Flash may be a necessity, but it is a necessity many webmasters prefer to avoid. Web pages that include Flash download much more slowly. They are less secure—even well-known companies such as Blackberry have been hit by Flash security issues. Moreover, Google cannot index the Flash portion of a Website particularly well, and once downloaded, Flash banners may look gaudy and out of place in comparison with the rest of the page. Most importantly, Flash content isn’t viewable at all by iPad and iPhone users.
Fortunately, help is in the works. HTML5, the newest version of the ubiquitous HTML language, includes support for video. This means that future site owners will have an excellent alternative to Flash, but not until the standard is adopted both by companies that create internet browsers, and by users who choose to use HTML 5 enabled browsers. (Silverlight, Microsoft’s version of Adobe’s Flash, is considered superior to Flash in many ways, but only works in roughly 70% of browsers, and is therefore not an alternative for most websites.) But this still leaves webmasters reliant on Flash for any sort of slick interactive content, such as adjustable charts and graphs that respond to user input.
Since webmasters must use Flash for at least the next few coming years, they should know how to properly incorporate it into a web page. Here are five tips for best practice Flash usage on your site.
1) Use Preloaders
A preloader is the small “Loading, Please Wait” message that tells viewers how long they must wait before content can be viewed. Include preloaders for any large Flash files, even if they load quickly on your test machine. Many users will have a slow internet connection.
2) Allow users to skip Flash presentations
Stop reading this article, and count slowly to fifteen. Seems like a long time, doesn’t it? Fifteen seconds can seem like an eternity on the internet, but that is the length of time that many webmasters demand a visitor to the website view a Flash advertisement before viewing content. Unfortunately, many users will leave if they cannot skip an introductory ad. Ask yourself: “would I rather let users skip my advertisement, or leave my site altogether?”
3) Tell users where they can download Flash
Some users still have not downloaded Flash. Provide these users with a link to Adobe’s website, but be sure that when users click on the link, Adobe’s website opens in a new page. Otherwise, viewers may get lost in Adobe’s website and fail to return. Once users return to your website, automatically refresh the page, or instruct users to manually refresh. Otherwise, the newly-enabled Flash content will fail to work.
4) Increase bandwidth
The increased functionality of Flash comes at a cost, and that cost is higher bandwidth usage. Discuss increasing bandwidth with your hosting service. They will have worked with Flash in the past and will probably recommend a specific increase to your monthly bandwidth allowance.
5) Provide users with a non-Flash version of the website
Every website that relies heavily on Flash should provide viewers with a non-Flash version of its content. This accommodates those users who chose to view your website on a device that cannot use Flash (i.e. and iPad). Many sight and hearing impaired users can better understand your website if it has a non-Flash version, as they are not comfortable with Flash’s built-in accessibility features.
At present, many internet businesses are forced to rely upon Flash content. These tips ensure that Flash integration is as painless as possible, both for you and for your users.
Over to you…
Do you own or manage a flash website? What best practices would you add to our checklist? Share your experience..