This morning Brian Morrissey asked his twitter followers “should an agency brag about its ‘new all-flash website?’. Before I read his post on AdFreak, I had no idea which agency he was discussing. Indeed, just last night my former colleagues at Resource Interactive launched their own site. However, having been there while they were working through the planning for the new site, I knew that RI had been very conscious not to overdose on Flash.
Anyone who knows my background knows that I have a love-hate relationship with Flash. Years of focusing on accessibility, reuse and search engine optimization had me a bit jaded when I started at Resource. Yet working with a team of strong developers with an awareness of the shortcomings of Flash lead me to a grudging appreciation of the power it did offer.
In 2008, would I advocate an entirely Flash-based site from an agency? Only if it were built in a progressively enhanced manner to account for the different platforms people are using the access the web. Sure, many people have the Flash player installed on their computer.. but what about those of us who love our iPhones?
The folks at Adobe are doing great things to allow Google to index content within Flash.. but it’s still in its infancy. With HTML, you can use semantic tags such as headings to indicate the relative importance of your content. There is currently nothing similar for content that is rendered inside your Flash experience. Google may index it, but it has no idea what’s most important, which may have a negative effect on how your site is ranked.
I’ve written enough on this blog about Flash and accessibility and how it kinda-sorta works in certain environments. Does your target audience really not include anyone with visual, motor or cognitive impairments? Are you willing to ignore them on the off chance they’re not using Windows/IE with JAWS?
Flash may seem engaging and appealing to a client, but can you afford to put all your eggs in a rich internet application basket? Sadly, many clients aren’t aware of the intricacies of the techniques that ensure your site is accessible and usable by all shades of your target audience. Is your agency doing you a disservice by selling you the shiniest car on the lot, with no information on what’s under the hood and how it performs?
RIA is about interaction.. make sure your agency can explain to you how different audiences on different platforms can interact and engage with your site and brand. Otherwise, you can just go ahead and print up a few old brochures.