Is It Time To Avoid Flash On Your Website?

There has been a continuing push for increasing interactivity in Web pages. Certainly this is due in part to the “keeping up with the Jones’ ” mentality– site owners feel that because their competitor next door has some unique feature on their site, it is imperative to have the same or better. One frequent method is the use of Adobe Flash to build rich content on a page. At the same time, I cannot hardly start my computer anymore without Adobe’s Updater wanting to install a new update. I applaud Adobe for releasing patches to fix problems. At the same time, I wonder if the technology just has too many problems at the start to even try to fix, let alone use on a Web site.

My job, as a Web developer, is to build my client’s sites to promote their businesses, organizations, hobbies, or personal accomplishments. If, in attempting to do so, I expose their site visitors to the malicious intent of some hacker or script kiddie out there, I may have not only damaged the reputation of my client but, also, myself and my business. For that reason, I tend to look at incorporating Web technologies into client sites that are less likely to create headaches in the future. Flash is simply not a technology I recommend to my clients anymore. And, frankly, there are other technologies, such as PHP, that will allow users to upload and download files, that have nothing to do with Flash. If I want animations, the newest browsers support HTML 5′s Canvas. Perhaps, given the continuing security problems and the safer alternatives available, the time has come to move toward a future without Adobe Flash, Reader, and Acrobat.

To be fair to Adobe, the fault of many security issues are not always because of the application but, rather, the site designer. So, there is an attitude that we can solve all these issues if all designers develop their sites securely. Can we really count on that? Even if I design my site perfectly, will the next developer do the same? If I force my viewers to download Adobe Flash to view my site, I potentially open doors for vulnerabilities when they visit another site that might not be securely developed. If I care about my visitors at all, I should care about what happens to them beyond their short time on a site I have designed. If they are exposed to the vulnerabilities of software they are required to install because of a site we design, exactly how does that improve their overall browsing experience?

Useability is another reason why designing a site that relies too heavily on Flash might not be a good idea. Of course, obtaining the software to view Flash animations or a PDF document is free. But why do we need to subject our site’s viewers to a required download right in the middle of trying to see what we have to offer? I suppose we can hope that our viewers have already installed these apps after visiting someone else’s site. If they have not, then a lengthy download procedure that interrupts their browsing experience is not likely to win any points with them.

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