Archive for October, 2010

Website Design Strategies for Mobile Phones—Should I Use Flash?

Monday, October 25th, 2010

The short answer is no.

The longer answer is maybe.

What is Flash and why would I think of using it?

Flash is a tool web developers and designers use to create sites that have motion, beautiful graphics, smooth page transitions, incorporate video, and more.  A well done Flash site is really pretty.  If that is by far your main objective or if you have money to develop a separate mobile site, then go for it.

Some Practical Starting Points:

For your online marketing efforts to be successful, your website content needs to be viewed by as many visitors as possible.  All of it needs to be indexed by the search engines.

Many mobile phones and tablet PC’s in use today, like the iPad, cannot display any Flash content.  NONE.

The newest Droid phones can display Flash content; but based on reviews on the internet, there is some dispute about the quality of the playback.

Apple is at war with Adobe, and in September 2010 Apple decided that it would no longer ship iMac’s with the Flash player installed.  Remember the browser war between Netscape and Microsoft.  It took a few years to resolve before Netscape was absorbed by other Microsoft competitors.

Some people get the best of both worlds by building a different web design for mobile devices versus tablets and regular screen computers.  The visual screen space is so different between these devices that the idea has real merit if you have the time and money.

Many JavaScript libraries like jQuery are getting much, much better at duplicating the look and feel of the Flash player, but they are not quite there yet.  However, these libraries typically load faster and use few system resources.

In the future, more phones will have the processing power to handle the Flash player effectively if Adobe does not increase the size of the program to much.  Eventually the problem may go away.  However, other, even more efficient solutions may be available by then.

My Recommendation:

A website built entirely in Flash is a good online marketing strategy only if you need the type of brand identity created by its awesome look.  In that case, you will likely need a separate site for mobile devices.

A website design strategy built around jQuery (or another JavaScript library) and server side scripting (like php) offers the better alternative with the potential for faster page loads, a similar look and feel, and much more accessibility.  If you still need to use Flash in selected areas, then do so.

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