Search Engine Optimization,Web Design

Why Google and Your Visitors Hate Flash Splash/Intro Pages

15 Sep , 2008  

We’ve all seen them before, although they are becoming a bit more rare these days.  You visit a website looking for actual information (really?) and instead you find a big, bloated fanciful flash intro with zooming text and Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra blaring (yes, it’s now better known as the 2001 Space Odyssey Theme, but I will always remember it as the opening to the Elvis Aloha in Hawaii concert).

Apparently someone felt their website was so awe-inspiring and awesome that it needed a monumental fanfare to announce it before your mere mortal eyes were allowed to actually view it. That, or someone’s nephew just bought Flash and did a really cool job zooming a logo in and out.

 


 

I don’t want to limit my distaste to just Flash home page intros; make no mistake, any kind of intro graphic or non-text landing page is a bad idea.  I can assure you that your visitors don’t appreciate your logo as much as you do, and don’t want to have to click past it just to get to your web content.  And if you’re selling something, forget it.  There’s a good chance someone has already left your page rather than stay and figure out where the “skip intro” link is located.   According to these guys who did some research on it 25% of your site visitors will leave once they see an intro page.

But it’s not only a bad idea for your visitors; Google hates them also.  Take a look at the following screen shot from a website with a Flash intro which had been indexed by Google:

 

Google offers searchers a "Skip Intro" link when it finds a Flash splash or intro page.

 

I’ve changed the URL and description to protect the site owner from mass ridicule and scorn, but you can clearly see Google has recognized the fact that the home page flash element was just a worthless piece of introductory fluff.  In a service to search visitors, Google has created a direct link to skip the intro content and get right to the main website.  Why would Google want to circumvent your nifty Flash intro?  Because it annoys users, plain and simple.  So if you don’t want to take my word for it, listen to Google.   Or you can take this SEO’s word for it.

Hold on, you say, I went to brandx.com (insert top national name brand here) and their entire site is a big flash intro.  So if they’re doing it, why can’t I?  If you’ve got a well-known brand name with massive marketing dollars behind you then you can put up whatever you want; you’re not going to rely on organic traffic as much. 

But if you’re one of us small to medium-sized business owners, you’re better off focusing on increasing your organic search potential with actual keyword text and information on your website rather than trying to wow 3 visitors a day with an expensively designed flash site.  Not that Google can’t index Flash, it can, but with sometimes mixed results. So why make it harder on Google to find you?

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27 Responses

  1. iePlexus says:

    I agree 100% with this. I used to know assembly-line web developers that would actually sell a flash intro to an e-commerce website owner for more money than they already paid for the site, using the sales pitch that more people would think the site was professional because of some spinning logo. This is a horrible idea, not to mention the SEO damage it can do.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I love flash and its results, but it has no place as a welcome screen in e-commerce. Are there any further details into the news that Google could now click the links in Flash like a user and index the information easier than before?

    Kris Themstrup
    ieplexus.com/blog

  2. Barry Wise says:

    According to the Google Webmaster blog, as of July 1 Google will do exactly that; view a flash file like a human and click buttons, follow links, etc. You can read more about it here:
    http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/06/improved-flash-indexing.html

  3. Whilst I agree that the vast majority of web design companies create splash pages that are completely annoying and uncalled for, there are some exceptions to this rule. If the splash page genuinely manages to convey something useful about your company and manages to make an emotional connection with the visitor, that’s likely to increase the overall effectiveness of your website and thus lead to more sales.

  4. What is the purpose of the creation of your website? To promote it to existing clients via namecards or to promote your business via natural results where new visitors find you via search engines? You can have a great beautiful flash site but still it does not bring in higher conversion.
    Rif Chia

  5. Well as flash developers I would have to agree that Flash Splash pages are NOT effective for SEO purposes. You must find out what your priority is.

    If your focus is to wow and search is not a priority, then flash it up. If you need to be found via search engine…stay away from Flash

    – Coming from Flash developers.

  6. I agree, I never use and will never use flash intro pages GoogleBot and all other bots don’t like them and it does nothing for your visitors who just want what they are looking for content searched not a flashy page!

  7. greg says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    I’ve been programming since the 1980’s; when javascript came along (and failed miserably), I made server-side programming my specialty.

    I enjoyed life for about 10 years, until Flash came along and the idiot masses jumped on the bandwagon of death!

    I’m currently contemplating suicide.
    Gun throught the mouth (leaves an awful mess for my family to clean up); pills? (slightly less messy); drive the car off a cliff in a distant state?

  8. E-Commerce Copywriter says:

    LOL! In a fit of frustration, I googled the phrase “I hate flash” and this blog post turned up (along with many others).

    Whew. So, I’m not alone.

    Flash-Haters of the World, unite! You have nothing to lose but your load time.

  9. E-Commerce Copywriter says:

    szise, I agree! Doesn’t matter what size you are. Our brands are huge household names, but that doesn’t make our flash intros one whit less annoying. It’s fine for a branding site, but for an e-commerce site — your visitors do NOT want a “rich experience” (if I hear that phrase one more time, I’ll gag). They want a fast, easy, quick, efficient (and did I mention fast?) experience.

  10. Ignition says:

    I have to say that its been a while since I have actully seen a flash into page, maybe as they dont rank?

  11. Web Designer says:

    Now I understand why my websites languishe in page rankings. Thanks, am going to sort this out and try simple things instead. May be that would work.

  12. Greg says:

    Splash pages of any sort are generally a bad idea, unless they serve as some kind of disclaimer for the content to follow are a precursor to a rich media experience (like a microsite promoting a movie or video game).

    That aside, from the standpoint of search engine visibility, the example you use in the google results is also highlighting the wrong way to embed flash in the first place. A properly embedded flash app should avoid the result you provided and instead make alternate content viewable to the spiders. That is kind of off point though, because the overall point you are making is correct.

    Flash like any other rich media vehicle, is not in itself good or bad. But uninformed decisions and implementations of it can make a site worthless. For video, advertisements,games, and ‘experience’ sites it is has few peers. In most other areas it seems out of place.

  13. Intro pages are cool from an artists point of view, but I am not that patient, I’d rather watch paint dry than wait for one to end when I just want to find some information. I certainly wouldn’t stick around, shame but true

  14. will says:

    I agree flash intros are generally a no-no. The one exception to this is if a site is genuinely caching and there is an obvious need to show something while a user waits.

    Now before you jump in an say ‘a user should never have to wait for anything’ you should really think more about the monetization aspects of why Flash is so popular as a rich media platform. While good ol’ HTML and Javascript have seen some improvements in the last few years they aren’t even close to scratching the surface of what the Flash platform offers.

  15. Very informative post i just wish more people would follow this advice unfortunately allot of newbies will spend good money on web designers or ready made flash templates to get a “professional” look when it is content they should be working on

  16. what can a web designer do though, when a client asks for such things?

    Do you stick to your principles and refuse to do the work or do you give in and do what pleases the client, although it is wrong.

  17. Axel.Andrews says:

    Look at this ridiculous flash site from the Hotel Fasano in Sao Paulo, Brazil that belongs to the “Leading Hotels of the World” chain. If you manage to navigate through the flash pages being forced to listen to “soothing” music that only serves to increase your annoyance, you might be lucky enough to find the info you seek – street address, phone/fax numbers, email address. Of course this text is not accessible – you have to resort to pen and paper. Talk about Neanderthal!!
    http://www.fasano.com.br/site_hoteis_br.php

  18. Teo says:

    When someone begins an article with the words “hate” and “flash”, is VERY well known what is it going to follow.

    At the beginning you claimed that flash is a bad idea and visitors will leave at once when they see it.
    Few lines after you claim that there is no problem if our brand name is strong. Do you believe that a large-scale company would love to spend some money in order to see their clients go?
    No, at this point you’re playing your game with some google guess, totally wrong according to dozens of millions flash sites indexed first for several keywords.

    The real problem with people like you, is that you hate to learn new things in order to give your clients some real experience like this.

    Flash is not going to heart you. Calm down; see some therapist, psychologist or something.

    When you get your mind together, try learning new ways to improve your work. Aim to give the best, like clients ask for, not like html shortcut ways does.

  19. Barry Wise says:

    @Teo: You link to Bacardi’s website, which just proves my point. If the brand is strong enough, i.e. people *want* to visit your site because they saw it in a commercial, then Flash isn’t going to hurt it. Bacardi doesn’t depend on Google for their traffic. They spend tons of $ on traditional advertising to attract visitors.

    But if you’re some local landscaping/gardening company and I find your site via a search for “landscaping in Morristown, NJ”, you better believe I will just hit back and go the next result down if I see some cheesy Flash splash page which takes 2 minutes to load and freezes the browser before I even see the “skip intro” link.

    Remember, it’s not that Flash is such a bad thing; it’s Flash intro/splash pages which serve no informational purpose which I dislike.

  20. Teo says:

    You link to Bacardi’s website, which just proves my point. If the brand is strong enough, i.e. people *want* to visit your site because they saw it in a commercial, then Flash isn’t going to hurt it. Bacardi doesn’t depend on Google for their traffic. They spend tons of $ on traditional advertising to attract visitors.

    I guess you already know that since summer 2008 both google and yahoo are reading flash content (swf file).
    Furthermore, swfobject is a very good additional solution, in order flash site to serve the search engines with an alternate plain html site, sharing the same content.
    So, as far as search engines concern, flash or html site makes no difference!

    Remember, it’s not that Flash is such a bad thing; it’s Flash intro/splash pages which serve no informational purpose which I dislike.

    Swfobject can solve all non-text issues like videos, oral contents, as much as flash intros. An alternate html site is texting out all contents. It’s a procedure fully accepted by google (as you may have observed, swfobject is suggested in the google codes area).

    Splash/intro pages are not only flash. It can be also silverlight intro, video, or even a simple picture.
    So how come your title indicate just flash?

  21. cha says:

    Flash mediaplayer and those flash script are pc resources monster. I hate it so much wish one day in the near future someone will come up with better solution to help get rid of this annoying application. Even with Quad core processor 3 gig memory RAM is a sore inthe eyes when it paulse a few second when some of the website pull up…

  22. Turock 2 says:

    Some of Warner’s Looney Toons in Flash are quite Kool.Even better in Toon Boom.

    On web sites showing /using flash splash and all the tricks unless there’s some research and concept testing to support concepts, all seem to be constructed it appears by the self indulgent. And they may be the only person who understands whats going on ,on the site.and the only one who actually gets to see the site in full.

    I think They are hoping everyone will be impressed etc etc while the Client is dreaming of floods of visitors and wondering why they get 1 hit a year.

    And their most important person the consumer is off to another site.

    After 30yrs in A&M at the big end of town, use moving graphics, or animated pieces IF it can be shown to show or inform the consumer of a benefit to them or as a demonstration of some facet of a product consumers use..( And put the Flash stuff in a HTML site, a search engine can find)

    Flashy splash pages as a site opens presumably implying some corp or consumer WOW benefit are all lost when the following precedes such ‘fanfare’.

    the quest for info by a surfer is further impeded by the ever present Flash loading sign ..which while it counts from 0 to 100..almost 40 % of web surfers ..move on before its gotten to 20..

    I have seen some fantastic flash material but very little of it did much for the client or their products.and evenless for no visitors.- stats you can get on any site from several web surveillance sites.

  23. From using Flash myself and managing/delivering SEO projects I feel that flash just isn’t right for the web anymore. I can understand that some flash can be impressive and well placed some sites however it does not on the majority. It can be slow to load and distracts the user from the focus of the website, and that is if you have the flash player installed.

    I believe that as HTML5 comes out and as Javascript libraries such as jQuery go more mainstream we will see more developers moving away from Flash in favour of these. Despite Google’s ability to read flash files I still believe that they do not help in terms of rankings either.

  24. Rob Cubbon says:

    I’m starting to have negative feelings about Flash in general. HTML/CSS/JavaScript is non-proprietary, open and there is ample web support for them. Because Flash is proprietary it encourages developers to act in protective, uptight ways – there are some examples of this above. Life is better when you share.

  25. Alayna says:

    the reason flash sites use splash pages is to provide an informative preview into the coming content, and as a distraction to keep the viewer entertained while the site is Loading. As generally flash sites take longer to load.
    It is a pity that google does not appear to be very supportive of flash in general. Optomization is harder if you have a flash site, it’s plain discrimination and hindering progress and creativity. Web would be truly boring without the aethestics that imagery provides. It’s not all about Content, in my opinion. I doubt flash will be dying off in a hurry.

  26. CSS Show says:

    The downfall of many a designer. It might look great, but from a SERP perspective the site will never be found to be admired.

    However, you don’t see as many splash pages as you once did in the late 90’s early 00’s.

  27. You’d think that by now (2010), the downsides of splash pages would have permeated into the world of the “Joe Public” client sector wouldn’t you? (What with SEO being such a universally known concept amongst business leaders) But no, we still get requests for Splash pages. Thankfully it’s very easy to talk them out of it after you point out the pitfalls.

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Why Google and Your Visitors Hate Flash Splash/Intro Pages

by Barry Wise time to read: 2 min
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