Make your entire website fully accessible, and attractive looking without the use of flash player. Use flash player only for supplemental interactive features that cannot be achieved without flash.
The screenshot above shows what a flash-only website looks like to a user who has flashblock installed. Does this look inviting? Professional? Do you think you're going to make a new customer or retain an old customer with this sort of greeting?
Why not flash?
- A large number of people legitimately cannot install flash on their computers or browsers. Most users on mobile phones cannot use flash; Adobe discontinued flash for mobile devices some time ago. Some very old computers cannot handle flash, and some browsers, including text-based browsers, cannot handle it either. Flash can also provide problems for the blind and visually-impaired, who must often rely on text-based browsers. Yes, by relying on flash you are completely shutting out visually-impaired users.
- Many users simply do not install flash player. Security concerns are a major reason. Security-sensitive workplaces can ban the use of flash for this reason. Annoyance and slow speed on older computers are another concern that leads people to not install flash.
- Many users who have flash player installed use flashblock, because they find flash ads annoying. A certain portion of these users will choose not to load the flash elements of your website, instead just leaving your site in annoyance.
- Search engine crawlers cannot navigate flash menus and flash websites. If your site is just one page with a giant flash program, you will only get one page indexed by search engine, and it will just index a blank page. Even if your website has normal URL's and some text content, if you rely on flash for navigation features, the search engines will not be able to navigate your website and will have a hard time determining its structure and returning your site in search results.
- If your site is flash-only, you lose the benefit of people being able to include deep links to specific pages on your site, a benefit I describe in my post about the importance of having product pages for individual teas. This also causes you to lose potential traffic when people talk about your products on blogs or social networking sites.
- Even people who have flash installed and not blocked may still find it annoying. Even before I installed flashblock, I disliked flash-only websites, and I had a very low tolerance level for them.
Think these are small amounts of users? The percentage of mobile users is on the increase; on my websites it tends to range in the 5-10% zone. I've seen estimates that roughly 25% of Firefox users use flashblock. My estimation is that if you have a flash-only website, you are shutting out a minimum of 15% of your users, and probably losing 25-50% of visitors between annoyance and inability to view your page.
In practice, however, when considering the loss of search engine navigability, since search contributes 50-80% of traffic to many websites, you can easily be losing 90% or more of your total traffic by having a flash-only website.
An example of a flash-only tea company website:
The most egregious examples of a flash-only websites are those where you cannot even view any aspect of the website without flash player:
Really? A user on a text-only browser would just get "Please click here to get the Flash 7 player and enter the world of Tazo.", and the full message, "Your patience with technology will be rewarded..." is worse. This message is a particularly self-destructive marketing move on the part of Tazo: it is worded so as to imply that if you do not use flash, you are not "patient with technology".
Never insult your customers!
If you use Adobe flash on your website, use it only for supplemental features embedded as a small feature within specific pages on your site. Make your site fully functional and navigable without flash, or make a flash-only alternative for search engines and people who cannot use flash. Requiring flash can cause you to lose a majority of your potential web traffic. And, if you do make a flash-only website, at a very minimum, think carefully about the wording of your message. How about offering an apology for your own failure to make your site accessible without flash, instead of insulting users who do not use flash?