Why Bad Flash Home Pages Keep Popping Up

Home pages should not have Flash movies even with opt-out buttons (like “Skip this”). So what’s the story?

What’s wrong with them is that they annoy too many visitors. Visitors want the information they want, but the Flash movie is in the way of getting to the information they want. Users are impatient with these things. They want to be reading the information in a few seconds and within three clicks. This has been studied by watching how users interact with websites. Even buttons saying “Go to website” are only partial solutions, because they work but users are still annoyed.

But I think I know why they spread like water on a shirt.

The website designer’s client doesn’t know what’s wrong and doesn’t demand a Flash movie, but wants something beautiful that makes money.

The designer creates just that, then meets the client, laptop in hand. At the deadline, the designer flips the laptop around, displaying a gorgeous home page, complete with a Flash movie. The client says “ooooh”, or words to that effect, and writes a check. The website goes live.

But the client’s customers are different. They’re not exactly swooning into blindness. They’re looking for information and they want it now. They hunt for the “X” or “Skip this” or whatever and click it right away, or they wait, stewing. They silently accuse you of wasting their time.

The problem is that the client doesn’t understand much about website design and the designer doesn’t want to lose a client. The result is a website that impresses the boss before the boss tells the world to use it.

If you’re the client, tell the designer “no Flash”. (Actually, some Flash is okay and that’s discussed below.)

If you’re the designer, try not to put up a Flash movie even with opt-out.

  • Otherwise, here’s how to design a Flash movie:
  • — Include, in the Flash movie, buttons that let users go immediately and directly to what they want. For example, one schools website had a movie showing pencils that you could click on to find things like a list of schools and student applications, and the user did not have to sit passively waiting to be told everything.
  • — Make an opt-in movie. That would be a movie that does not start unless a user wants to see it. That user would click a button that runs the movie. You can say what it’s about and how long it is. If they don’t click it, there’s still other stuff they can do on that page.
  • — Have an alternative. Some of us, like me, don’t have Flash on our computers and don’t want it. (It’s a security risk, so, if I need it, I use someone else’s computer, usually at a public library. I usually don’t bother with seeing the movie.) Have alternative content that is just as engaging and helps us do what we want without the movie.

Beauty that loses customers is avoidable. Functionality from users’ viewpoints will get your client farther. There are other ways of making functionality attractively wonderful to see.