Practical Ecommerce

Flash or HTML: Which to Choose

The question of whether it is better to design a website using Flash rather than using just HTML has sparked many debates among web developers. For the most part, it seems that developers tend to defend what they know, although there are some important differences between a pure HTML website and a website that is completely done using Flash. The method that is chosen depends purely on the type of website being created and the goals of the website owner.

HTML is the safest

Since every web browser in the world is designed to interpret HTML code and display web pages, building a site using strictly HTML ensures every web surfer will be able to view the site. Flash, on the other hand, requires users to have the Flash Player, which is a browser plug-in, installed on their computer in order to properly display the website. In addition, as Flash matures there are different versions of the Flash Player out there, further diminishing the chances that every visitor will be able to view the website.

On the other hand, Flash offers some capabilities that simply cannot be matched using pure HTML code, such as animation, dynamic content generation and user interactivity. Much of this capability stems from the Actionscript, which is the scripting language used in the Flash environment. Actionscript allows for developers to create complex animations, incorporate streaming video and provide unparalleled interactivity. In recent years, Flash has also proven to be a leading method for providing streaming video content on the web, and continues to be the choice for developers who want to present complex and stunning visual presentation.

Remember SEO issues

Search-engine optimization is an important consideration if the website will rely on search engines to generate traffic. When looking at how a search engine will index a website, HTML offers the best choice. The reason is that search-engine spiders are designed to interpret and understand HTML code. In recent years, some search engines have made progress at indexing Flash content as well, although that can be deceiving for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that search engine spiders do not have the ability to run Actionscript code, which means that any dynamic content or Actionscript generated links, will not be indexed. The second reason relates to the way that search engines index and rank content. Generally they would prefer to see content packaged in discrete, relevant units like the pages in an HTML website are. With a Flash site, all of the content appears to be in one file, causing content dilution in the search engines.

Generally, Flash websites tend to be used by companies that have large marketing budgets, or rely on compelling graphic interfaces to generate business. Businesses and websites that are interested in organic marketing and universal accessibility tend to opt for HTML-based websites. However, the lines can be blurred since Flash content can be incorporated into HTML websites in order to harness the benefits of both technologies.

Brian Getting

Brian Getting

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  1. Legacy User July 18, 2007 Reply

    I loved reading this article because it certainly does make a great dicussion and debate. This article hits it right on the head and does so very objectively.

    I own and operate a flash storefront business at levelfourstorefront.com and have ran into many clients who discuss the same exact scenarios… Flash IS a great ecommerce platform…. for certain people. As this article says, it is usually designers, graphic artists, photographers, people generally worried about presentation, or large business with an already established base. that is also who we run into with our business.

    The search engine piece is somewhat overlooked by many ecommerce developers, but this article states it perfectly, and since the writing of this article, flash SEOing has only become better.

    I agree, flash is not for everyone, but it certainly has it's place, and as we move into the future of web development, it may have a stronger future…

    great objective article.

    Josh Jones
    owner/operator
    levelfourstorefront.com

    — *Josh Jones*

  2. Legacy User March 6, 2008 Reply

    Most of what can be done in Flash can now be done with AJAX/javascript toolkits. This includes animation, dynamic content generation, and user interactivity.

    If done correctly, it does not have the SEO problems inherent with Flash. There are still some things that Flash is good for (like video or 3D game development), but not for the most relevant features of an ecommerce storefront.

    This seems to be the future of web development because it has the best of both worlds.

    As ecommerce developers, we have to keep abreast of trends in the marketplace.

    Jonathan Kampner
    Metarhythm.com

    — *Jonathan Kampner*

  3. Elle June 2, 2011 Reply

    A newcomer on the scene, websites created using Cubender software allow you to create Flash websites, with all the benefits of HTML incorporated for SEO. It’ll create a site that can be viewed on any device out there! I couldn’t believe how it took out the need to chose / do double the work!