9 Reasons It’s a REALLY Bad Idea To Build Your Virtual Tour in Flash

I’m going to be very upfront and honest with you. I dislike Flash. It has its uses and can make visually amazing works on the web, but it has many technical drawbacks. We commonly see virtual tours of campuses throughout the web built upon Flash and can’t help but share why we feel that this is wrong. I wouldn’t go as far as saying a little kitten dies every time a new Flash Virtual Tour is launched, but there is definitely harm done.

1.  Flash Is a Lot Harder To Update

Do you have a Flash developer? How do you plan on making edits to your Flash tour? Odds are you outsourced the project in the first place so you should be prepared to pay about $100/hr every time you need to make an edit to anything. There is a reason that whole sites aren’t built upon flash or that you have never heard of a major Flash based CMS.

2. Flash is Not Viewable By Everyone

Although most people have Flash installed, not everyone does and those that don’t might be a little afraid to install it. Ok, so maybe you call that a load of crock, but here is a compelling reason for you. Corporate firewalls sometimes block OBJECT tags and ActiveX is sometimes turned off to deter spyware. So at some companies even if the viewer wanted to install Flash they wouldn’t be allowed too.

3. Flash Is Not Very Search Friendly

Remember that search engines like Google are your dumbest, blindest users. Search is notorious for having a hard time seeing and indexing Flash content. If your whole virtual tour is in Flash then odds are it’s not going to be found by the big search engines. Most likely your own internal search functions won’t recognize the content either.

4. Apple Won’t Support Flash

Apple not supporting Flash actually goes back to a personal feud that Steve Jobs had with Flash’s parent company Adobe. Adobe was offering software that they refused to develop for the Macintosh and other Apple computers so when Steve and Apple were to a position of power they essentially returned the favor. It is true that Apple only controls a small part of the desktop and laptop market, but we all know about their very real presence in the tablet and smartphone market. Steve Jobs actually wrote a great article back in April 2010 about why Apple doesn’t support Flash and makes solid reasons while putting aside his personal reasons.

5. Flash Is Not Mobile Friendly

Speaking of Apple’s presence in smartphones and tablets, this directly effects a large population of mobile users who won’t be able to view your virtual tour because it is in Flash. If this wasn’t enough of a concern Adobe announced that they plan to stop developing Flash for mobile. Flash also does not support touch based devices without extra code specifically written to take advantage of it. You can probably guess that most developers don’t know or implement this extra code.

6. Flash Breaks Web Usability Standards

Standard functionality isn’t supported with Flash. You can’t increase the font size in a flash object, highlight text, right click and save an image or any of a number of other standard web functions. This goes against all Section 508 compliance guidelines among other problems. If all that wasn’t enough, a Flash embed won’t pass w3c validation checks.

7. Flash Load Times Usually Suck

If anyone has ever launched a Flash virtual tour or any Flash app for that matter then you know that it takes a while to load. Flash is basically its own self contained program that needs all of the instructions loaded before it can launch. Because of this there are load times and for something that is as complex as a virtual tour you are definitely going to experience a wait. End users hate to wait. Newer technologies like AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) enables items to be displayed on a screen as they are loaded and to continue to load and request additional information as needed.

8. Flash Makes It Hard To Measure Visits and Traffic

Most web analytics work through installing a small piece of JavaScript onto your website so an external tracking source can measure page loads and clicks. This is how Google Analytics, Web Trends, Omniture and many of the other players work. The other class of analytics works through web server logs. Neither option is able to measure Flash as it is completely self contained. It is possible for JavaScript based solutions to get some data out but that is only if the Flash developer included special code in their app to measure these specific “clicks.” The problem is many Flash developers don’t think about this or know how to do it in the first place.

9. Be Forward Thinking and Embrace Modern Web Technologies

All of the items on this list point back to one fundamental point. Its time has passed and with more powerful JavaScript frameworks and the introduction of HTML5 you can accomplish much of the same functionality while also supporting many more devices. Flash continues to have its place for certain applications like gaming and premium video but it’s best days are past. So even as Steve Jobs asked us, don’t you think it’s time to use modern web technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

Now you understand why I’m not a fan of Flash. To be honest our first virtual tour and interactive mapping platform was built upon Flash. We listened to our customers, prospects and our own conscience and moved to modern technologies years ago. We take our responsibility to be forward thinking and adopt new technologies for our customers very seriously. After all the reason you go with a solution like ours is so that you don’t have to worry about these details.

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