Adobe Flash, which was previously known as Macromedia Flash, is a multimedia creation platform that is used to add video, animation and interactivity to many various areas. Its use in advertising is increasingly common, and it has spurred an endless number of online games. It can boost user experience of audio, text layout and flow, colors, 3D effects, animation and more. Given all its capabilities, companies (especially creative ones) are turning to Flash for – well, flashier websites. Ad agencies and designers have found a platform that can really induce their message to life and showcase their creativity. They now have the tools to make a site that allows users to interact and be blazed by their work, instead of just reading what their company is all about in plain text.
Should you use Flash on your web site? Of course, if you think that it can bring extra value to your end users. But unless you’re developing some music or heavily animated web site, then it’s not a perfect option to build a web site only with Flash. I would rather recommend to use it for something more like a feature in a web site’s start page, to heighten the experience, but at the same time make sure that it hasn’t got some kind of user experience fallback, especially if it contains any important information.
Flash offers a enhanced experience in regards to animations, transitions, music and video handling. It has been there from day one to complement HTML where that isn’t sufficient in bringing a more full-fledged media experience. It is vector-based, but allows incorporation of bitmaps where needed, such as when screen captures are required as part of a software tutorial. Flash supports audio, animation, and advanced interactivity. One of the biggest benefits is that it’s relatively easy to learn, as it provides a designer-friendly creating environment. However, it requires a good understanding of computer graphics, and the advanced features require familiarity with programming or scripting techniques, but it also depends from the chosen flash animation software.
Web designers can also integrate Flash animations very well with other Web technologies. It can be extremely bandwidth efficient, comparing to other ways of displaying multimedia content. Flash has a large developer community (more than 3.5 million of developers use Flash platform), providing great support for developers. There are many pre-built Flash files that can be downloaded for free or low cost.
Flash is everywhere. Everyone knows about it and rarely does anyone who doesn’t have it, have a problem installing it. Sure there’s nothing to install for HTML5 (when it will be available) but it will require people to upgrade browsers or use specific ones to see videos on certain pages. Far more work than just downloading and installing the Adobe Flash Player. Flash Player spreads on over 99% of Internet-enabled desktops in mature markets as well as a wide range of devices.
Regarding video on web sites, Flash video player is much more than just a simple video player. It’s a tool that, when wielded properly can give you massive amounts of flexibility and power. With features like 3D effects, advanced text support, hardware acceleration and dynamic streaming…Flash is way ahead.
Being a controlled runtime, it can bring exactly the same content through web browsers and platforms, without any extra code. It is probably the most spread web browser plug-in in the world.
Flash has also become the de facto way of showing videos in web sites (YouTube, Vimeo etc) because of its compressing and packaging abilities, and is a great way around common video codec issues, showing something completely full-screen and other features. HTML 5 is a long way from completion. The HTML 5 video tag is going to need a lot of work and support before it can compete with Flash. Additionally, there’ the question of browser support and video file formats which it is not doing anything to fix at present.
What seems to be the greatest annoyance for people is slow performance and lots of unwanted animations and such. When it comes to performance, while it can be controlled by Flash developers, they seldom seem to do it properly. This also reflects on a duration of battery life on laptops, shortening it by 10-20%. When speaking with Adobe representatives about this, they claim there’s no performance problem whatsoever in Flash and that it’s all the developers’ doings.
Another of the problems with Flash is that it is included in the web browser as a complete stand-alone runtime, meaning it would work just the same in a stand-alone Flash player. The effect of this is that if you focus the Flash movie, all web browser keyboard shortcuts and focus is lost, and you need to click outside of the Flash area to re-focus.
But, it’s not only about development factors, it’s also about marketing and end user experience, where it could be heightened with nice Flash usage.
It is also important to point out that different Web sites have different purposes. Some Web sites are created totally to promote a corporate image, or to market or promote products and services. For these sites, Flash is an important tool. But for a customer support site, having a slick Flash animation of the company logo at the expense of a knowledge base is not good policy.
Flash is also a proprietary. While proprietary isn’t necessary a bad thing, the Internet is built on the principles of open standards and mutual ownership. The rise of proprietary applications such as Acrobat and Flash ultimately threaten the effectiveness of the World Wide Web Consortium and similar bodies, and could possibly lead to something like the “browser wars” of the 1990s. It would be remiss not to point out, however, that the Flash.SWF format is now in the public domain, and third party products can now be used to create Flash files. There’s a wide choice for the new developers choosing the right flash animation software.
All in all, you can say that Flash is more of an asset to advertising and websites than a disadvantage.
Modern world wide web could not be imagined without Flash animations, and it will stay like that for a long time.
Ratko Bozovic is an internet advertiser and blogger for a long period, observing changes in this area for almost 15 years. He’s totally in love with everything concerning computers and technology.