Jacob Nielson, usability guru (in the estimation of some), was interviewed recently by E-consultancy.
Is there any point in using Flash on your website?
That’s a good question – I’ve been going back and forth on that over the years.
We’ve come up with examples in our studies where it has worked well – product demos, for example. There are cases where you can enhance the physicality of a product by showing a little demo. Also there are some examples on health sites where you can persuade people to take their pills. That’s an example where animations can show complicated things simply.
But that said, 99% of the time it comes across as completely stupid and annoying.
Unfortunately there seems to be a vein of thinking that websites are all about usability and anything that gets in the way of this purest of sciences is unnecessary clutter – or ‘completely stupid and annoying’.
I’ve never been sucked in to the Flash for Flash’s sake approach to site design and we spend a lot of time working with agencies such as User Vision to validate our work and ensure usability is front of mind. That said, I also believe (strongly) that a web site has two very specific tasks to fulfil:
1/. Trigger desire: get people interested in your brand, product or service and ultimately get them to the point where they want to take the next step.
2/. Make it easy: when people want to take the next step, be it buying, booking, signing-up, registering or anything else, ensure it is easy, straightforward and clear.
Step one may involve use of Flash; and not just as a product demo.
To reinforce your brand promise you may choose to use Flash as a way of providing movement and narrative. As long as there is then no disconnect in the experience when people do move to the next step, this seems an entirely valid approach and choice!
And that ignores the use of the web as an advertising or entertainment platform where Flash is even more valid.
This all strikes me as being a bit 1995.