Keys to Effective Use of Flash in a Professional Web Site

Flash is an ever-growing presence in Web sites today, adding an element of motion and sophistication. Used well, it does a great job, particularly when delivering a more complex message, but as with everything else it should be used judiciously.

Advertising

When used for advertising, Flash can be very successful at informing a viewer and producing follow-through. Advertising doesnít always refer to outside advertising, which leads people away from your site.† You could simply be advertising a key page or section within your own Web site.

Branding

When used for branding, Flash is incredibly effective at creating the recognition and awareness that are so important in making your Web site stand out from the rest in your field. Animating a logo, tagline, or phone number draws attention to who you are, what you do, and how to contact you. Animating a series of pictures that convey the type of services you offer also establishes branding awareness. According to Set Now Solutions, LLC., DoubleClick recently examined the effectiveness of ad technologies and found that Flash increased branding metrics by 71 percent, whereas there was only a 14 percent increase for audio, 9 percent increase for video, and 4 percent increase for GIF ads.

The Questions you should ask

1. Is Flash going to help me in communicating with my audience?

The first thing you need to decide is whether or not it makes sense to use Flash. Will you be able to communicate better with your audience in how you address their concerns? You need to keep users' needs and perspective in mind at all times.

If Flash is going to annoy them, or otherwise get in the way of you reaching them, then simply don't use it! However, for subtle animations that help enhance the experience, or for media-rich content, on the opposite end, Flash is an excellent tool.

2. Will my audience have the plug-in?

Estimates say that up to 85% of users do have the Flash plug-in, with browsers now shipping with it. That still leaves 15% without the plug-in, and those with an outdated version. Unfortunately, many won't bother to fetch it in spite of a smart site giving them the option.

3. Is some additional download time acceptable?

Flash can be optimized, but some movies could potentially take a bit of time to load. Will your audience commit to waiting? Another important question to answer. Those on the slower connections may not wait.

4. Am I trying to accomplish things that plain HTML can't?

One consideration to make is whether a static, HTML site will do justice to your content. If your site needs to come to life in some way because it will engage your audience better, then Flash could be the answer.

5. Will I still have good exposure on the search engines if I use Flash?

Doing too much in Flash will sacrifice exposure on the search engines. In other words, the engines will not have enough text on which to base their indexing. If access to your site through the search engines is important to your success, be sure that you don't overdo it on the Flash side.

Conclusion

Flash is a very active and important part of Web sites today. But, just as many technologies afford capabilities far beyond our ability to use them, Flash, too, must be used within the scope of what makes sense for you as a business, and the viewers as potential clients. Captivate them. Be tasteful, be elegant, in fact, sometimes be gaudy, but donít ever let it take away from the heart of who you are and what you need them to know.