3. Relying on Flash to Convey a Message
So after discussing two of the major pitfalls for UX designers these days, one has to discuss what seems to be a controversial topic among many of the UX designers these days; whether to use Flash in sites or not?
Yet the discussion here isn’t as much on discussing the pros and cons of using Adobe Flash, for this I’d recommend some of the well written articles about this:
No one can deny that Flash has added lots beautiful interactive design when it was first introduced yet later, we discovered the prominent issues evolving from building sites Flash. The Cons of using Flash are so much user based, as you may have noticed. First, it has performance issues for the site, this affects usability. Performance directly affects usability. According to an article about website optimization, Amazon found out that every additional 100 milliseconds of load time decreased sales by 1 percent. In fact, user frustration increases when page load time goes more than 8 seconds. That same article presents a study by Google, that adding half a second to search results decreases traffic and revenues by 20 percent. – The Psychology of Web Performance
Unfortunately, many of the UX experts these days are technically detached which makes them thinking of mainly having a fancy site. Having a fancy site does have its trade offs. And when that tade-off is a performance issue, you have fallen into one of the worst yet common pitfalls in UX design. UX experts, hence, have to study well that their fanciness could affect site’s speed. Site’s slow speed would frustrate the user’s experience. Frustrated user’s experiences would decrease traffic and you’re headed to a big failure. A good article about Designing for Performance is presented here on alistapart.com, Improving UX Through Front-End Performance
Second major issue you’ll face with building sites in Flash it does not work well for accessibility, since it is based on images and that has the hindrance of having alternative texts, again the issue with screen readers.
Touch Screen Devices
Third major issue would be its compatibility with touch screens, something you would not want to ignore or forget when building sites today. People browser through their iPads and Galaxies everyday and this number is increasing significantly as I mentioned before in my first blog of this series.
Last major point in using Flash is:
I am sure many of us have seen these messages before. Yes, plugins do have their issues and they are not very stable. In using Flash into your site, you are setting yourself up to whatever issues the user may have with their browsers. And the most common of the issues on browsers are the Flash crashing issues.
Then here comes the question, when should one use Flash then?
So before saying the when? I have to say the when not? As mentioned in the title of this blog, it should be used by you shouldn’t rely on it in conveying your message. especially if this message is warning, like weather site warning of thunderstorms, or utility site warning of power shortage, these messages should be in developed using Flash.
Another instance where you do not want to use flash is relying on it on user’s enrollment and payment, since this could pose issues as well like plugin crashed while user is enrolling or paying. You do not want your users to face such issues.
When to use Flash?
Flash can be of very good use if you are presenting some that best be presented graphically, such as car model sites, fashion sites, artists/musicians or cartoon sites. These are just few examples.
It can also be used within your normal site to present a certain ad which you think would best be presented in flash. Many of the major sites are practicing this and it still provides good experience for the use. Such as bbc.co.uk, USAToday and many others..
Flash can be used in many instances, but bear in mind, it should only be used when the site’s performance isn’t badly affected and goes along only when it is needed. For this reason, UX experts should study well how sites are made and optimized technically before coming up with too fancy ideas which would affect badly the user’s experience due to the mal performance of the fancy site.