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Why We Don't Do All-Flash Web Sites

PLEASE NOTE: This blog was retired in December of 2012. Please visit The nSiteful Tech Blog for current blog articles of potential interest!
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Saturday, June 28, 2008
Why We Don't Do All-Flash Web Sites
Occasionally, clients and prospects will point me to all-Flash Web sites as exemplars of the sites they want for themselves. To which I reply, "nSiteful doesn't do all-Flash Web sites."

Why not?

The short answer is that the elements that characterize many all-Flash Web sites -- and typically, these are the very elements that captured the attention of these clients and prospects -- tend to be in direct opposition to the principles that guide nSiteful's approach to Web-site design.

What are those elements? Well, animation, of course. And, more to the point, too much animation. Gratuitous animation. Animation that gets in the way of what's important.

Let me stop here to stress that I'm not knocking Flash itself. Flash is a wonderful tool that has many excellent applications. But let me return to and elaborate on my short answer.

Many all-Flash Web sites apply animation to everything from menus to bullet lists to photo galleries to Web forms and so on. Menus are often at least partly hidden until the visitor mouses over them. Transitions make images, bullet points and other text appear on the page over time. Blocks of text are often presented as graphics within windows that require their own scrolling and which, because they are graphics, cannot be indexed by search engines.

I mentioned principles. Key principles which tend to conflict with the all-Flash approach are the following:

  1. Web-site navigation should be obvious, clear, intuitive and simple.

  2. Any element of a Web page which delays the presentation of content needs to add value which justifies the delay.

  3. Web sites which are viewable natively in the widest range of user agents (browsers, PDAs, etc.) are generally preferable to Web sites which require downloading and installing the newest plug-in or which simply cannot be rendered in some user agents.

  4. The architecture of a Web site should support, not defeat, common user activities like bookmarking and copying and pasting.

  5. Bells and whistles are for tricycles and gym teachers, respectively. Said another way, novelties are fleeting (they are, by definition, new, novus) and get old quickly. Nifty animation effects might enhance one's first visit to a Web site, but upon subsequent visits (and, after all, isn't that the goal?), they become forgettable at best and annoying at worst.

  6. Web content that can be devoured by search engine spiders improves a site's search engine placement.

  7. Web sites should be scalable and easily maintainable, ideally -- at least in part -- by the Web-site owner through the use of Content Management System modules.

To sum things up:

nSiteful is not anti-Flash. We embrace -- and will use -- all technologies which support the goals of a Web site and adhere to our principles of good Web-site design. And Flash is certainly an excellent potential solution for many presentation requirements.

But we don't do all-Flash Web sites and probably never will.

There. I said it.

Postscript: To avoid becoming influenced by others, I intentionally resisted searching the Web for articles expressing views sympathetic to mine until after I wrote the above. Then I did find the following (somewhat dated, admittedly) article at

All-Flash A Fast Track to Failure
Jeff Cohan
Metro Atlanta-based nSiteful Web Builders is a full-service Web design & development firm. We have designed and built (and continue to maintain) Web sites and Web applications for businesses and organizations representing a variety of industries all over the country.

nSiteful specializes in dynamic, database-driven Web sites and Web applications for small and medium-size businesses and organizations for whom a robust, professional and compelling Web presence is instrumental to their sales, marketing, customer service and operational strategies.

nSiteful's Graphic Design division — nSiteful Designs — provides graphic design services for Print, Audio, Video and Interactive as well as for the Web.

Visit our Gallery for samples of our work.

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nSiteful: Internet Consulting Services. With Smarts.
Metro Atlanta-based nSiteful Web Builders, Inc. is a full-service Web design & development firm. We design, build and maintain Web sites and Web applications for businesses and organizations in a variety of industries all over the country.
Marketing via the Web | Print| Interactive | Audio | Video
Web-site design & development, graphic design for print & interactive, audio/video production & post-production
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