I saw a question on LinkedIn that asked how to optimise a website’s homepage that consisted purely of Flash. Flash is a programme that provides animation with images and graphics for websites, and you probably have come across many examples (I did the other day with a digital marketing firm) where you are greeted with a little ‘show’ of moving graphics that are supposedly meant to be impressive.
This particular website showed a graphic of a computer with a running newsroll describing in a totally unnecessarily cryptic message about how impressive their business was and why you should use their services. The other pages had graphics that moved if you moused over them, but were not immediately understandable with what they represented, and unless you bothered to use your mouse it was unlikely you would have an inclination to progress further.
Luckily someone else had already answered with the correct response to that LinkedIn question – don’t use Flash! – so I was able to confirm he was, in my opinion, quite right.
For starters, Flash, since it only uses images, is not picked up by the search engines. Internet spiders are programmed to only search for words, so will not be able to understand pictures unless they have a ‘alt tag’ attached to them which describes them, an attribute which is also useful for the deaf.
Therefore, since there weren’t any words on that index page that weren’t hidden within a graphic, it was unable to be optimised. OK, you could do the relevant keyword research and populate the meta tags appropriately, but if they were unable to correspond with words on the page associated with them, especially various H-tags, their impact would be severely impeded.
Another problem is that some Flash programmes take time to upload before they can run, which results in a variety of ‘wait’ messages while the process happens. Some websites provide ‘skip’ buttons, but if this is the case, why did they bother with Flash in the first place?
It is becoming a well known fact that the average time a new visitor spends on a website, before they decide whether it is the right one for them, is less than 3 seconds. If after a few seconds you are still waiting for the Flash presentation to start, you can guarantee the majority of visitors won’t bother waiting around.
And the whole point of a homepage of a website is to establish that this is the correct website for the visitor. Not only should they immediately recognise the subject or business type, but it should be made as easy as possible, with recognisable links or click buttons, to progress further into the site.
Not everybody has the inclination or time to waste fathoming out what to do next, it should be instantaneous! Websites are now mediums for finding facts and, more appropriately for Web2.0, interacting with the website’s owners, so the process should be inviting, encouraging, enthusiastic and obvious!
And that means being ‘Flashy’ with your website is, as well as being pretentious, sooo last century!