Flash, the household product from Adobe, has been the source of many creative website designs since its inception in the nascent days of the web. Today, however, Flash might not be the best tool when creating a medical website design.
Whenever developers are looking to create a new website or update an old website for an organization, they have to take into account that organization’s audience. For example, a small Chinese restaurant can receive a lot of traffic by users with outdated web browsers. Generally this happens because the restaurant’s audience is looking up the menus while they are at work on company machines that aren’t kept quite current. Similarly, when creating a medical website design, the audience has to be thought about. More and more doctors and patients are carrying tablets and smartphones. Unfortunately, iPhones and iPads, a significant chunk of the mobile device market, cannot run Flash content. The patient in the waiting room or the doctor outside a patient’s room might run into a big blank box on a medical website design that relies on Flash. Similarly, for mobile users of other devices that can run Flash, Flash can be a battery drain and time consuming to load over a wireless network.
Besides the audience of mobile users affecting the website’s design, search engines prefer content made without Flash. Although limited support for Flash content exists in search engines like Google™, it is far better to avoid Flash. Search engines are very efficient at finding and ranking information in text, graphics, and other forms of media, but Flash is a much more complex type of media that can hide information from a search engine. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key industry in the age of Google™, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. Optimizations are crucial so that search engines are able to understand a website and increase that website’s ranking. Flash is great for design and appearance on certain classes of websites, but on sites where search engine ranking is a priority and every SEO trick has to be used, Flash is not an optimal choice.
Flash poses one an additional hurdle for certain audiences with disabilities. Flash can make people “ooh” and “ahhh” at a website’s looks, but that only matters if you can see or hear those special effects. If a website’s audience has members that include people with hearing impairments or trouble seeing, Flash content will only hinder their experience. Screen readers and other usability devices have a hard time interpreting Flash content and sometimes cannot read it at all. Users in that situation will simply be out of luck.
Flash is a great technology that has provided a richer web experience for years, but it is no panacea. In some cases it might be harmful to a user’s experience. Website managers should consider their audience’s needs and weigh that against the benefits provided by Flash. Often businesses and medical websites can provide the same or better user experience without resorting to Flash.