“To Flash or Not To Flash” – why is it even a question?

There are certain debates that never die down. They may subside for a period of time, only to come back with new vigor after a few months (or sometimes years). With time, each side in those debates gathers almost religious following and amasses a formidable amount of arguments, facts and cool soundbites, only to unleash it all when the next tide comes to the shore.

One of those perennial debates is the all famous “Flash websites vs. Non-Flash websites”, or rather “Pros and Cons of Flash”. Since my “big” website uses Flash-based presentation, I was automatically thrown into the “Flash” camp (quite against my will) and now hardly a week passes without one web designer or other commenting on my website, specifically on the fact that it’s core is based on Flash. With the upsurge of the iPhones, iPads and other i-things, the comments have gotten on a new twist: “Flash needs to be avoided because it’s not iPhone-friendly” (read: “does not work on iOS platform”).

One web designer, who is also doing consulting (helping other people improve the “curb appeal” of their websites), offered me the following insight: “I’m not sure I would recommend using Flash at this point, unless you have a ghost site for mobile phones/iPads. If you’d like some more detailed instructions and recommendations on what we would suggest changing with your website, we could consult with you at our hourly rate. We can also create a custom website for you that would run on WordPress, and would be full HTML/CSS

Oh dear…

Leaving aside the whole “WordPress” nonsense, let me ask you a simple question: What is the purpose of your website?

That’s right – tell me in a couple of sentences, what is the purpose of your website and why do you have one? To show your work, right? WRONG! Not just “to show your work” but to present it in the most beautiful, glorious, dazzling way humanly possible. That’s the real goal of the website (and I’d be the first to admit that mine fell short of the mark on this one).

Now, let’s move on to the mobile platform argument. Have you ever tried browsing your big and beautiful website on iPhone? Or Android for that matter? If you haven’t done so recently, I strongly urge you to do it right away. Your eyes will open. When I saw my site on Android tablet (which supports Flash by the way), I was ready to cry. Yes, it was that bad. Which made me rethink my entire approach to what website is and how it works in the modern world. It is very simple actually – if you keep in mind the “big picture”, the big goal of your website existence (see the bold text above) then it becomes almost a no-brainer: you cannot expect your “desktop” site shine on the mobile platform.

The mobile platform is not just smaller – it is entirely different in every aspect, from small form factor to navigation, to how users engage and how they control the site (pinches and twists vs. mouse clicks for once) and the list goes on and on… Which makes it rather obvious: you need to have two separate web sites, each one is tuned to the specific platform it is intended for. I know, it’s not what most folks would like to hear but that’s the reality of it – you have to have a separate “shadow” site developed specifically for mobile devices. Your “big” desktop site will never look good on a handheld device and you have to dazzle the mobile users just as you do the “desktop  and laptop” crowd.

Which brings us to the initial argument – “avoid Flash because it doesn’t work on iOS”. Now, how come it is even a question? Your Flash (if you use it) belongs to your “desktop” website and your mobile web experience needs to be completely re-thought and re-engineered from ground up anyways. Stop trying to drive a square peg into a round hole – it won’t go. Stop trying to make your “desktop” site “work” on iPhone – even if it does, it will scare people. Stop making bogus pseudo-technical arguments and just give yourself a moment of quiet time and think: what is my goal? And then everything will start falling into its place.

Alex Stepanov, Photographer.


3 thoughts on ““To Flash or Not To Flash” – why is it even a question?

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