The Upside of Flash
To use Flash or not to use Flash, that may no longer be the question.
For years we've been telling clients to restrain their Flash impulses because, though the technology is admittedly cool, it doesn't add value to the typical website. During that time we looked at Flash as something graphic artists learned to do so they could not only control the look and feel of a site, just as they do a brochure, but also attempt to control the visitor's path through the site. "Bad web design," we said, because the medium "demands that the visitor control the visit."
All still true, the way most designers continue to use Flash anyway. BUT (and we're eating a baby crow here) we now believe that Flash can be added to pretty much any website to improve the site's "selling characteristics" hence it's longer term conversion rate.
Why have we changed our thinking? Four reasons:
- The popularity, expense and even necessity of pay-per-click advertising has brought the quest to improve conversion rates to the forefront.
- The spread of broadband has given virtually any web user who wants it the ability to view large files without succumbing to boredom.
- The improvement in the way Flash handles video files has created one multimedia platform of choice.
- And last, but certainly not least, the cost of using Flash has come way, way down.
The buzzword is "conversion" - meaning that percentage of a website's visitors who take a desired action. As the price of traffic continues to rise - whether you are paying an optimization firm to help you with search engines or you are conducting a pay-per-click campaign on Google or Yahoo, the need to squeeze the most out of every marketing dollar rises with it. For that reason, JI embarked on a program to use multimedia to increase response. Simply put, the competition for attention means that you need to start finding more and better ways to convey your message and thus make the most of every site visitor.
The spread of broadband Internet access, while not quite reaching the growth predictions of many industry luminaries, has now reached the point where most businesses and a large percentage of households can get some value from multimedia content. No more waiting forever for a video file that's so jerky that calling it a novelty is the nicest thing one can say. Today we can pick appropriate spots to write, show and tell your story so that it adds to the personality of the site and helps to separate you from the competition.
Flash and Video
While always an interesting way to combine text and images, though not a practical one if you want your site to be found in search engines, Flash has dramatically improved the way it handles video files. The end result is that video files can be substituted for still images and play seamlessly - now combining motion, text and sound without breaking the bandwidth bank.
Additionally, the advent of YouTube has made web video both ubiquitous and easy to post. Now, armed with a very inexpensive video camera, we can shoot, edit and upload a video in a matter of minutes. Time is money.
Not only has the time to shoot and launch a video that sells your product or service been dramatically reduced, the very success of the Flash software has driven down the cost. That Flash header - you know, the one that combines images and graphics like a fancy slide show (here's a flash header example).
A header like this only adds $200-300 to the cost of a website. Necessary? No, but depending on your business and your competition perhaps an affordable investment.