introduction to flash


Adobe Flash was created in 1996 as a way to display rich media on a webpage. In the mid-90s, most websites were a collection of static pages that displayed only text and images. When Flash was introduced, it opened a new world of animation and interactivity to the Web. People were able to create moving animations and clickable interactive graphics that went beyond the capabilities of standard HTML and CSS.

Flash was – and still is – owned by a single company, which is now Adobe. This means that Flash is proprietary software, and is not an open standard on the Web. 

Journalists wishing to use Flash for adding interactivity to a website must weigh the pros and cons and decide the best tool to use for telling a story.

Here are some of the pros for using Flash on a website:

  • Quickly create rich interactive graphics using a timeline-based software tool.
  • Utilize a number of pre-built libraries and classes to build sophisticated projects that might otherwise take longer to build from scratch.
  • A cross-browser compatible tool that works the same on Internet Explore, Firefox, Mozilla, Opera and Chrome.
  • Good for construction of data-intense animated data visualizations that need to access an online database.

Here are some of the cons when using Flash:

  • Does not work on a multitude of mobile smartphone devices.
  • Many touch-screen devices (i.e. tablet computers) require different types of interaction that aren't often supported by most Flash projects. For example, the difference between a mouse roll-over, and a tap, touch or swipe.
  • Does not conform to the open standards of the web as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium, thus it does not promote a standardized open Internet.
  • Issues regarding accessibility of content for persons using special tools like screen readers.
  • In some cases, intensive use of Flash graphics can drain the battery life on many laptops and mobile devices.
  • Not as optimized for search engines (SEO). Flash is a closed multimedia construct on most webpages making it difficult for some search engines to properly index.

When deciding to build Flash project, we dissuade journalists from creating entire websites in Flash. Instead, think of Flash as a single embedable element on a webpage surrounded by text and navigation that is coded in HTML, like a video embeded on the YouTube page. Creating entire websites in Flash contradicts a lot of the standards of webpages, like a common navigation or the back button in the browser. While some of these can be mitigated, in most cases creating entire websites in Flash are often frowned upon by many web experts.

Filed under: Flash