Flash has long been a sticky subject in the realm of web standards. It was most notably1 attacked by the late Steve Jobs for being a closed system. For lawyers looking to spice up their site with graphics and animation, Flash is an effective and elegant way to do that. Unfortunately it is not as accessible (both for search engines and for users) as everyone would hope. If you have a lot of Flash on your site, plan on using it or just want to know the pros and cons, here is our take (from an SEO and usability standpoint) on Flash.
Attractive: Flash banners and other visual elements can be made very attractive. If you or a pro are good with flash, you can make graphical animations, real-life movies and a number of other eye-catching visuals and websites2.
Interactivity: Flash is interactive. Designers can embed buttons and other clickable objects that encourage users to interact with the content on the page. For example you can pause and play videos, make choices in story lines, or play games created by the designer. The application for lawyers advertising their services are only bound by the limits of the designer’s creativity.
Compatibility: Flash is supported by all major browsers and as long as software is kept up to date3, implementations of Flash should work without having to modify it for different browsers.
Video: Flash works very well for video hosted on your own server (as opposed to embedding something from a video hosting service like YouTube).
Device Support: Flash is not supported on all devices and most notably Apple devices. If you are reading this post on an Apple mobile device, chances are you might not be able to see some of the examples linked to in this post. Depending on where you get traffic to your site, Flash could potentially create a bad experience for a significant portion of your users.
Requires Specialized Knowledge: Have you ever tried using Photoshop or other Adobe software? It is excellent but requires a lot of time to learn how to use which is a big draw back for attorneys (who do not have a lot of extra time). If you are doing your own marketing, Flash is not a good tool for you unless you already know how to use it.
It’s Expensive: Flash is a software program and it is worth every penny of what Adobe charges for it (in fact since this writing Adobe has come out with newer pricing structures4 to make owning Flash even more affordable). Regardless of what your definition of expensive is, Adobe products are top of the line and their price reflects that. If you want to use it to make your own stuff, there is a monetary cost to that.
Accessibility for Search: Search engines cannot see Flash content. There are work-arounds5 similar to providing an alt attribute in an image but other than that, any content rendered by Flash is lost to search. That is perfectly acceptable as long as you do not use it to render content important for search engines to index.
Easy to Make: Whether you are making ads or just putting images on web pages, you can usually get everything you need done really fast and on your own. Whether it’s downloading images from a stock image website or using your own images, most of the time all you are doing is cropping them and uploading them to the web.
Cheap: I say that with a grain of salt. If you hire a photographer obviously your images may not be as cheap. In general though using images for your banner advertising or for other purposes is much more cost-effective than using Flash. Some stock image sites will sell you images for as little as a dollar a piece.
Accessible: Images can be seen by all browsers regardless of version and pretty much no matter what the browsers settings. As long as they are delivered using HTML, it is a safe bet that users will always be able to see your images. Images still cannot be seen by search engines however simple HTML attributes (such as the alt attribute) can provide descriptive text crawlable by search engines. Lawyers can also name their image file names after target keyword phrases.
Device Support: Images can be seen on any device including mobile phones, tablets, desktops, laptops and any other device enabled to browse the web.
No Animation: While there are other ways of creating animations online without Flash, if you’re using images you can’t do it no matter what.
They’re Static: By definition images are static and do not change. That means you miss out on the opportunity to send more messages with the same real estate unlike Flash or other methods of delivering advertising messages.
What do you think? Should attorneys use static images, Flash or something else for their advertising needs? Join in the conversation by commenting below.