Is Flash Bad Technology?

Adobe Flash is not all bad. It is an older technology that has many problems, but it still does do a few things better than anything else.

The Good

  • Flash can help you use any font you want on a website without copyright issues.
  • Flash is the easiest way to offer games on the web.
  • Flash has been extending the limitations of HTML since its release and has offered a richer web experience by allowing for animations, transitions and music handling.
  • Flash offers exactly the same content across all web browsers and platforms, without any additional code. It’s the most widely adopted web browser plug-in in the world.
  • Flash has made it easy to show video on websites (YouTube, Vimeo etc) because of its compressing and packaging abilities, and is a great way around common video codec issues.
  • Flash is supported on some mobile devices such as Android.

The Bad

  • Flash does not run on iPhone, iPad and many other mobile devices!
  • Many websites with Flash elements tax performance of the processors of visitor’s computers.
  • Flash will never be as good at search engine optimization as pure HTML. Even if you do everything right with Flash and Google gets better at reading Flash content – you still need to have fallback HTML content.
  • Most Flash animations can be replaced with similar animations created with Javascript. In addition, developing Flash animations is often more expensive that using a JavaScript library that will do the same thing. I’m still shocked every time I see a photo carousel/rotator that uses Flash.
  • Flash runs stand-alone outside of the web browser. The effect of this is that if you focus the Flash movie, all web browser keyboard shortcuts and focus is lost, and you need to click outside of the Flash area to re-focus.
  • Overusage of Flash by bad designers and advertisers has forced some people to turn it off, refuse to update their Flash player or install extensions such as Flashblock.

Is Flash for Me?

  • Even if Flash is being used by over 90% of your visitors, your Flash content is going to be missed by a significant number of desktop and mobile visitors.
  • Flash was the way to deliver exciting content to your visitors. With the rising popularity of the mobile web, the arrival of HTML 5 and the development of so many great JavaScript libraries… this is rapidly changing.
  • I can’t think of any reason to create a 100% Flash site for anything outside of Hollywood promotional sites for movies and music (and they would still need to provide for mobile visitors).

When thinking about using Flash on your website, be sure to weigh the good and the bad. If you must use it, use it sparingly.