Don’t Build Your Web Site In Flash
I’d like you to do me a favor. Please disregard everything you may have read this morning on Search Engine Land, Matt Cutts’ blog and even on the Official Google Blog. Flash is still evil; please don’t use it to design your entire Web site.
No, really. Don’t.
It all sounds very cool and will be a great boon to the search engine optimization industry. We’ll no longer have to fight Google as we try and create workarounds to get previously invisible content to rank and in front of users. However, the news that Google may soon be able to index this content changes nothing. It’s still up to you to convince your clients to avoid Flash. As pretty as it may be in small doses, a Web site entirely in Flash still presents a poor user experience. No one wants to sit through that. I don’t care how indexable it is. There are still far better ways to present that content.
As excited as the SEO nerd in me was to hear Google’s announcement this morning, it also makes me worry.
Before today, Flash was considered mostly unindexable by the search engines. Sites were encouraged not to rely on it knowing that the search engines spiders would get tripped up and that their content would not be searchable. And despite all those warnings, how many God awful Web sites are out there designed completely in Flash? About a gazillion. And how much do you hate them? About a gazillion times over. And now Google is giving designers the green light to use Flash? Oh my goodness, Batman, get ready for a total Flash onslaught. Do not want!
Flash Web sites are still teh suck. They’re a lame attempt to make your boring site look interesting by distracting users with pretty pictures and moving frames. You should be using your content and product/service offerings to do that.
HTML and Flash may be becoming more equal to the search engines, but most users will still favor an HTML Web site that they can navigate easily. Today’s announcement is something worth watching, but I don’t think it changes anything yet. I also wonder why Google had to wait on Adobe to “invent” some kind of special Flash player for them to use. It seems to me that if it were that simple Google would have done it years ago, no? Or are the brains at Adobe really smarter than the ones at the Googleplex?
I don’t know. My SEO advice: Stick with creating HTML-based Web sites that users will want to interact with. Save the Flash stuff for the movie Web sites no one really cares about anyway.
53 Replies to “Don’t Build Your Web Site In Flash”
You’re so awesome! I don’t believe I have read a single thing like that before. So great to find someone with some original thoughts on this topic. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!
I use XML to write my content and then use flash to display it on desktops, and for mobile devices I use HTML. Mobile devices require a different approach to navigation because u can only use ur fingers.
People not using XML will be the ones at a loss because limiting ur creativity to either flash or HTML will not give users the best experience. You need XML to bridge the content across different devices so your designs will not be limited by technologies. Peace.
I have to say, I completely agree. I encourage folks to avoid flashy sites. Super flashy, high graphics sites might attract a visitor but it’s the quality content and information that keeps them, and the reality still is that they don’t rank well.
Dont really understand,why an SEO consultant write stuff as this… Flash is a great tool to create amazing websites, that looks & feel different than what we have today, you can easily, optimize the site for search engines,using SIFR or other methods….
there is lots of knowledge on Flash & SEO … all here in the web. if anyone want his site to be different, Flash is a great way, else try Html 5 …
i don’t agree
maybe today search engines are having some problems with flash sites
but they already have the technology to scan even flash sites
and when they do the flash sites owner will won the 2 worlds
I agree that it is still wise to avoid completely Flash-driven sites, particularly as they currently will not load on an iPhone without a cumbersome workaround that most people have never heard of…
Anyway, this leads me to a question: if we’re using good ol’ HTML for our web design, how can we implement a continuously playing (and looping) mp3 player so that music plays continuously (without hiccups or restarting the song) as the user navigates through the site? It seems using some form of website frames (taboo!) is the only way to do so, but doesn’t that hurt your SEO results because search engines can get confused as to which frame the website’s content is located in? Please let me know if there is an HTML non-frame solution or an HTML SEO-friendly frame solution for continuously playing MP3s on a website. Many thanks in advance!
@Sean Parnell, thanks for your comment. As you mentioned, iframes/framesets or Flash can limit the ability to SEO your site to its fullest potential. The tight rope an Internet marketer has to walk with regards to Flash is balancing SEO requirements against user experience. You may decide that the MP3 is critical to the user’s experience on your site. In that case you would want to set up Flash in a way that search engines can “see” the content as much as possible. There are ways to set up deep linking into Flash apps and ways to try to get the search engines to follow links and index some of the content. A Flash application wouldn’t be as SEO friendly as a straight HTML site, but it might be appropriate depending on the site and the competition.
yes… in the point of seo view, flash content is fundamentally different from HTML on webpage URLs, and being able to parse links in the Flash code and text snippets does not make Flash search-engine friendly.
You can build a page in Flash and still put SEO in it.
We use the coffeecup flash software and they have a feature to put ALT text for your flash. We have had several sites built in flash that do well in the serps.
I am a 3d artist and was looking into putting some flash in my website to make it pop more. Wouldn’t it be beneficial as an artist to have more flare and creativity in this instance? I agree with your words, but only in a down and dirty, get to the business kind of sense.
Would i still benefit from non-flash content?
I think people need to know why to use Flash and when! and forget
about the search engine optimization for now…
so if you want to use flash then you wanna showcase something, heavy animation
or interactivity. "in this case you are going to spend a HUGE money on
marketing your website online and make people link to your website"
I think the main reason the article is posted just to warn people that if you
will make your website in flash. the SEO result will not be the same or it will
not be as you expect. (but of course you might have a reason to make it
It doesn't matter how much you will spend you will be LIMITED… Believe me this
will not be an ISSUE for long time they will discover a solution because simply
Microsoft and Adobe are going deeper with using 3D in their Application (Silverlight,
Flash, Air etc…)
The thing that most people seem to miss is that you CAN do proper SEO with Flash. It’s been done before.
For a VERY simple example:
It’s like any tool, and any project. You get skilled people to do the work, and they produce good work. Get crappy people and…well, you get crap.
You can make an html site, and get a really crappy SEO person do the SEO work on it, and it won’t do much better than a Flash site. Get a great SEO person and you’re going to get much better results. Same goes for Flash and Flash SEO.
Everyone is biased towards Flash because there are 100,000 tutorials written by fools that other fools can copy/paste crappy code from and have their very own ugly flash piece.
Flash is a development tool given to designers.
What do you think would happen if someone made it easy for designers to do stuff with PHP? It’d be a mess. Unfortunately that’s Flash, and Flash gets a really bad rep because 98% of the people who use it don’t know how.
That said, I still build most of my websites all HTML, because SEO is better, and easier to do than it is in Flash.
Well I don’t know about you, but browsers get a massive FAIL from me with regards to their primary function – displaying content as the designer intended. With Flash, your content remains the same irrespective of browser. It’s not glitz that I’m after, its consistency, and as much as I hate to say it, Flash can deliver that.
I love how this is an unbias blog journal about how Flash should be used in specific cases, and that making 100% Flash sites is applicable on a case by case basis.
No wait, we get blanket statements like: Save the Flash stuff for the movie Web sites no one really cares about anyway. Flash is still evil.
Thanks for the objective analysis. Instead of trying to form an educated dialogue, you continue to perpetuate polarized arguments that will only server to push either side of the spectrum further.
Why spend hundreds on a proprietary application to make a web page in flash, which will be slow, look horrible, a burden to update etc etc when you can get a free text editor and be done with it faster, lighter, and without the need for some terrible plugin.
EVERY flash site I have had to endure is total trash. Fine for movie players, I concede but other than that, it’s an over-hyped POS and people who defend it are scared their propaganda is falling on deaf ears. Flash sucks. Plain and simple. I know this…user of the POS since future splash. It sucked then, it still sucks today.
You’re clearly the master when it comes to what is best for the internet. You’re the only group I’ve even known who had the insight to title their blog Internet Business Consultant. You’re clearly a group of original thinkers and creative gods.
Love your web design, especially the stars and stripes! And the uncle sam hat. Wow! I see a Webby in your future!
Or maybe this was just popularist linkbait… Is this how you got to the top of the Google search results?
I agree to some degree. Most flash websites suck. However, for certain sites, such as http://www.firstbornmultimedia.com, Flash is the better technology to use. Firsborn’s site is the best way to present their content and is a vastly superior user experience to what they would have done in HTML.
You know, I clicked on this article hoping to find support for my stand against flash. I really wanted to get something out of what you wrote, but I felt that a lot of it came off as blanket statements of “don’t use flash because I don’t like it.” Ironically, it’s after reading Matt Cutt’s blog and Search Engine Land that I found some points that I can use when discussing flash (and non-flash) sites with clients. SEL gave a much more balanced view of both the pros and cons, and I’m surprised that you discounted their blog entirely.
I can’t believe how many people are speaking as if this is a bad thing.. it was just a matter of time before search engines we’re able to improve the way they index flash. One thing that has me puzzled is the amount of people that are saying flash designed sites give a bad user experience, we must not be viewing the same sites. The whole purpose for a flash based product is to enhance the user experience, so when I hear things like “You still have to have a good product and good content to sell something” Question. can’t you build a site in either Flash or HTML with a good product and good content? Do you build content for the search engines or do you build it for the viewer?
I feel some are missing the whole point of this.
OMG I finally found someone who agrees with me that the marketing hype between Adobe and Google was a very bad thing! Personally I agree with everything you’re saying Lisa, but I even went further on my blog and spelled out why the pittance of SEO you can achieve with the new solution is so woefully lacking that the chance is massive numbers of designers and developers are going to mislead their clients into thinking – HEY GREAT – We can build your entire site in Flash now and you’ll get real SEO.
It infuriates me that the marketing machine and quest for corporate riches allows companies like Adobe and Google to put forth such nonsense.
What trash! my blog – http://www.search-marketing-answers.com/blog
Flash is not done to deliver content. It’s ok for image, for fun, but not for content, not for link building. Most of time, Flash sites have very poor text. Even if Google can now index this content, it remains poor content. SEO is about good content and good links.
I tend to agree with Lisa at the same time as I disagree with her on this post.
Yes, 9 times out of 10 it makes much more sense to stick to HTML or use Flash elements for added interactivity or functionality.
HOWEVER, since I started at an agency which does sometimes build Flash sites, I have come to realise that at the end of the day it all comes down to what you’re trying to do.
Retail site which needs every page indexed? Flash ain’t gonna do the job. Incredibly interactive mini-site with a distinct purpose, often tied to a larger marketing campaign? Then a fully Flash might just do the trick (even with all the issues regarding accessibility etc…)
Every site is different and has different aims – some of those can, much as it pains me to say it, be best served by Flash.
Isn’t it ironic that the Bruce clay site has a flash navigation system? . . . and it uses non graceful degradation technique without a one to one match like sifr.js
It appears many in this thread are a tad defensive. It was clear to me exactly why Lisa wrote this article. Not sure it wasn’t clear to the rest.
“but most users will still favor an HTML Web site that they can navigate easily.”
And that right there is THE issue. MOST internet users do not want to see flash at all. Matter of fact, many of them don’t have flash installed because they dislike it. I have a chart made entirely of flash on one page of the site only. I actually hate waiting for the damn thing to load even-though it takes about one minute.
Someone wrote about spammers exploiting this new news. That’s very true, but I’m sure Google already knows this. I’m also sure that just because something is now indexed, doesn’t mean it will hold the same weight as html content displayed holds. To all you flash geeks out there; you can take that to the bank as 95% fact, but might be 100% fact real soon.
Agreed – it’s good to see search engines indexing more content (whatever the medium). However, purely from an SEO perspective, I can’t imagine it can be assigned the same confidence as plain ol’ HTML.
– There’s no ‘page’ level to drop a user into, so a keyword match deep within the swf might not be evident to a user who has to start at the beginning of the file.
– Certain types of animations require text repetition that may look like keyword stuffing.
– Don’t forget accessibility. Search engines aren’t the only visitors who ‘see’ the web differently than the rest of us.
– Black-hatters are already warming up their cauldrons…
Until I see Flash-embedded content ranking consistently for competitive head terms I’ll still advise the standard ‘progressive enhancement’ approach and offer a non-Flash alternative for those who need it.
Aww… how cute! Look at all the angry little Flash developers throwing tantrums!
While you people were busy improving search engines’ ability to understand your precious Flash language, it appears as though you neglected to maintain your own understanding of Lisa’s language: English. If you reread her post, you might realize that you’re not actually engaged in an argument with her–you’re simply shouting out against claims she never made.
Her point is: despite the recent announcement that Google is indexing Flash content better, SEOs and web developers should still discourage their clients from building entire websites in Flash. She never said you shouldn’t use Flash at all.
To all you alleged developers that were so quick to defend a technology you barely understand: the greatest Flash-based websites in the World will still fall short of the search engine performance and traffic that HTML sites provide. Once these businesses realize you’ve built them something that functions well but can’t be found… it is YOU who will be out of work.
I’m a usability consultant and I like FLASH. I think it has much to offer, but hasn’t reached its full potential yet because as a technology, it requires something from the client to work.
My feeling is that Adobe and Google are thinking and planning ahead and laying the foundation for a different kind of Internet experience. One that is accessible by anyone, no matter their physical “limitations” and anyone relying on hand held devices. Many cell phones are not FLASH enabled, making 100% FLASH sites useless. Even if found in a cell phone search, it may still not be accessible.
Business requirements are vital. A government site that requires visitors to use online forms is forced to be accessible to everybody. The moment their form or site requires a plug-in or latest version of one, the site is rendered inaccessible. Again, you make the site crawlable but if it can’t be used by people, the same usability problems exist.
FLASH developers have good opportunities to keep creating usable and accessible FLASH. Some do but as we all see every day, most FLASH presents a problem to somebody, somewhere, because we don’t all use the same hardware or software or even get to the Internet the same way.
I see this news from Google and Adobe as our witnessing development in action. It’s not an end product and some of us can take this news and make it work for us.
Before this post turns into a total flame-fest, let me just say that I advised not creating a Web site ENTIRELY in Flash, because they’re often more about the designer than giving users what they want/need. I have on many occasions talked about how valuable Flash can be in small doses and how it should be used to complement a site, not support it.
Continue as you were.
I agree wholeheartedly with @josh and @lisa. This post is at least a decade behind the times.
Google and Yahoo’s decision acknowledges the importance of two technologies and one trend. The technologies:
1) Flash Video: umm, anyone ever used a little site called YouTube? Who hasn’t embedded flash video, anyone? Bueller? Now those are indexable as individual objects. Youtube is a great example of a business model for which HTML is only a necessary evil for reasons like SEO. Look at beatport.com as an example of a truly great success story — an industry-defining site — that’s all flash.
2) Flex as a legitimate platform for application development. Is there a traditional developer or flash designer out there not scrambling to learn AS3? Demand is high for this flash-based platform as convergance between browser and desktop grows.
The trend: the irrelevancy of “where” content originates over the importance of its “what”. As seen by social networking sites, people share net content like words and sentences, so sourcing is irrelevant. And the most shared content is usually flash or MP3, certainly not HTML. If it is HTML, 9 times out of 10 isn’t the HTML just a container for a flash movie? “Dude, check out this video” .. or “Dude, this flash game is a total timesuck”. So, again, prevailing memes are now indexable as the individual objects they are.
As an aside, I don’t know of any developer left out there who wouldn’t cheer an HTML-free world, and this is a small step in that direction.
Lisa, as I said, I understood your concern that some people might read headlines and think “Great, Flash is all solved now.”
Still, our article didn’t say that. But that’s the impression some people might think we said when you lump it into the “Please disregard everything you may have read this morning” sentence.
In fact, I was pointing out that our article already illustrated some of the major problems that still exist even with this. Illustrated that in some detail. That seems fair enough to say, especially in case some people haven’t actually read our article. Heck, you could easily have quoted some of the things in it to back up what you were saying.
Remember also, this isn’t the first time people have potentially been blinded by the “shiny” has Susan puts it about Flash. About four years ago, we had the Flash SDK come out, and many Flash designers got carried away then that the “search and Flash problem” was all cured. It wasn’t. It helped a bit, but it didn’t solve all the things they need to consider.
Today’s announcement helps more, but as you (and as we) pointed out, it’s not a panacea.
Flash is a tool. Sure it can be misused by someone with no skills to make a sucky web site, but that doesn’t mean that every site that uses Flash sucks. Some really horrible art has been made with paint, does that mean all paintings suck? Used correctly, Flash is an awesome tool. Streaming audio and video, games, interactivity, multi-user apps, 3D, data visualization, the impressive data components in Flex. If all Flash means to you is “pretty pictures and moving frames”, you are living about 8 or 9 years in the past, and you are hanging on to fixed ideas that do not reflect the current technology. Not a good thing for an “Internet Business Consultant”.
Danny: Oh, c’mon, Danny. I very clearly was not asking people to boycott your article. I was simply teasing that people should ignore all this hype about how now the engines can read Flash now and go on about their day. Your comment seems a bit unfair. Don’t make something out of nothing.
@Danny — Lisa’s not actually saying not to listen to SEL any more than she wants people not to listen to Matt. It was just a colorful way of saying not to get blinded by the shiny and get carried away. Come on, now.
Damn new fangled television sets. All style and no substance. How the hell do I operate this clicker? Give me a tuner any day. The damn color is hurting my eyes, what was wrong with black and white?
Seriously though, things change. Sometimes painfully, but lets try to make some good come out of it. Past paradigms can’t serve future demands. Ask yourself, what should the web become?
Please don’t use flash for any thing other then very ugly nav bars “I mean this sites ugly nav bar”
Please don’t use flash for any runtime dynamic font’s that will give the developer the ability to show custom font’s in dynamic text fields.
Please don’t use flash for cross platform dependability
Please don’t use the worlds most installed application ever “yes I’m still talking about flash”
Please don’t use flash for truly creating thinking that takes the line of functioning design so far out of the playing field that it leaves the rest of the worlds web developer crying to their momma’s
Please don’t use flash which has just been acknowledged by Google and Yahoo as a worthy investment of their own.
Your right Flash is still evil; please don’t use it to design your entire Web site. That way when I do your work will truly look and function like crap.
What you people should really be worried about is your job!.
Google and yahoo both can acknowledge that flash, flex and Air are leading a revolution in the web industry. Get on board or get the “F”lash out the way!
Just a reminder of some of the stuff you want people to disregard from our Search Engine Land post:
“Below, more details about how it all works, as well as some caveats for those who see this development as a Flash panacea and think they no longer have to ensure their Flash applications are search engine friendly.”
“However, this isn’t the perfect solution that it may seem. Adobe assures developers that “RIA developers and rich Web content producers won’t need to amend existing and future content to make it searchable – they can be confident it can now be found by users around the globe.” But that’s not entirely true, particularly for Flash pages that have little textual content.”
“Flash developers should continue to think about not only how well their applications can be found in search, but how usable and accessible they are.”
Hey, I agree with you Lisa — I’d prefer sites that are primarily HTML driven and only use Flash or multimedia where they make sense. And I can understand you wanting to have a strong headline to counteract those who might think it’s all good with Flash now. But we didn’t say that — and there’s a ton of good info for the people who are still going to have to use Flash on the web for various reasons. I sure hope you’ll send them to our article, not tell them to disregard it.
Yes, Flickr, Mint, Google Finance, Nasdaq, NY Times, salesforce.com, hotpads.com, AOL, Finetune (I could go on) are SO annoying that “gazillions” use them daily. What do these have in common? Mixing technologies to best fit the job – which, if YOU do your homework, would know this is what Adobe promotes. After all, Adobe makes the very tools for HTML/AJAX as well as Flash/Flex.
I’m curious, can you please provide some examples of 100% Flash (SEO unfriendly) sites in Comscore, Hitwise, Alexa top 1000?
“It’s still up to you to convince your clients to avoid Flash. As pretty as it may be in small doses, a Web site entirely in Flash still presents a poor user experience.”
This may be the crux. What leads you to believe that one is connected with the other?
(ie, the proverbial “all-Flash site” is not how most of the world uses SWF today. You seem to be saying to avoid all SWF because some sites out there might not be using it most effectively. Is my understanding accurate?)
Will anyone listen? No.
Flash helps ego-centric designers make enough visual noise so that people don’t realize they are forgetting the consumer…”Accessibility? Clean design? Mobile friendly?” Can’t hear you (covers ears) “nanananananannaan!!”
Trouble is, telling clients that flash rated poorly in search was always a great way to get out of ridiculous requests for quadruple gradient cascade-o-matic menus. Now, we’ll have to talk about real usability issues when talking them out of it. Wahhh. I don’t want to talk usability with them. Everyone starts checking their watch and taking cell phone calls from others.
Thank you Lisa. I was just thinking this today too. You still have to have a good product and good content to sell something. Pretty pictures are just that – pretty. But they don’t make me want to buy your $10,000 piece of software.
I agree. Flash is a great tool, but a complete website solution it is not. Just because it can be indexed, doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying.