For the record, I have no particular beef with Flash, other than it offers very little benefit for a huge overhead. Alright I’m biased .. I don’t like it and it has no place on a commercial website. More on my biases later. First, a recap on how I encountered Flash on a mobile and the implications.
Background (skip to Pitfalls of Flash if you’re short of time)
I’m interested in some professional headshot photographs to replace the self portraits I currently employ. I could go to somewhere and get a passport photo but they are often too sterilised for my purpose. So I did what most people do these days - I reached for a browser enabled device and went to Google. [BTW if you know of a photographer in the Croydon Park, NSW area that does something other than wedding photos and baby snaps, I’d love to hear about them.]
One of the sites that confronted me was built using Flash. It had a landing page proudly announcing the site was built with flash and that I need “screen resolution of at least 1024x768”. Two of the choices available were “- enter full screen -” and - enter same window -“. The meaning of those descriptors wasn’t immediately apparent. Either way it took in excess of 30 seconds from selecting an option and the Flash script downloading and showing the first image. In the image below, the left half is the landing page and the right half was after 30 seconds.
Was it worth the wait? Not to me. At the default resolution of the screen, I still had to expand the display to be able to read the menu before I could find out the range of services offered. Don’t forget I was on a quest for some headshots. I still don’t know if this photographer offers that service. I was not impressed enough to find out. The only value I extracted from this website was the germ of an idea to blog about.
“Pitfalls of Flash
Here’s my list of issues impacting mobile visitors:
- Flash files are large, which has 2 consequences (1) they are slow to download and (2) consume a lot of the visitors bandwidth. Mobile browser often have limited bandwidth allocation and usually slower download speed. In a fast paced mobile environment, time is interest. Take too long getting your message into the hands (literally) of someone interested in you and you will lose them.
- Flash has no capacity (to my knowledge) to respond to the variations of screen size. Even if the display responds and shrinks the Flash output, the text becomes so small it is next to impossible to read or click, when the text or image is a menu.
- Flash doesn’t respond to the gesture-style interface (pinch and flick) common to mobile devices. This becomes very confusing for the visitor.
- Visitors on mobile devices don’t use websites in the same way as desktop visitors. They don’t want to read the history of the company or necessarily sit through an extended slide show of recent triumphs. They are much more likely to be interested in your phone number and a map of your location. Make these easy to find.
I have other concerns that are not mobile specific. Some of these are covered in the Related Articles below.
I think you should avoid Flash entirely. I think it is a very poor choice for presentation to your mobile visitors, and we know they are an increasing portion of internet users. Can you afford to alienate even a small section of your potential client base?
- Is Flash safe to use in the context of SEO? (midboh.com.au)
- Tag Your Cause (blog.midboh.com.au)
- Size (of the textarea) matters (blog.midboh.com.au)
- Alas this website cannot be viewed on iphones - coz it requires Flash (blog.midboh.com.au)
- Going mobile - one step at a time (part 1: struggles with external files) (blog.midboh.com.au)
- Going mobile - one step at a time (part 2: the trouble with forms) (blog.midboh.com.au)