I want to let blow about a pet hate. Websites that use Macromedia's 'Flash' technology. You know the ones, the websites that force you to twiddle your thumbs while a ‘Please wait while we load’ progress bar eternally works it way towards 100% when (if you’ve managed to hang around until then) they hop about the place with cooler than thou motion and images and other such (cough, splutter) cutting edge graphic codswollop? Yeah, well apart from being a bandwidth hog (many of them are bad enough on broadband, pity the poor souls trying to access these Flash-based sites on a 56k dialup modem) these sites have other major shortcomings, namely:
1) User navigation: In a word – a nightmare. As many of you will have already noted on many of such sites, if (say) you visit a news ‘page’ in a flash-based site and then hop to the biography ‘page’ and decide you want to go back to the news ‘page’ you may – out of habit – click on the browser’s ‘back’ button thinking it will bring you back to news ‘page’. Wrong. It will bring you back to the previous webpage you were on before you hit the flash based website. Basically your browser treats the flash-based site as one single webpage, no matter how many ‘pages’ you visit within the flash based site. It may look like it has several ‘pages’, but it’s only got one in the eyes of the browser (and in the eyes of search engines for that matter, which brings me nicely to the next point…)
2) Invisibility to Search Engines: Search engines can’t index Flash based websites as well as they do normal HTML pages. In fact they simple can’t index them effectively at all. You’ve got a flash-based website and you want to have all your content indexed by Google or Yahoo? Good luck to you. The search engines still cannot ‘delve’ into the flash based sites and extract the content as they can on a normal HTML page. Result? These sites have maybe one single page (often empty) in the index of a search engine. For example these 2 links show that Yahoo has only one page for each of these two flash-based sites in their index (despite the fact that each of these sites actually contains multiple ‘pages’ of content embedded within the Flash file):
• http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=site%3Adelorentos.net (Delorentos’ site)
• http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=site%3Athechapters.com (The Chapters’ site)
Yes, bands (along with film studios touting their latest multiplex release) are the biggest culprits. But it’s not just the big boys strutting the globe. There are many emerging bands on the local scene that stump for Flash-based sites (or I suspect were strong-armed into doing so maybe by some über-cool, fashionista, slick-talking, flash-fascinated web designer who wooed them to parting with wads of cash by demonstrating fabulous looking graphics while conveniently glossing over the incredibly poor user experience and the invisibility of their site to the search engines).
Time for a bit of naming and shaming. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of local bands who are all doing themselves IMHO a serious injustice (okay, maybe that’s exaggerating it a bit but they're sure missing out) by having FLASH-based website for fans to visit (Fear not, I'll leave out any link to their sites and so spare you the risk of maybe choking your internet connection):
• Cathy Davey
• The Chalets
• Republic of Loose
• The Things
• Vesta Varro
• The Chapters
• Waiting Room (not so bad, they have just a Flash navigation bar, the rest is HTML but it also means search engines have huge difficulty in finding pages on their site..)
So, for what it’s worth, if you’re in a band and are thinking of having a website done up my advice is (quelle surprise) avoid FLASH. Like the plague. And don’t let trendy web designer try and tell you anything to the contrary.
Anybody agree with me, or have I completely lost it ranting on about such trivial a thing of this 21st of centuries?