What The Design World Needs….

October 18, 2007

…is another rant about Flash websites.

Yeah, right. There is no shortage of persons railing against the evils of Flash on the web, especially in terms of search engine marketing and optimization. I have found a few gems worthy of some chuckles at least, such as this flowchart for instance.

I currently am employed as a production designer for a big real estate magazine. Not exactly what one would call “graphic design.” At least not in the traditional sense. I employ a lot of the techniques and philosophy of good design: hierarchy, repetition, contrast, alignment, etc. But basically my job is to build nice looking ads and then the customer ruins them in corrections. Frustrating as all get out, but a hard-knocks lesson in client management – not to mention Quark keyboard shortcuts. (snicker)

The point of this is that when I was in school, and now as I am discovering, in the REAL world, people like Flash websites. They mistake the dynamism of “intuitive” flash movies for efficiency in communicating the intended message. Designers in particular seem prone to this syndrome. They want to make something that is clean and concise in it’s intended message. It will be strewn with Helvetica so as not to over complicate the message with a bunch of serifs….but I digress – for I am now being facetious. (And the Helvetica rant is coming later.)

It’s frustrating to me, because I see it as irresponsible to build an all-flash website. To me it’s the equivalent of going into a dark room and shouting into a (albeit pretty) box. Why? Because if your intent is to make your message accessible – as accessible as possible – then Flash CAN BE the wrong choice.

I have seen plenty of examples of responsible use of Flash. It has it’s place and I am really trying not to sound like a snot or a scrooge. If none of the content or navigation is in it, then right freakin’ on. Go for it. Use it to enhance your efforts and add some interactivity. Fine. Beautiful, even. Flash is also great for streaming music and video.

I’ve been told, and from my admittedly limited knowledge of it, when you encase your links in a flash movie the search engines can’t spider them. I have no idea how in the hell one goes about being findable in a search engine with content that resides in a flash movie. Isn’t the only way people could find your site by direct link – either clicking on a link on another (usually more friendly to search engines) page, or by typing in the exact url?

Now, I am no marketing genius, but it doesn’t take one to know a little bit about the way people use the web. I rarely find what I am looking for by typing in an exact url into my browser. I use google – I “google it.” I start entering search terms until I get a first page result that I am happy with. Rarely do I venture past the second page of results…it usually means that I just need to refine my search terms a little better. I have gotten good at it.

So…who is getting my business?

Those who can be found. Simple as that.

Update: I have, incidentally – stumbled across some people who are developing solid techniques for optimizing flash pages and making them indexable. This is worth a look : Flash SEO

Very interesting – brilliant even.

Guess I’ll just shut the hell up and wait for the flash movie to load.

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