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HTML vs. Flash

Tuesday 27 January, 2004 ( 5:18PM GMT)

Which is better? HTML or Flash?
This is a question that seems to arise now and then but the thing is, it's a daft question. HTML and Flash are completely different technologies for completely different situations. But the argument continues. Even an editor of one of the UK's top selling internet magazines recently made a sweeping comment that Flash was better than HTML.

HTML (and CSS) is best suited to content-based sites whereas Flash is best used for animated multi-media demonstrations. Both have their place. And of course, sites need not be one thing or the other; Flash is often put to good use as an element within an HTML page.

The idea of having a Flash-based BBC News website is ludicrous. It would be unnecessarily complex for such text-based content. Likewise, HTML may not be considered as adequate for promotional sites for music artists for example, where the delivery of multi-media content such as audio or video in a visually engaging, interactive interface is paramount.


Comment 1

I agree what you are saying about BBC, but HTML with good CSS can also be used to make a good promotional sites. I think a better example would be animated pages, maybe Flash games.

So said Chris on Tuesday 27 January, 2004 at 5:44PM GMT.

Comment 2

This has been the case until very recently but Macromedia is now pushing Flash as a "Rich client" for web based applications with Flash MX 2004 Professional and, I have to say, from what I've seen so far, it really is good. Flash can create normal windows application style interfaces with instant user feedback and (more or less) real time data because form submission is not tied to a page refresh. This is really powerful and can make web applications seem far more responsive.

On the accessiblity front, Flash is getting closer but its still not there. I think HTML is easily the best way to publish hyperlinked content but Flash is definately a contender for web application interfaces.

Check the examples here:

With a bit of clever interface design I think we could see some good stuff from Flash.

So said Dan Webb on Tuesday 27 January, 2004 at 6:18PM GMT.

Comment 3

I've been meaning to do a post on this myself and probably will do so soon. I don't think it really makes sense to compare the two any more. But unfortunately many people associate Flash with Web design (and thus HTML) and that's just plain silly.

Flash is a tool that can be used on the Web to great effect, although it's more often misused, but it frankly extends way beyond the scope of Web design. If done right it can add value to a HTML designed page, but in most cases this isn't how it's used. It is definitely not a replacement for HTML in any way -- even though it's often viewed as such.

Many times it comes down to the type of audience and site. Flash is great for RIAs, but not every RIA. Flash is great for photography, art, entertainment or anything where you want to spark exploration or play. It's horrible for anything that needs to present lots of information in a non-graphical way. It's very nature promotes bad design and constant reinvention of the wheel.

I guess the answer is it depends, but more often than not Flash isn't used as it should be.

So said Keith on Tuesday 27 January, 2004 at 7:25PM GMT.

Comment 4

My personal pet peeve is that many (all? not sure) Flash "textareas" don't support the wheel mouse! My God! That's reason enough to shoot the web designer!

So said Hal on Tuesday 27 January, 2004 at 9:10PM GMT.

Comment 5

I think I have found the perfect candidate for discussion and critique regarding the strengths and weaknesses of a content-rich site using entirely flash:
Road Runner's new 'highly acclaimed flash site' -->
I personally still haven't found a way to bookmark a page, but who would deny the cool-factor of the animated road runner on the 'Site Guide'. The bias here is heavy, considering 90% of people visiting this page would be RR clients who already are known to have high speed providers by association. However nicely those bevels compliment Anna Kournikova's thumbnail photo, I still can't see its place on such a content-heavy site.

So said Andrew on Wednesday 28 January, 2004 at 3:39AM GMT.

Comment 6

"unnecessarily complex for such text-based content." -- I'm not sure this is the strongest argument here since Flash's XML capabilities make it very easy for anyone to update all kinds of content at any time. In fact, if it's set up to be completely dynamic, textarea sizes, button text, colors, headings, etc. can all be controlled via an external file. The stronger argument lies in content being hidden from search engines, accessibility issues (not only for screen readers, but for those varied and few without the flash player), and the mouse wheel problem mentioned above.

So said Ginger on Thursday 29 January, 2004 at 2:48PM GMT.

Comment 7

This is the RNIB's (Royal National Institute for the Blind, UK) take on Flash and Accessibility ...

'Flash content does not need to be creatively restricted to be made accessible. Designers should use their creativity to find new ways to support the needs of all groups of people, and to give them a unique experience.'

As a designer i am eagerly awaiting the day that i can design a Flash website that is fully accessible from the outset of design/code. This area of the market is wide open to interpretation at the moment and i think that it is only a matter of time before we see Macromedia produce the goods.

Designing websites in Flash is generally i think more exciting than designing in Photoshop due to the amount of dynamic possibilities that are available. Working within one program for a start is nice. When i first started designing i was significanlty more interested in Flash (and its code) and i think this is generally where the young designers of today are looking to learn purely because it is exciting. The CSS approach to the internet is bringing about a subtle change within the industry and breeding a different type of animal. I fully appreciate the back to basics ethos of accessible code and I feel that this is an important part of the future of the internet but what will the internet really look like in 3 years or so? i like Flash websites that give me this type of user experience ...

and I like sites that provide me with powerful search and scanning abilities of information. I think comparing Flash and HTML is like comparing a boat with a plane, they are simply different.


So said Aaron on Friday 30 January, 2004 at 3:22PM GMT.

Comment 8

Is it more interesting to ask: "SVG vs FLASH"?

So said Rick Beton on Friday 30 January, 2004 at 6:51PM GMT.

Comment 9

One site that uses Flash to my complete satisfaction is - everything is bookmarkable, the downloads are kept light, and it's really fun as well. This is what Flash is best for, in my opinion.

So said Neal on Saturday 31 January, 2004 at 5:49PM GMT.

Comment 10

I t is better to say that we just need to do Web design by using both flash and html. If you browse you can simply see a clear idea about flash and html. They used Html, css and flash for for their web. So come out with cleverer ideas to make all things possible in web

So said Sathiyendhiran on Saturday 4 December, 2004 at 5:43AM GMT.

Comment 11

There are to many misinformed people out there. At first I would say of course if you just used the design tools of Flash you wouldn't be able to make high content sites like BBC. Though that would be overlooking some of the more usefull tools like components. There are list, combo boxes, ect. Those only touch on the surface of how Flash can replace html. You can launch a flash site simply from a single swf file, and load, stream, or preload all you other information as you see fit. Your given so much more controll on how your information is presented to the user.

The real meat and bones of Flash would be actionscript. You can do any and all of what you need in HTML with Actionscript especially since 2.0. Arrays, hit defs, custom combo boxes, change the cursor, make tsunami menu's, have styles that a user can switch from far more advanced than any CSS could do. Combine your actionscript with your design elements and you have endless possiblities. There is also this fear if it isn't oldschool enough, or if it isn't to hard it's not worth it. Flash is limitless, especially with the templates you can create for yourself. Hands down I Flash beats HTML. Besides you can access/ecxecute XML, Access files, ect. from Flash. Not only that but FSCOMMANDS, they allow you to interact with your drives directly. Anything HTML can do Flash can do better, and more resourcefull.

So said Armando on Friday 29 July, 2005 at 8:13PM GMT.

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