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I have recently been doing a bunch of web side projects through word of mouth recommendations only. Although I am much more a of a programmer than a designer by any means, my design skills are not terrible, and do not hate dealing with UI like many programmers. As a result, I find myself lured into a bunch of side projects where aside from a minimal back end for content administration, most of the programming is on front end interfaces (read javascript/css).

By far the biggest frustration I have had is convincing clients that they do not want Flash. Aside the fact that I really do not enjoy Flash "development", there are many practical reasons why Flash is not desirable (lack of compatibility across devices, decreased client accessibility, plug-in requirements, increased development time, etc.). Instead of just flat out telling the clients "I will not build you a flash website", I would much rather use tactics to convince/explain to them that this is not what they actually want, ie: meet their requirements any better than standard html/css/js and distract users from their content.

What kind of first hand experience do others have with this? How do you explain to someone that javascript/css/AJAX is usually a better option for most websites? Why do people want to use Flash so bad to begin with?

This question pertains to clients who do not have any technical reasons for wanting flash, but just want it because they think it makes pretty websites.

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closed as too broad by gnat, MichaelT, Bart van Ingen Schenau, GlenH7, Dynamic Apr 6 at 13:29

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because it is flashy ;) –  Pemdas Feb 9 '11 at 17:41
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Tell them that Facebook and twitter (among other popular websites) weren't written in flash, they'll have to understand ;) –  Mahmoud Hossam Feb 9 '11 at 18:05
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Show him a 'flash site' on a computer that does not have flash installed. –  Glenn Nelson Feb 9 '11 at 20:01
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Show them a flash site using a dial-up net connection. –  oosterwal Feb 9 '11 at 20:29
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Show them a Flash site in Lynx and tell them that this is the most used browser in the world. –  rightføld Feb 9 '11 at 23:46

12 Answers 12

up vote 40 down vote accepted

Tell 'em Flash websites are "empty" to the search engines. If the businessman wants customers to google and discover his business through the web, he has to forget Flash. Technobabble aside, the businessman will understand the cost of losing customers.

Tell 'em Flash websites are known to slow down old computers and users nowadays are getting increasingly annoyed by Flash websites, closing the page if it doesn't load in a blink of an eye.

Tell 'em Flash has become sort of an anti-businesscard these days to mark an antiquated company out of touch with the present. Tell 'em users will wrinkle and the competitors will laugh.


A true story. A while ago when I relocated to another town soon after I felt the need to visit a hair stylist. Being who I am I came with no better idea as to google for a hairdresser shop. I landed on a rating page that listed about 5-6 top places. I went for their websites and saw... what do you think? Freaking Flash! One site wouldn't load 100% at all, I even tried several times. The others had too complex navigation I was never able to comprehend and get to the needed information. In the end I landed on the last page which was just basic HTML and CSS. I got the necessary information in a few seconds, made an appointment and have been their client ever since. I guess the other shops will have to earn with their web designer since normal users just don't get through.

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This is getting less true, with deep-linking and Google now able to extract text from Flash - but I still find it useful to say to customers to put them off, deep-linking is time-consuming to setup and hence costly. Flash development is exceptionally costly compared to regular web as a rule. –  Orbling Feb 9 '11 at 17:56
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Don't worry about this statement not holding to 100% - it does for most cases and will be a strong argument to less savvy people. –  user8685 Feb 9 '11 at 17:59
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So you mean it is better to lie to you customers than saying "I don't do flash sites"? Also OP asks about AJAX sites. If overused, AJAX poses the same problem. –  back2dos Feb 9 '11 at 18:51
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+1: Content should be Readable. Another true story. The other day I found a site where the phone number was a graphic image inserted into the page. Since the number wasn't text, the iPhone couldn't find it, and I didn't want to bother dialing it manually. –  S.Lott Feb 9 '11 at 20:11
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Tell 'em Flash websites are "empty" to iPhones and iPads. –  LennyProgrammers Feb 9 '11 at 21:14

Using Flash will lose them eyeballs.

One of the big reasons Google trounced Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, et. al. in the search engine wars is their landing page and results appear so incredibly fast. Even in the late 90s, when Google's search results weren't really better, they were still the go-to search engine if you didn't want to waste your time.

On the other hand, there are the Flash sites. You know, the ones where the landing page is "Loading... 10%... 20%..." I don't care at all about somebody's ego-stroking beautiful artistic visions, I just want to get the information I need and get on with my day. So most of the time, when I hit one of those sites, I either hit the "skip the animation" button if there is one, or if not, just switch to Google and find a competitor.

Add in the lack of iPhone/iPad support, and you've just subtracted even more eyeballs.

Others have covered the technical problems with Flash; like Josh K, "I block Flash (via NoScript) everywhere" because my machines run better and everything loads faster.

I'm totally cool with Flash as an optional component of the user experience in the right contexts - I'm a total CityVille addict, for instance. But being a major component of a customer-facing commercial website ain't the right context.

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If technical reasons don't work, tell them that you can't use flash in the iPad or the iPhone

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Or the iPhone. I do a lot of surfing on my iPhone, and I've bought a fair number of things while doing so. There's millions of us, and we tend to have more disposable income than the average. –  David Thornley Feb 9 '11 at 18:37
    
Yep, that's a lot of people. I also know some people who refuse to install Flash on their computer. –  MetalMikester Feb 9 '12 at 18:30

Explain that Flash is a tool for multimedia rather then supporting an entire website. Flash does some things extremely well, but a full Flash website is cumbersome and very frontloaded to the client. Load times are increased, bandwidth goes up, and development generally slows down.

Going with a HTML / JavaScript solution is better for 99% of the cases Flash is considered. Flash is there to augment existing markup rather then replace it. People don't write entire websites in JavaScript for that reason. It's an enhancement, not a substitute.

Flash based websites will not be picked up easily by search engines. You would have to work very hard to allow them to. Flash would also make it difficult to bookmark pages and share links, as often the URL doesn't change at all. As previously mentioned because of long load times and processing issues the user experience can often be terrible. I block Flash (via NoScript) everywhere because it has major performance issues on all my machines (Windows and Mac alike).

There is a lot of Flash-like behavior that can be replicated with JavaScript. There are even full libraries (jQuery UI) built around drop-in widgets and animations to replace Flash counterparts.


Summary

Flash shouldn't be used for the entire website. Bits and pieces can be in Flash, but the overall design should be in HTML for accessibility, portability, and speed. It costs less to maintain an HTML based website then a Flash based one, as well as increasing the number of users who can access the site effectively.

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+1 Spot on what Flash is and isn't –  Anto Feb 9 '11 at 18:21
    
It's a great explanation but I fear it has "too many words" for a client... –  user8685 Feb 9 '11 at 18:32
    
@Developer: Let me summarize it. –  Josh K Feb 9 '11 at 18:33

People like things that are flashy (no pun intended) and flash, being flashy, has a reputation that the non technical person has heard of numerous times.

EDIT: Read here and convey these points http://www.killersites.com/blog/2010/why-flash-only-websites-are-a-bad-idea/

The general manager of the company I work for had made a flash site for one of our new products and I had to send him an email with a list of all that was wrong with it, I feel your pain.

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And how does that help solve the problem? –  whatsisname Feb 9 '11 at 18:08
    
Noted and remedied. –  Tim Feb 9 '11 at 18:19

I think your view on flash is a little too shallow, which also applies to the many answers provided here. I have been working with the Flash Player as a platform for about 5 years now and I would like to take the time to explain a few things.
TLTR: goto conclusion.

The problem with Flash

One of the biggest problems of that platform is how it is monetized:
By providing development tools that lower the entry barrier to a bare minimum. As a result, you have a shitload of crappy apps out there.
What is claimed about flash is true for flash content, but is not specific for the platform. The same company, that created flash, created Dreamweaver. Last time I checked, it produced results about as crappy as average flash content.

The "Truth" about Flash

  • Flash Player's market penetration can measure up with that of browser you'd be willing to actually be compatible with when creating a HTML solution. Estimations for IE6 still range up to over 10%.
  • Flash Player is not present on mobile devices, at least not in a way one could seriously work with. OTOH, if you honestly care about mobile experience, then you should create a mobile version of the site you create.
  • Flash Player is not slow. The AVM2 outperforms all JavaScript engines in general purpose situations, although the V8 is an alternative, but it is only used in Google Chrome. Flash player is also reasonably fast for both rendering vector and raster graphics and can only be signifficantly outperformed by hardware accelerated HTML renderers, which are not widely spread. If Flash Player were only used to display data the same way as HTML sites, you wouldn't notice a difference.
  • Flash Player is used to create crappy multimedia sites and banners. However, Flash Player is capable to run rich internet application such as Sliderocket, Aviary Tools (notably Phoenix), games such as Tanki Online and Koyotl (I myself am working on this game and we'll hopefully launch a public beta next week, until then the screen shots at the bottom should give you an impression).

There is such a thing as actual flash development and if you're actually interested, I suggest you grab a copy of FlashDevelop which is all about actual software development on the flash platform.
Your claim that flash requires more development time is solely based on your personal skillset. It's as if a .NET developer claimed Java development requires more time.

Flash vs. HTML

Flash is - from my personal experience - a better choice than HTML, if you want to build a complex, persistent, interactive app, a fat client that deploys from the web (*).
Now to build web sites with a relatively low level of interactivity, as for example a forum, there is not much reason to use flash, except some edge cases that are not really important here. Choosing HTML makes it easier to do SEO and to ensure accessibility. But it is still a matter of taste, although I cannot imagine non-technical people having any good reason to prefer flash.
Depending on the situation and personal philosophy, one or the other is "better", but statements from "flash sucks" to "it is ok as a complement" are oversimplyfied.

What I fear is, by wanting pretty, your customers mean the kind of pretty that makes you wanna vomit. In that case flash also is the better tool to implement this nightmare. I turn down such jobs and I also don't forward them. This is a crime. And I am afraid once the HTML5 backend of Adobe CS Flash is stable enough, you will not be able to hide from this just by uninstalling flash.
If it is that what they want, I beg you to try talking them out of that. It's not hip, it's not cool, it's distasteful. You know that. Everybody here does. They should, too.

Conclusion

Demonizing flash isn't really honest and I don't think you need it.
Having experience with JavaScript/CSS/HTML is valuable. Saying you're very productive with that stack and that you feel confident you will meet your customer's requirements (supposing you are) is a good thing and an absolutely valid reasoning.
The best work you can do at minimum cost is to use the technologies you master and your customers want to get just that. Unlike a number of popular half-truths this is a solid fact.


(*) : I think standards are a lovely thing. I myself am using haXe since 2 years now, one motivation being the ability to switch, when I consider HTML a working alternative for my requirements. So far I must say, the flash player is still my prefered target for a number of reasons of which I presented a subset. So while I am looking forward to the day when HTML makes the flash player obsolete for my work, I think it's still a few years from now.

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One valid reason is that a Flash-based website won't work on an iPhone, iPad 1, iPad 2 or iPod Touch - which is 170 million devices, last time I counted.

Yes, this is Apple's decision, but its become a serious concern when building websites. Indeed, Microsoft is abandoning development on Silverlight for the Web as HTML just works on more devices.

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TL;DR

This more so goes inline with what a lot of contributors have already pointed out, but you really need to stick to the FACT that Flash is not fully supported. Adobe has pulled the plug on Flash Mobile support. This move made by Adobe means that other Mobile devices will soon be affected, leaving mobile devices without Flash viewing capability altogether. We have seen this happen before. Take ColdFusion for example. There are quite a few programmers and clients who were affected by the Adobe-caused death of ColdFusion.

In conclusion, a web-based platform (and any platform for that matter) is only as good as its supporters, contributors, and creators. Building a whole entire website on a wobbly platform WILL, without a doubt, cause the client to spend outside of their budget when it comes time to rebuild their website.

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As Timk said, flashy is good in the eyes of customers. The average customer is probably not aware/thinking about things such as:

  • SEO
  • Accessibility
  • Mobile access
  • Doesn't work well with browser history, bookmarks etc.

You can try to talk to them about these issues and then let 'em decide.

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If their site does not require flash, tell them that their site does not require flash. IF they insist on using flash, recommend a flash developer to them.

you are under no obligation to work with clients that don't listen, or use tools you don't like.

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apparently i got a drive-by downvote from a flash fan –  Steven A. Lowe Feb 9 '11 at 19:46
    
I would guess the downvote was because the original question already rejected the option of simply saying "I will not build you a flash website." –  jhocking Jun 20 '11 at 16:05
    
+1, I was going to say the same thing about not having to accept every client that shows up. –  rjzii Feb 9 '12 at 17:20
    
refusing clients is always an option –  Steven A. Lowe Feb 9 '12 at 20:47

Why don't you "wow" them with non-flash examples of your work? They can see the potential along with your expertise. Let them know there is nothing that can be done in Flash that you can't do your way (I hope this is true.). If they argue, then just use Flash, there have been several more technical reasons to avoid it. You need to make sure in their mind, they won't be limited by making this choice.

They may be under the impression a novice is more likely to learn how to tweak something in Flash in an emergency and not worry about being locked into a particular developer.

There's always the old "Nobody got fired for buying IBM." mentality. Flash is in the news and your clients don't distinguish good from bad publicity.

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There may also be issues with complying with accessibility legislation e.g. for blind users. I don't know how well screen readers cope with Flash - I don't imagine very well.

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