Although it’s called Adobe Flash today, the software started as SmartSketch and was originally a simple drawing program. Later, it was turned into a vector animation tool and eventually became Flash in the mid-90s and worked on various platforms.
However, Flash seems to be phasing out for a number of reasons, including compatibility issues and the way it can bog down some applications. Chrome browsers no longer support Flash, for example. One reason may be some of the security flaws in the program that hackers can take advantage of. Risking your entire website by including software with a security flaw is something most web designers shy away from.
In 2015, Flash outputs decreased by 15%. There seems to be a trend where web designers are finding alternatives to Flash or creating simpler websites without the need for Flash. While Adobe isn’t killing Flash completely, they are releasing new tools to encourage website builders and content creators to begin moving away from Flash.
What does this mean to you as a web designer? There are a few specific ways the downfall of Flash will impact you.
Keeping Up With the Latest Trends
One of the main reasons for the downfall of Flash is the increased popularity of online videos. Many mobile devices had a hard time streaming Flash videos (and Apple pointedly refused to support it in iOS), but HTML5 videos streamed easily across different platforms.
HTML5 is a good alternative to Flash, and more and more web designers are using this tool to create websites. If you aren’t already using HTML5, you most certainly will soon.
However, just as Flash was once the standard, HTML5 may not always be the go-to software for streaming videos and design. It’s vital that web designers stay up-to-date on what software is on the rise and learn to use different platforms to create videos. There may come a day when you’re reading an article about the end of HTML5, for example.
Takeaway: Use the tools that make sense for you, but read within the web design industry and be aware of new video tools that are on the rise.
Bigger Focus on SEO
If you want your website to be SEO-friendly, Flash is not a good option for you. With Flash, you can’t add rich titles, meta descriptions or content that can be indexed. This can cause your website to rank lower in search engine results. The demise of Flash will force web designers to seek out other options for banner ads and videos, many of which are more SEO-friendly (such as HTML5).
A strong focus on good SEO is vital if you want your website to rank well in the search engines. You really can’t afford to ignore this aspect of owning a website. Your clients expect you to understand SEO and trends as their designer. Flash can add just enough content that can’t be indexed to push a site under its competitors in ranking. The conclusion of many designers is that the attractiveness of flash just isn’t worth the ding in rankings.
Takeaway: Anything that helps you rank higher in the search engines can drive additional traffic to your site. Find alternatives to Flash that allow you to include meta descriptions and rich titles.
Some websites offer games as part of the content to entice users to the site. Others add a game just to make their site “sticky.” Unfortunately, most of these games use Flash to deliver high-quality vector graphics that don’t bog down the server. If Flash goes away, you’ll likely see fewer and fewer games on websites.
Flash already doesn’t work well on mobile devices, like iPhones and iPads, so game makers are utilizing other software to make games more responsive to different devices.
Of course, it’s also just as likely that Flash will not completely go away. After all, it’s still the fastest way to stream vector-based animations. It may just be revamped into something that imports more easily into HTML and is search-engine friendly. Adobe may rename it something else, but the base of the program may remain Flash. It’s a language many designers already understand well.
Takeaway: This won’t impact you much unless you run a website where you also offer games or something similar.
Flash files are notoriously harder to edit than some other types of files. And while they take up less room in storage and stream a bit faster, this may not be a good enough advantage to overcome the disadvantages. Newer video editing software provides intuitive editing options that speed up the entire process.
Depending on what video platform you choose, you may find that editing videos is faster and easier, thus saving you time and money. Some alternatives that web designers are using include Silverlight, LightSpark, Unity Web Player and GNU Gnash.
That said, technology changes at such a rapid rate that all of these programs may be defunct in a few years. That’s why, as mentioned in the first point above, it’s vital to stay up-to-date on what software has been released and what other designers are using to create videos and animations for their designs.
Takeaway: Lessening your dependence on Flash may actually save you time. Familiarize yourself with different types of video editing and animation software so you have a number of options at your disposal.
Some sources say Flash is already dead. Others say that Flash simply needs some improvements. No matter which side you fall on — that it’s dead or just needs improvement — one thing is certain: You need to learn alternatives to Flash, because there will be occasions when you’ll need to use something different.
Whether the reason is SEO or mobile device compatibility, knowledge is always power, so learn as much as you can about as many types of software platforms as possible. Even though it may not be around forever, you should still know Flash as well.