While some design firms produce nice looking sites using Flash, these same techniques force limitations that call their value into doubt. Specifically, the limitations affect search engines, multi-windows, and CAP technology.

On the search engine front, web crawlers and search engines have difficulty finding text within web sites that rely heavily upon frames, Flash, and other advanced tools. (http://www.webpage-promotions.com/webpage_promotion_design.html) Businesses use websites as a touch-point with their audience. When audiences search for a business, they resort to common search engines like Google or Yahoo. Unfortunately, frames and Flash sites are difficult for the search engines to list and sites that are heavily dependent upon these techniques will have a lower ranking within the results of a search. Hence, fewer visitors will discover the businesses with heavy Flash sites.

The second issue is one of multi-windowing. In using browsers with low download speeds, it is often more efficient to open five windows at once when looking for information. For instance, I like to open the About, Services/Products, and Contact pages all at once, in separate windows, when doing firm level research. (Right click, Open in New Window command.) Then, I might open a few more pages in new windows to see if I can find out about the details of the product or management team. I noticed that in web sites designed exclusively in Flash, such an activity is not possible. This greatly slows my acquisition of information and decreases my desire to research the firm.

The third issue is with CAP technology, AKA “Cut-And-Paste.” Often, readers of web sites would like to capture a sentence or graphic and reference it in a document. With Flash sites, the method for grabbing text and pasting it within Word isn’t obvious. Users can’t easily cut and paste text to an email for spontaneous communication. Hence, if a site visitor wanted to share some information, that information would have to printed-out in its entirety and hand delivered.

Yet, throwing the baby out with the bath water isn’t the right answer. For example, BuzzBait’s customers have taken a more conservative approach to using some of the advanced tools in websites. Their clients use design and Flash skills to make a small portion of their website. This enhances the aesthetic of the site while leaving the bulk within standard HTML protocol. Overall, it is easier to use for us plebes with 56 K dial up lines.

Someday broadband will come, but even broadband won’t solve all of the problems of Flash sites.

The May Report, TECH BUSINESS BRIEFS, May 7, 2002