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."
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:
- Web-site navigation should be obvious, clear, intuitive and simple.
- Any element of a Web page which delays the presentation of content needs to add value which justifies the delay.
- 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.
- The architecture of a Web site should support, not defeat, common user activities like bookmarking and copying and pasting.
- 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.
- Web content that can be devoured by search engine spiders improves a site's search engine placement.
- 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 SitePoint.com:
All-Flash A Fast Track to Failure