| A TALE of TWO STORES|
Once upon a time there were two stores side-by-side on 'Cyber Avenue'. Both specialized in sneakers, and people could freely walk into one of the stores, look around, make their choices, and walk out with their newly bought sneakers.
The door of the other store was locked, its windows were shutttered, and it had a sign on the door, saying that in order to come in, people had to go to another store first, obtain a 'passport', install and register it - all of which takes about half an hour, if all goes well - and then come back to this store.
Worse, those few who did get the passport, and came back to this store, then had to wait anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes (and sometimes 15 minutes and longer, believe it or not) in front of the store, while told by a sign that a movie was loading. Once the movie was finally loaded, they could then watch a mini-movie of letters zooming around in very creative ways on a screen. And only then, and finally, could they walk into the store to see what it had to offer.
Meanwhile, and as you can imagine, most people by far just walked into the other store and bought their sneakers there.
Obviously, we are talking about "Flash" animated graphics introductions here. The reality though is that 80% of all Internet connected households have a dial-up connection, with an average of a 33 kps modem, while a substantial segment (30%") is still on a 28.8 kps modem. And at 28.8 kps, it takes several minutes, and often many minutes, to download the "Flash" animations.
And "Flash" plug-ins do not always work. Many people complain that they have downloaded it, but that it doesn't work, for some unfathomable reason. And even if you have the "Flash" plug-in, and even if it works, you are always asked by a pop-up if you want to install the "Flash" plug-in. And then there are the various versions. You may have the 4.5 version plug-in, but the web site you are trying to see requires version 5. The truth is that most people - all those people who have computers but know very little how it all works - just don't bother. They just go elsewhere.
The simple fact is that people looking for sneakers, for instance, want to see sneakers - and are not the least bit interested in seeing a mini-movie of animated letters, and especially not one which takes 'forever' to download by today's Internet standards, and no matter how creative it may be. The hard reality is that "Flash" animation drives away 9 out of 10 of your hard won visitors.
It is for this reason that not a single one of the serious commercial web sites has a "Flash" animation introduction. None - zero - nada - not a single one. On the contrary, "Ameritrade" downloads in 3.3 seconds at 28.8 kps, "Yahoo!" downloads in 5.6 seconds at 28.8 kps and "Google" downloads in 6 seconds at 28.8 kps.
But the "Tale of Two Stores" is not a fairy tale; far from it. There are thousands upon thousands of web sites out there which have paid very dearly - both for the "Flash" animation, and then in business - for just such obstacles to entry of their online store. Even such prominent organisations as Michael J. Fox' original Parkinson's web site (www.michaeljfox.org) had fallen victim to a fancy Flash intro which took over 5 minutes to download. Eventually, and after noticing that no one stuck around to actually visit the website, it was eventually changed to a shorter Flash intro on a page which, unfortunately, looked like one for Acme Economy Detergent, and finally, to the present, totally Flash free web site. All this meant a lot of money - and a lot of visitors down the drain.
And while long downloading Flash sites are harder to find now, there are still businesses determined to shoot themselves in the foot, and then, very carefully and at great expense, to shoot themselves in the other. One such example is www.north44restaurant whose Flash intro takes about 5 minutes to download a 56 Kbs, and for a very ordinary design which could download in 8 seconds without the Flash intro.
And to add disaster to crippling injury, Flash pages are not visible to the search engines' web crawlers. Their web crawlers, or "spiders", are text based, Flash is a graphics format, to which the web crawlers are blind. They can't "see" Flash pages. So, and unless you obtain paid-for listings at least in all the major search engines, which is a very expensive proposition, your Flash web site won't show up in the search engines. And that's the death knell of any web site.
Although not nearly as bad as many others, the web site for the Gibbs "Aquada" - the new amphibious car - takes a full 2 minutes to download at 56 Kps (still 80% of Internet connections - 2003), for nothing more than a static picture which opens up from a central horizontal line. The whole thing could have been done just as well in HTML - and download in 5 seconds. Do they lose a lot of visitors? I'd say about 90%, since having to sit for two minutes in front of a bare page - and not knowing when something is going to show up - is asking for far more than most people are willing to put up with.
So, and if someone tells you that you need a "Flash" animation on your web site, run - run for the life of your business - save yourself a lot of wasted money, and don't ever look back.
Now that you know what kind of web site you need - here are all the options.