Flash: When Its Use Is Appropriate

Description: Flash can be a great tool for the web designer. But it's not always an essential one. How do you know when you should use it and when you ought to leave it in your design box?

There's no doubt that Flash can really enhance a website when it is used properly. But it can also be misused and its presence isn't always needed. Some webmasters sole purpose for using Flash seems to be that they have fallen in love with the technology and simply want to include it on their site without having any good reason for doing so.

This is the main point for using Flash. If you could take away your Flash presentation and your site would remain pretty much unharmed without it, then your Flash movie should probably stay on your computer instead of being part of your site.

So where does it fit in?

It's important to remember that Flash is a visual medium. You might think that web pages are visual too, and you'd be right - but they are visual in a more two dimensional way. Reading words on a web page is very different from actually watching a movie which? well, moves.

So do you have something to show your visitors? If you want to be able to create an image - you might have a holiday website which would benefit from showing a movie of the most popular holiday spots for this year, for example - then Flash would be the best way to show people that content.

It's also appropriate to use it when it's not too big. It's not reasonable to expect people to wait while your huge overblown Flash movie loads, and then expect them to sit back and watch a half hour Flash movie about the twenty best beaches in the Caribbean. Keep your movie in context and keep it short, both to save on loading time and to make sure that the majority of your visitors will see the whole thing.

Even when you do have a good reason to use Flash, you must bear in mind that it will set your website back a little. When the search engine spiders come along to take a look round your site, they will only see the text. You could have the best Flash movie on the internet today, but they won't even know because they won't see it. You might want to include some text underneath the Flash movie to make sure the basic bones of the content aren't lost on the search engines - particularly if you want search engine visitors to find and see your movie.

Finally it's worth remembering that your visitors will need to have a Flash player installed on their computer to even be able to see your nifty little Flash applications. If they don't, and they're not prepared to download the player, they won't see your movie. It's that simple.

So bear that in mind before you use it - and if you do, make sure you can still please anyone who doesn't want to get the player.

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