Landau Design logo

Why Shouldn't I Build My Site in Flash?

The simple answer to this question is: because the search engines won't index it properly. Flash looks cool, and it's fun, and yeah the menus can bounce around, wave and do some back flips for you, but you really have to ask yourself "does this add to my business message?"

What is Flash?
Flash is a programming language that allows the designer/developer to create really beautiful animations. They can create sites that respond to your movements, and involve some really cool morphs of menus and content. You can see some examples from Landau Design at Ralph White and Lapolla Inc websites. The opening animation of photographs and words are created in Flash.

Why can't the search engines index Flash files?
The code required to build a flash animation is held in an SWF (Shockwave Flash) file format. The search engines cannot see into these files, so they cannot review and record the text information contained within them. Recently Google announced a change in Flash indexing. Unfortunately this change only relates to the auxilliary files that make the Flash file run, they still cannot index the Flash file itself.

Does that mean I should never use Flash?
No, flash files can add some dynamism to your site. You shouldn't build your entire site in flash, but embedding a flash file within your site is fine. You can compensate for the lack of indexing in your title and metatags, as well as any content you add to the page. The animations I shared above are inset into a frame of HTML code. The search engines cannot index the flash animation, but it can index everything around it.

How do I decide when to use Flash?
You need to consider whether the flash animation adds to your business message. So many companies today build all-Flash sites because they look cool. But they're not in the entertainment industry, and while it's fun, a fully animated site does not add to their business message on their site. And the trade-off is that the search engines will not index the content on your site. Only you can decide if the WOW factor adds to your business message, or it's more important to employ SEO tools.


Robert Bravery said...

I am a great believer in this. Fancy flash sites are just that, they're fancy, but difficult to find. I just lost a customer to another designer. He redid the site in flash.
Must admit it does look snazy, flashy, and great. Does all sorts of cool things.
But two problems.
1 You can't find the site on Google or any of the search engines. So what's the point of the website.
2 If he needs any updates or changes, he has to pay some flash developer to do it. mmm Very expensive route.

But like you say, it does not mean you should not use flash at all. Everything in moderation and for a given purpose.

I think of flash websites the same way as I think of creating an entire website as a jpeg image map file. You wouldn't think of doing that, would you?