Things to Consider Before Replacing Flash with HTML5/CSS3 in Your Website

Posted on May 2, 2012 by

In recent years; Flash, an Adobe’s proprietary web technology is often regarded in a negative light. Like it or not, Flash has brought out the feeling of outright hate among us. The march was unofficially led by the late Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, following his refusal to integrate the technology on iOS. To be fair, Flash is not entirely a bad thing. It allows web developers to add some dynamics to the website, in a way that was previously impossible. It rescued us from a world filled with dreary, static pages and menus, while taking us into an immersive and downright futuristic user experience.

Of course, nothing is without consequences. As web developers are trying to make their websites look and feel better than the competition, Flash-laden websites became sluggish and sometimes remarkably buggy. Web developers and designers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could make the most attractive Flash-based element that they don’t stop to think if they should.
Visitors also need to use the latest version of Flash plugin to make the site fully usable. We can’t easily forget those dreadful loading bars; forcing us to silently stare and wait for 1% to reach 100%, they rank among the worst user experiences in the online world. Stability is also a problem; in fact, Steve Jobs reportedly said if Macs crashed we should only blame Flash. This is certainly a hyperbole, but his statement isn’t too far from the truth. Flash becomes intrusive enough that people are downloading certain browser plugins that block Flash codes unless they’re approved manually. Web developers often ignore the fact that a Flash element only makes user experience worse and not better.

Many people thought that the HTML and CSS hybrid have come to save the day. While, Flash was taking a fresh beating almost every day, many sites turned to or were developed only with JavaScript, HTML and CSS. These basic web technologies form the very backbone of the WWW as we know it today and they also allow developers to create dynamic websites. However, developers began to stretch these standards to limit and they started to take the Flash developers’ mentality. They were so busy considering what are possible that some websites begin to use the “loading” message all over again.

So will CSS3 and HTML5 rescue us once again? CSS3 and HTML5 could be awesome new toys, but we may need to ask ourselves these questions to avoid making the same mistake.

Are these for experimental or functional purposes?
As a web developer, you have every right to hypothesize and experiment. There’s no harm in making your personal website an experimental platform. However, the problem may arise if you do it on client’s website under the premise that you can immediately apply a new invention. But unfortunately, clients aren’t crazy enough to hire a web designer who wants to create a website that looks impressive to other web designers, but annoy everyone else.

When implementing HTML5 or CSS3-based solutions, you should carefully weigh all pros and cons. Always prioritize website visitors above all others, perhaps even the client. Adding a Flash element may only boost the aesthetics of your website and the consequences aren’t worth the slight bump in usability. From a non-designer’s perspective, a Flash element should add to the overall experience. Sometimes Flash can make your website more usable but other times, you will find yourself with a slow site and bloated codes. Decide where you should draw the line and be honest to yourself.

Will any user miss out?
Say, you want to add a CSS3-based animation on your client’s site, you should check the analytics to see whether you will leave some users out. For example, some CSS3 implementations may make the website less usable for non-Webkit users. Before HTML5 and CSS3, browser compatibility was already a huge problem; it is only getting worse now. When applying a new solution or technology, always do it with all major browsers in mind. You shouldn’t be afraid about implementing browser-specific effects or tricks, but just make sure everyone else still can get a great experience. When working across all popular browsers, always start from a baseline of aesthetics and functionality. Only add in special effects and extras, when the site works well on all platforms.

To sum up; after a few tries, you’ll love HTML5 and CSS3. But, it’s easy to be compelled to spend loads of time stretching the limit of what you previously thought wasn’t possible. When working with a new technology, don’t go overboard and always be cautious. Many web developers find it possible to create Flash-like elements with HTML5 and CSS3, so it’s time to learn these new trades in the industry.

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