Sunday, December 19, 2010

Moving Away from Internet Flash

Flash sites don't work on mobile devices
image from 
We tell our clients, a lot can happen in a couple of years on the internet. Standards change, new browsers are released, new trends appear. All of these elements can date a web site quickly.

One of the biggest trends going right now is the movement away from Adobe Flash to create web sites. In the past, our clients requested Flash-based animated splash screens or whole web sites created using this technology. The big problem is that Flash sites are not easily indexed by search engines... I call them "stealth sites" because they can often fly under the radar of most search engines.

Some of the Flash sites required more bandwidth and faster processors to play smoothly. This was not usually a problem on desktop computers, but now more consumers are becoming dependent on smart phones to browse the internet. Flash is not currently supported on some popular devices such as iPhones, iPads and a number of other mobile device platforms. When one realizes the millions of mobile devices, the Flash problem is hard to ignore.

What happens when these web sites appear on these non-Flash enabled smart phones depends on how the site is built. In some cases, the user is redirected to an alternate non-flash site that has been optimized for smart phone use. In other cases where the issue has not been addressed, the user sees blank holes in the web site design or nothing at all.

Web designers are embracing non-Flash technology such as HTML5 which plays internet video natively without additional plugins. We are also using clever custom code to restore animation and graphic effects back to web sites. The upside of this is that these technologies will also work on smart phone browsers.

I personally believe that market share wars are being fought on the internet with many competing companies vying for control of our computing devices. Control equals dollars at the end of the day. Just look how far Google has embedded itself into our daily lives. Can you imagine the web without them? Didn't think so.

Apple has famously drawn the line by not supporting Flash on their iPhones and iPads. Steve Jobs claims that this is because Flash web sites can require extreme band width and processing power which can put a strain on networks and drain phone batteries quickly. These are valid points, but really, it all might come down to control of market share and user experience.

Apple has its own platform for applications that it sells on its "App" Store, iTunes. If a competing technology such as Flash was allowed to run on Apple devices, Apple would lose the money it makes through the sale of Apps because consumers would have an alternate source for Apps. Hundreds of Flash App stores would pop up... guaranteed. Just as important to Apple, they might lose control over the user experience. For example, Apple does not allow pornography or obscene products to be sold in their store. They would not be able to control that with Flash Apps. Also, buggy or unsafe software  could cause stability issues.

While I have complained in the past about the lack of Flash support on iPhones, I applaud Apple for following their own path to give their consumers the best possible experience possible on their devices. Web designers and consumers can find creative alternative and life after Flash.

For non-Flash web site design, contact me at