HTML vs. Flash

The question of whether to use Flash or HTML when building a website comes up constantly. This article will hopefully clear up a lot of questions so you can decide which option is better for you to employ when developing your website.

First let’s look at HTML. HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) has always been the standard coding language of the web. There are many other markup languages that work in conjunction with HTML such as javascript, .php, .xml, .asp, etc.

HTML is the most basic and standard platform for designing web sites. HTML is supported by all browsers on all platforms of computers. So whether you are using Internet Explorer on a PC or Safari on a Mac, an HTML website is easily understandable by all browsers.

But the biggest upside of HTML is its ability to be configured to take total advantage of Search Engine Optimization. What this means is that by being smart with the layout of your website, the wording on it and the meta tag information, you’ll be able to generate more traffic to your site by placing higher in search engine results. The more keywords you use in the text of your website helps to solidify the relevance of your product or service. By showing search engine spiders that your site is a good source of information on your particular product or service, the search engines will look at your site as being more relevant than a web site without as many keywords or pertinent information. Thus in turn your site should rank higher and receive more traffic than your competitors when a potential customer searches for your product or service on a search engine like Google or Yahoo.

A prime example is this website. Look at all the information on this site, from the articles like this one to all the descriptions of each client’s projects. All that information helps to rank us higher in certain search criteria. This article is about the fundamentals of web site design. Because “web site design” is such a common search phrase with search engines we try to take advantage of this by using that term throughout this article and in whatever relevant places we can throughout our website.

OK, now let’s take a quick look at Flash. Flash is a platform which can be used to add a lot of interactivity to your website. You’ll often notice animated websites with funky intro pages or navigation. These are sites designed in Flash. When you see something moving across the screen or animated in any way, chances are the site was designed with Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash.

Flash is a great tool to add interactivity and animation to a web site. It can be used to show movement or really capture the viewer’s attention. With the release of Flash 8, Adobe has added the ability to integrate video with website design.

The ability to create a stunning website in Flash is at a designer’s fingertips. Another nice thing about Flash is its creative potential. Since it is not confined by the rules of HTML, Flash websites can be designed to do just about anything and be laid out in any way the client desires.

The downsides of Flash though are as extreme as its up sides. It doesn’t work seamlessly with all browsers. Older computers with outdated web browsers often have a hard time loading flash web sites. And speaking of loading, Flash web sites can easily reach very large file sizes very quickly. What this means is that anyone with a slower connection is going to be waiting a long time to see a large Flash based website.

When a Flash based web site is created, it is exported and uploaded to the internet as essentially a movie clip. This means that search engines like Google, Yahoo, Alta Vista, etc. can’t read the text that’s in your movie. By not having the ability to have a search engine rank your site your chances of being ranked highly are going to be highly impaired.

You can however incorporate the best of both worlds. The functionality and marketability of an HTML based site and the appeal of a Flash based site by using both wisely. If you make sure all your text areas are HTML based, then you are able to take advantage of search engine optimization. In image areas or with navigation you can use Flash movie clips. Since these contain little relative info for marketing search engines and instead could be better used to help capture the attention of a wandering visitor, why not employ both Flash and HTML into your web site design?

It may be a little more work for your designers and programmers to figure out, but the final product has the ability to be appealing and functional. Many of the sites we design incorporate both Flash and HTML for this reason. Our clients desire the chic and appealing feel of a Flash website but also want to rank high in search engines. It all comes back to balance. Balance the appeal with the functionality and your website will contain all the tools necessary to be visually stunning and highly marketable online.