Is using Flash Wrong for SEO and Usability?

By | May 7, 2008

Shari Thurow, the Founder and SEO Director of Omni Marketing Interactive wrote a very interesting answer in about the solution I blogged a while ago: ‘Holy Grail: SEO Model for Flash and Flex Content‘.

Here are a few quotes of her, with my answer below:

[…]as long as you are giving search engines one version of a Web page and users another version, then there is a problem[…]

I totally agree but are we talking about the presentation layer or the data layer?
Most websites content are saved on databases, then called whenever needed. Now if the server side technology used produce an XHTML or an XML, we agree that there is no differences?
The XSLT just load a SWF (a Flash or Flex application) on top of an XML. The SWF then use the data from the XML. Whether it is possible to add content on the XML that will never be used on the SWF is an ethical problem, not a problem of Flash. You can also use ‘badly’ the HTML attributes in normal way.

[…]There is the assumption that users want content delivered to them in Flash. I’ve seen Flash used well. I’ve seen Flash used poorly. Only once in my entire Web design career was it necessary for us to do an entire section of a site in Flash […]

So in your opinion, if the Flash player penetration is above 90% it is because of this assumption? As you said, SWF can be used greatly or poorly and everything in the middle. I’m not a partisan of using SWF just for using it. The best technological solution must be used for the need of the users (not for the developers nor the marketers need). I don’t want to go through to much point but just think about data visualization, broadcasting (TV / sound) or experimental marketing.
I must accord you that SWF changed a lot recently (the last two years) and I understand that you didn’t had to use it before, but keep yourself ready 🙂

[…]Do they really usability test to determine task completion, efficiency, etc. in order to verify whether users really prefer Flash-delivered content or not? I’m sure there is a
rare few out there who do.[…]

Most of the usability testing that I made or that I read showed that people tend to be more comfortable in front of a UI (user interface) they already know. So obviously ‘traditional HTML’ is often plebiscite, but in terms of task completion, efficiency, UI learning curve, the SWF have an immense advantage: they can follow every move of a user, learn from his mistakes, make elements bigger, dynamically improve the UI to his needs. Doing this with ‘traditional’ web technologies is much harder (IMHO).

[…]I have the kahones to tell a Web site owner that their users do not want Flash and they should change the design. And I can prove it with usability testing.[…]

Again, you talk about usability testing as if it comes from the sky. As far as I know, before doing usability test, there is a reflexion about the UI (I cannot teach you what you know better than me). Usability is everywhere: in the bus, in your kitchen and in front of a screen. But I do really not see the point of aiming at the SWF.


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3 thoughts on “Is using Flash Wrong for SEO and Usability?


    I don’t accept that showing one version of a page to a bot and another version to a human is a problem. It depends on the intention. The creative uses of indexing have been arrested because of an epidemic of spamdexing. If not for that, some far more creative use of indexing would emerge given the freedom to write specifically for each target. BTW Flash has been in a ghetto because of current policies. The removal of the spamdexing rules would greatly thelp the Flash developer community.

  2. munica

    I think using flash is not good for seo.But flash for content is usability I think you can add tips for flash content,then You can seo for this tips.Hope my point is helpful to you.

  3. Ahmet Post author

    Hi Munica,

    still not sure if this is spam or not…
    I’m not sure to get your point.