Is Your Site Flashy?

Adobe Flash CS5 IconDo you do Flash?

Can I get some sweet Flash on my website?

Maybe we can do this really sweet Flash Intro, where some music starts playing, and then a video plays, and then our logo explodes from the background, and then…

(and then people leave your site). These are very common questions for web designers! We get these questions all the time, and many of us (or at least the good ones) have something to say about this.

Adobe Flash: OK. It’s Kinda Cool

Visually, Flash is pretty cool. For those of you who are not familiar with Adobe Flash, it’s a tool frequently used to produce motion graphics and interactive websites and applications. There are still a lot of websites that also use it to play video, audio, and other rich media. Frankly, it has a lot of uses and is pretty neat. Historically, it was used a lot in the last 10-12 years as a way of overcoming a lot of obstacles that were either a huge pain (or impossible) to code, or they allowed designers more visual freedom.

Should My Website Have Flash?

Short Answer: probably not.

A better question is, “Should I ask my designer for flash or motion graphics?” — that is a definite, positive, okay maybe 80% – “No”

The Achilles heel of Flash is that it’s, well, flashy. By nature, we entrepreneurs and marketers want our businesses to stand out. We want to be a cut above the rest. Some of us want, or even need, to present an images that looks high-tech, expensive, or has a certain “wow factor.” –but honestly, almost every business (and I’ve been guilty myself) thinks this.

The REAL ISSUE Is..

If you want something really “flashy,” the real issue may be your marketing message. When you use motion graphics, flash, long video intros with kinetic type, what you’re really doing is shouting at your audience. Shouting is the last thing you want to do. As entrepreneurs, we really should be in the business of building relationships and making people’s lives better or easier.

Isn’t this the essence of commerce? People exchange their money, which represents their time and energy, for something they desire that somehow improves their lives.

When we use “catchy” marketing, we’re basically telling them that our product or service doesn’t sell itself; that we don’t fully believe in our products — they’re just widgets we force at people.

As entrepreneurs, we have something that a lot of our big-business counterparts don’t: we have a soul, we have hard work, we have US (or our team). Nobody does it quite like we do. The owner/CEO of YOUR company knows your clients by name, or at least by face. You talk to them.

So why shout at people with “neat” or “cool” flashy features on your website? We should really be talking to our customers with our websites!

How Do I Talk To My Customers With My Website?

The fact of the matter is, your web presence ALWAYS talks to (or shouts at, or ignores) your customers.

The REAL question is to ask yourself what your website is saying to your customers.

  • Do you make life easy for your customers?
  • Do you give them all the information they would want, giving them a searchable and thoughtfully-presented structure?
  •  Do you make it easy to reach you if your customers still have questions?
  • Did you consider that some of your customers may have visual or hearing-related impairments, which may effect searching, browsing, or accessibly?
  • Is my site easy to navigate on a smartphone?
  • Do I deliver great content that my customers want
  • Am I friendly, entertaining, engaging, or otherwise pleasant to interact with online?
  • Am I sensitive to the fact that my customers may be accessing my site in a quiet setting (office, library, next to a sleeping baby, etc.)?

THESE are the factors that make a great web presence: accessibility, information, making your customer’s life easy, making it easy for them to find and buy your products/services, etc.

Flash may provide a “wow factor” to your site, but for most, it’s tolerable, or even momentarily cool, the first time. After that first time, it gets old. If you’re in a hurry for information, or it’s the millionth time you’ve had to wait for it to load, or hit “skip intro” (or turn-off some auto-play audio/video), it gets downright irritating.

I don’t know about you, but I never want someone associating “irritating” with my brand. (Ok. It’s probably too late for me, but there’s still hope for you!) ;)

I’ll leave you with this final thought: If you need to yell or be flashy to attract attention, you’ve got some problems to address with your business/product. If you are the awesome person you are, if you provide great information and curate great content for your customers, if you make life easy — you’ll win every time.

Go Get ‘Em Tiger

4 Responses to Is Your Site Flashy?

  1. Liz Lockard says:

    Nice article Alex! HTML5 will certainly change some of this but for now, what business owner wants a giant ? instead of their website showing up for visitors, say, using an iPad?

    I liked that you went beyond just compatibility issues in this one though – almost more important!

  2. Alex says:

    Thanks!

    Accessibility is a big issue!

    I believe a website should convert well, and it can’t do so when it’s screaming-at or frustrating its visitors. Most people think of visitors as one-time transactions that happen, instead of thinking about it as a repeat event.

    If I want to check out a local restaurant, maybe a flashy intro with flying sushi is kinda cool for a second. If I’m trying to find their phone number on their site while in my car… not a great time for flash. (Even though I have an Android which supports flash)

    HTML5/CSS3 are a great work-around to SEO and other accessibility issues! (we just need to make sure we don’t shout, confuse, or bloat our website with bells and whistles that don’t actively focus on making sales).

    Thanks again for stopping by, Liz!

  3. Inga says:

    Great article Alex. There certainly is room for Flash in the world, for certain sites and certain situations… but most of the time spending 10 seconds or longer trying to impress a web-visitor means that they are fed up after 2. We web-users are such an impatient bunch!! And using Flash also often means that the message you are trying to convey is completely bypassed by the search engines.
    By the way… I always get the urge to sing “Flash – ahaaaa”, which is another reason to avoid using it too much :-)

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