very pretty, very dynamic website built with specialized web development software. At first glance it looks great. Unfortunately after a bit of usage it begins to grate on you.

A great quote by SEOResearcher illustrates Flash beautifully:

Then why are there so many Flash sites? They look pretty with all those neat vector graphics, gradients, animations and cool sound effects. Flash is the favorite toy of big designer studios and numerous amateur graphic artists alike. Flash is visually attractive, and in general attractive websites are more successful than the ugly ones (notable exceptions: craigslist.org and plentyoffish.com). But this is not the case of Flash websites. All the benefits of the nice outlook are overridden by the disadvantages in terms of SEO and usability.

How a Flash Website Design Loses you Money.

Here’s a list of reasons not to use a Flash Website Design:

Business Issues

  • Search Engines ignore Flash! If you want great organic search engine results, Flash is not the way to go. The webcrawlers like Google and Yahoo that evaluate the information on your site literally cannot ‘see’ the information in a Flash-designed website. With search engines referring so much business these days you cannot afford to have them ignore your website!

Usability Issues

  • Flash takes over your browser. You can only go where the designers let you. The Back button does not work in flash.
  • Visited Links do not work. You know when you visit a website and click around on a bunch of different links the ones you have already clicked on are a different color? That doesn’t work in Flash. Flash uses an entirely different technology than the HTML your web browser displays.
  • Useless for users with disabilities. A competent HTML designer can easily create a website that is useful for users with many types of hearing and visual impairments. Flash does not give you that capability.
  • Internal Search does not work for Flash pages. What good is content on your site if people can’t find it?
  • Flash gets old very quickly. While it might look cool to have all of those graphics on the splash page the user sees when they come to your site, by the second visit it is annoying.
  • Users need proprietary plug ins.

“If the user hasn´t installed the plug-in (which many don´t) then at best, their experience is diminished, at worst, the site doesn´t work at all. Web sites should not force the user into using any proprietary systems.” – Inspired eBusiness

Maintenace Issues

  • A web designer is needed to redo the entire site every time you want to update Flash. If you have a Content Management System, you can update the content yourself. Updating flash to keep current with your business takes time, money and resources that are better spent on your business.
  • Flash takes bandwidth. All of those nifty graphics take a lot of space and bandwidth to send to your potential clients. What if they are using dialup or have a slow connection? Do you think they will wait around for the sit to come up or will they just go to your competitor?

Design Abuse

  • Animation for the sake of animation? Just because you can animate something, should you animate it?
  • Security Issues. Flash is an application that is vulnerable to hacker attacks.

And it is not only me. Some of the best website designers, search engine optimization specialists, and internet marketers are against Flash. I borrowed heavily from the following excellent articles:

If those are not enough, check out the following Flash criticisms in Wikipedia.

In Summary:

Jakob Nielsen, a web usability expert, a said it best in the following quote:

“Although multimedia has its role on the Web, 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.”

And if your Charlotte-area website designer insists on using Flash? Well, take Brendon Sinclair’s advice:

If your designer suggests the use of Flash on your web site, get rid of him. Using Flash is a huge mistake.

After you get rid of them, give Charlotte Web Development a call and we’ll build you a great site that you can be proud of AND makes your business money.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris January 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm

You should really remove this article, it’s very stupid for 2009. Most points were true in 2007, and some were plain stupid even then.


CWD January 4, 2009 at 11:49 am

Sorry you disagree, Chris. Would you care to share your specific concerns? From Charlotte Web Development’s point of view (and our clients), Flash is simply useless for small business. This contention can be backed up by data – visitors to sales. I’d love to hear your contrary thoughts, though.


athineos October 2, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Articles like this have nothing to suggest.
They just hate, evil or whatever.

Every interface we meet today interacts with animated graphics. Like cell phone interfaces do, like program interfaces do, like TV commercials, trailers, news intros, and many other modern rich media experience also do.

It’s well known in advertising business, that static presentation is an obsolete way to promote something. An Internet site experience like this (flash site experience) is far more advanced than this (html site experience).
What you see is what you get. There is no mystery or tricky way that Internet works.

Writers of articles like yours are likely html site developers who are strongly denying this evolution. What you really hate is to invest on learning new things. It’s a game concerning your own interests, not your clients’.

I don’t deny that every ten flash sites I see, only one stands at the appropriate level. Nine of them are suffered more or less with some of the issues you mention in the article. But none of those issues are flash weaknesses. They are clearly developer’s omissions. This is the thing flash suffers the most today, and it’s standard for every technology ever introduced. Many years back html sites suffered also for the same kind of issues (inexperienced developers).

If someone wants to gain a quality flash site, without suffering on mentioned issues, he must first peak wisely the developer, ensuring the skills, the working background and double check the quality of the outcome at the end.


CWD October 6, 2009 at 10:02 am

Well, Athineos, you are welcome to your opinion and I do thank you for taking the time to share it. You have very valid points about movement of media to rich and interactive methods of communication. Advertising and marketing campaigns investing in that sort of media will attract attention. However, my clients are small to medium sized businesses without hundreds of thousands to spend on advertising that will not bring results. They need the basics that will attract visitors and convert them to paying clients. Flash is not an ideal platform for that. I welcome any case studies that you can show specifying a flash based site that offers both the ease of maintenance, accurate reporting capabilities, and conversions that exceed development costs.

Regardless of the platform we should both agree that the primary responsibility of the developer is to create a working product that satisfies the clients needs, not the programmer’s ego. Development platforms are just tools in a basket. You must select the right tool for the job. If the job is to create a profitable small business website, flash is not the tool for the job. Yet.


athineos October 9, 2009 at 4:30 am

It’s clear enough that there are many Internet visitors who are seeking for content-based websites (blogs, forums, portals etc). But those sites have nothing to do with the kind of sites I am talking about here.
My point of view is dealing with Internet sites treated as a mean to promote a company or a product. I don’t deal with any other kind of use.

However, my clients are small to medium sized businesses without hundreds of thousands to spend on advertising that will not bring results. They need the basics that will attract visitors and convert them to paying clients.

First of all, for the sake of the common sense, we should both agree that the large-scale companies don’t spend their money on promoting ideas, without ensuring that will bring results. They have invested a lot in order to be always able to identify their true promoting needs.

In my last post, I have indicated a couple of expensive sites in order to identify the effectiveness of a flash site compared with html site.
However, flash sites are not necessary expensive. There are also much cheaper cases to show. This time, lets see a couple of much cheaper sites in the field of dental implants. Let’s identify the effectiveness of this flash site, compared with this html site.

An Internet site is rather convincing visitors to buy something or not. Internet visitors don’t care to identify the particular technology that the site is built of. The back-end technology is irrelevant to this procedure.

My point seams clear as the sunshine to me.
However, this point seams different to you. Would you mind to explain what makes you believe that Internet site (as a promoting mean), works so different than all other kind of promoting medias?
I guess you should agree that watching a video is far friendlier to follow than reading and animated graphics are far more descriptive than the static ones.

I welcome any case studies that you can show specifying a flash based site that offers both the ease of maintenance, accurate reporting capabilities, and conversions that exceed development costs.
An experienced flash developer knows exactly how to develop a flash site in order to achieve these goals. Exactly the same way as you do for the html sites you’re experienced with.
Although no one’s able to guess, I suppose Bacardi case is not easy.
But I suppose quite the opposite for the new case I have indicated before, as well as the most of issued flash sites.


CWD October 15, 2009 at 7:04 pm


While the video is great, that is not all that a small business website should be. From a usability standpoint, contact information, FAQs, and humanizing elements (owner’s picture, telephone number, blog, FAQs etc) should be present and easily navigable and bookmark-able. Flash does not provide this. Poor user experience = poor conversions.

Secondly, Flash is not very accommodating for SEO. Google can only index things in the flash descriptive files provided unlike HTML based pages that are easy to optimize and index. Poor SEO = poor traffic = poor business results.

Thirdly, Flash is difficult for non-developers to update. I offer a CMS solution where my customers do not have to know anything about programming. They just log in, type away on a MS Word-like interface and press submit. Viola! Their site is updated in seconds. With a Flash site they would have to track down and pay a developer.

Forth, aside from interactive games, Flash sites are not as useful for business clients to interact with. Blogs and comment interactions – like this one – would be impossible on a pure flash page.

Fifth, try creating an e-commerce site in Flash. It would be possible in Flex, but even many large businesses do not have the technology teams necessary to support such an effort.

Sixth, interoperability. Flash does not play on my iPhone nor my clients blackberrys. When I design sites, they must be accessible on a multitude of devices and browsers. Also, Flash does not render at all for users with disabilities. That is a legal liability issue for many of my clients. With Flash they could be sued for discrimination.

I can go on all day. In the end, Flash has its place – especially in the Flex framework – but small business websites is not it. I do agree that elements of a html-based CMS could benefit from embedded Flash, but they can also benefit from many other embedded technologies, too, and I wouldn’t make a CMS based on them either.


athineos October 16, 2009 at 1:57 am

IF flash sites had those serious issues, I wouldn’t have suggested them either.

Although there are evidence to show about, like my personal flash blog, swfobject (suggested by google), Flash SEO practices, flash frameworks, my own personal CMS flash solution, etc., I wouldn’t like to abuse this blog by monopolizing my opinion.

Although it seams that flash sites are not your specialty, you might benefit to update your information background about them.

Since this blog is leaving an open door to the other side of your opinion, thank you for the hospitality.



Lincoln October 17, 2009 at 2:48 pm

We find that flash is best for components, but for full page sites, it most frequently creates a “jolting” experience. It’s a much different look & feel that people usually do not expect or respond well to, at least in more corporate/professional trades.


illScientifix July 7, 2010 at 10:34 pm

I have been a flash developer for about 10 years.. and i must admit , the request for flash has dramatically decreased. I still love flash greatly, but at the same time i have to admit , it is losing its spunk as the years go by, which is why i have decided to learn objective-c .. as i always say, i cant fight the current of the ocean.. so i might as well just go with the flow..

Flash is always cool when used by the entertainment industry. I think it will always have a home in hollywood, which is cool enough for me since i live in los angeles county..

As far as businesses requesting flash ( thumbs down ).. It’s a rarity and usually its by a client who has not really seen flash before and just wants it like an impulse buy.


Charlotte Web Development January 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Absolutely agree with you. Any thoughts about the recent mobile browser wars? iPhone can’t use flash… but now it can if you take this app…. but then it can’t!


DC June 1, 2011 at 10:36 am

I absolutely agree I do not like FLASH for a full site or page design and I feel that some issues were not in this discussion I feel are important, so I will touch on them here, Let me be clear on this … I will use flash in the design of lets say an MP3 player with a mix of PHP and FLASH as this is just embedded and will not stop a visitor from getting the rest of the page content, as a full flash site would plus it makes sense to load a FLASH based player if its a site that requires a way to play music samples or vids, as I do feel thats the most seamless way to do music players or video players so I am not saying I hate flash what I do hate is its abuse all over the web from bandwidth steeling ads to full blown sites, now that I hate but when used correctly as an embed for a player or such I feel its use can greatly enhance the users experience making it seemless.

I however really do not like all of flashes incompatibility issues that can occur when a dev builds the site with the latest greatest version, and the visitor gets an err saying please update to the latest version of FLASH thats ridiculous many of these sites will redirect you to dl of a new flash plug in if the client or visitor has an older version, but what if they also have an older OS, should the site be unaccessible just because they have an older OS I think not but thats the way flash works if you have an older OS you cant get the latest version of flash even if you wanted it.

So I see FLASH just way overused and with many incompatibility issues in the way its coded by Adobe if you can’t support all the bells and whistles so be it but the code should still run just omit some features the dev may had planed but not halt the page so the user is forced to dl the new version … on that I will never agree and some back compatibility should be built in to a degree, im not saying support Win 3.1 but i am saying it should work with most systems from 98 up … call me old fashioned but at least with HTML and PHP non of these issues exist period …


athineos June 2, 2011 at 12:58 am

If installing flash is such trouble to you, how come you say that you are like it as embed part of site? It’s exactly the same “trouble” as with any other uses…
You know better that installing flash is no trouble at all.

If you decide to avoid installing the flash add-on on your browser, the most websites will never work. Many sites are using flash in order to function (like menus) or to decorate (like banners) critical parts.

There is no such thing as abusing web with flash. The abuse is on the way you use it (as developer). I agree that there are many example of bad flash treatment in the web, but this doesn’t mean that flash is evil or bad. You can even make full flash pages to work like html (take this as example).

Flash is evolution if you know how to use it (as developer).
Same as html5.


DC June 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I did not say that its such a problem to install, I said that it should not be used for full page design. It is a waist of a visitors time and bandwidth a waist there is no need to design a site in flash in most cases. I feel this should only be done if there is no other way to do the page. I also said that I use FLASH to embed players mixing FLASH and PHP.

I will never agree on it use for full page design, I feel it should only be used sparingly, as many over use it and abuse it I am not saying there are not some great FLASH deves out there I know that some do use it correctly but many dont and its overused you your self said if you do not have FLASH many sites will not work.

That is what I am saying it is overused, sites should work if you have FLASH or not period. FLASH should not be the defining factor on if a site is viewable or not.


athineos June 3, 2011 at 2:25 am

OK, I see that you don’t like full flash sites. And you said that you don’t, because “It is a waist of a visitors time and bandwidth”.

First of all in our ADSL times, a full flash site is loaded in 2-3 seconds (average) up to five seconds (at most). This delay was never trouble for anyone.

Secondly: Does flash waste bandwidth? Let’s see:
Flash or html, the content makes no difference. Picture remains picture and text remains text. So, let’s see a case of a site sized 1MB:
The different is that flash CAN load all the content at the beginning in one single file (.swf) to be loaded, while html REQUIRED to load every single consisting file (picture, script, css etc).
LET’s SEE: What is the fastest way to load 1MB site consisting of 200 files? To load it file by file or to load all files packed in one single file?
Everybody knows that! The correct answer is the second my friend.
I respect everybody’s feelings about full flash sites. BUT the definition of wasting bandwidth is to load 1MB in 200 files instead of 1!
Finally, while a full flash site CAN load all the content in one single file (.swf), ALSO CAN break this loading file in as many files developer decides. For example, developer can skip a heavy part of a site to be loaded later, ONLY WHEN visitor requests. Loading strategy is an unknown issue in html websites.

“if you do not have FLASH many sites will not work … sites should work if you have FLASH or not period”

That’s true, as much as true is this:
If you do not have javascript enabled, many html site will ALSO not work.
You should realize that both html and flash technology is not the reason they don’t work, but the browser’s basic installation.
I think you realize that about 90% (or more) of the sites are not working without javascript enabled. Even this one we now write each other.


DC June 3, 2011 at 10:38 am

I did say bandwidth what I meant was resources, but could not go back to edit it, please do not tell me that it does not use them depending on whats being loaded and how, fact is it does sometimes so much it will lockup the browser.

And yes I know there are wrong ways to do flash and many devs are very good at loading in sections the correct way, but many do not as well and will load huge files instead of many small ones and thats bad.

As for Java Script I agree that many sites may not work correctly I SAY CORRECTLY, but they will still work, in fact many menus will still work they will just show as an ordered list if the visitor has no JS or it is off, but most will have this on it is pretty dam unobtrusive compared to flash. JS is fantastic for menus as I am sure you know and will agree. But then there is JAVA that some may use and that like flash may not be unobtrusive and many time locks up the browser and may not work correctly but we are not going there, I am just touching on it because many get the 2 confused.

Where many times FLASH will not work period if you do not have the latest version and if the site is all done in flash you cant see it that is insain a visitor should not have to have the latest greatest plug in to see your site. many will just leave and will never return. I say it should work anyway just not have all the newer features enabled. I blame Adobe on that not the dev, thats the coding on there end, and it shouldn’t work that way again my opin you can disagree if you like but I will still hold to my opin on this whole FLASH deal.

And back to the SEO real reasons it is not so great to use it as a full site design.

Use it like a spice for added flavor but do not let it take over the dish.

While I do value the comments I do not have to agree with them as you do not have to agree with mine, so we can agree to disagree at times.


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