Flash, is becoming something of a controversy in the web community. On the one hand, there can be no doubt that the eye catching website that left you gasping in awe, was probably created entirely in Flash, and that it has clever online applications. The games you play now and then at work, ahem, were probably all made using Flash. Online data collection for millions of users, also fall within its capabilities. So why then, with all these advantages, do the web community feels it must constantly ask the question, Flash: To use or not to use?
Though the aesthetics benefits of Flash are clear, the practicalities of using it, are far more vague. Websites designed in their entirety using Flash, suffer greatly from poor download times, and can be unwieldy to program. From a commercial perspective, this is unacceptable. Visitors to a sight are unforgiving, and will migrate to a new one if it runs more efficiently.
In fact, few websites incorporate Flash into their design. Even Adobe/Macromedia use it only sparingly. It is not just the comparatively slow download speed that prohibits web designers from using the application, but, the amount of web designers who can actually use it effectively. It requires far more skill to use than most of its contemporaries, and web designers earn a higher hourly rate. It also takes longer to create sites in Flash. So companies and organisations ask, do we really need it?
An answer for the most part is, “no”. Sites that do use it, tend to only have it for a single purpose, for which, Flash does come into its own.
It is the only media player that detects and configures itself to a users system. No other media player can do that, which makes it the clear leader in this field. Flash comes into its own in this domain, which is why good sites that incorporate video, incorporate Flash.
If a website requires a high degree of interaction, Flash, can accommodate this with the same grace, that it accommodates video, especially if the site incorporates a game or needs plenty of animations.
Though Flash has not worked well in the past incorporating complex management structures of files, this has improved with each new version. The viability of using it as a content management system, has improved too.
A distinct drawback to using Flash, and probably one of the main reasons it is not used to design whole sites, is that it simply does not interact well with a web browser. They simply have never been designed with Flash in mind. Forward and back buttons do not work, and it is not possible to bookmark a page, without extensive development from a designer.
As we have already seen, Flash sites are more expensive to design, and update. This can increase significantly if the original developer no longer works for the organisation or client, as it is that much harder for another developer, to modify Flash.
It is for the above reasons that the web community is torn over the question, Flash: To use or not to use, as for all its disadvantages, it does have some genuine advantages.
For this reason, it is probably wise to bear in mind that the use of Flash, will depend greatly on the type of website, and what its purpose is. If the site is to sell products, then is there really a need for animations, interactions, and so on and so fourth? Maybe for a few products, but in the main, probably not.
If the site is to promote a game or a video, or is indeed an interactive game that requires the marketing to be aesthetically awesome as possible, could you really use anything else.
For now, Flash is Flash, and is largely open to the needs of the website whether it is used or not. As with the nature of all things web related, it is being improved all the time, so in a few years, perhaps there will be less scope to ask the question, Flash: To use or not to use?