Guest post: Hello my name is… and I’m a Flashaholic

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Digital & Online

R.D. Gavel, avowed Flashaholic and travel agent, is the owner of Whimsical World Travel, specializing in vacations to Disney destinations. She is currently at work on a new website with a focus on experiential, luxury travel, and is taking web design classes as part of a twelve-step program to overcome her Flash-dependent behavior.

Hello. My name is R.D. and I am a Flashaholic.

My addiction began slowly as I navigated through the web running up against a lot that was boring or just plain bad and a few wondrous places that drew me in and made my smile.

Yes, in the days of dial-up I would sometimes move away rather than watch the agonizingly slow page load but, today, there are few flash sites which don’t reward us for just a couple of seconds’ patience.

When it came time to start on my own website the issue became much more complicated.

How do I get the look I want and still allow people to find us? I learned that even professional web designers are sometimes not really knowledgeable about Flash. I sometimes get negative feedback about my decision to utilize Flash on our site but, right now, it’s the right choice for us.

So, how do you decide what’s best for you?

I believe the objectives of the site itself should drive the decisions. This seems straightforward enough but if you poke around a bit you’ll find that site design often has very little to do with site goals. Taking the time to consider carefully and prioritize your requirements will help clarify your design directions. While this doesn’t begin to distill all the issues you’ll confront, here are a few things to think about:

What is the purpose of the site?

While all sites might do a number of different things, each generally has a basic purpose. Decide if your site’s primary focus is business or personal. If it’s a personal site or blog, is it monetized or primarily an outlet for your own creativity? If it’s commercial, is it the main portal to conduct your business or an extension of another sales model?

Who is the target audience?

Who are you trying to reach? The demographics of your preferred visitor should play a big part in the design. This can be as simple as hip graphics for a young crowd or larger text for an older generation.

How will visitors be directed to the site?

There are so many ways to draw traffic to a site: search engines, adwords, social media connections, affiliate programs, print media, and advertising, to name just a few. What methods do you plan to incorporate?

Personal preferences

Don’t underestimate the power of preference. Your site is ultimately a reflection of you and/or your business. You should be proud of it. Liz Hover recently posted an interview here with Britt Reints which commented on the importance of doing what’s right for you. You will find far too much advice, a lot of it conflicting – go with your gut.

whimsical-world-travel

So, how did this process work for me?

The purpose of our site is business, and it is one of the major portals we rely on for securing new business.

I looked at many, many websites in our category and, incredibly, could find only one that I liked.

In the travel industry many suppliers offer cookie-cutter websites as a “perk” for doing business with them. In a field so crowded, where differentiation is key, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would voluntarily choose a site that was exactly like thousands of others, but most do.

Unlike many other businesses, the product that we represent doesn’t need to be sold; a decision to buy, either sooner or later, has already been made by the visitor. What we needed to do was sell ourselves; try to convey why that visitor should buy from us rather than someone else.

Our client tends to be upscale but retains an appreciation for whimsy and fun. We used Flash for a one-of-a-kind look to set us apart and make our brand unique and, hopefully, memorable. We were looking for a little bit of the “magic” that is inherent in our product and Flash achieved that for us.

I find Flash effects entrancing and was determined to use Flash for its beauty while trying to maintain site visibility for searches.

We have placed most of the informational component on non-Flash pages so that it will be accessed by search engines, and have been careful to word page headings, image titles, etc. to maximize our presence.

Rather than using promotional methods to vie for the same homogenous group of potential clients as our competitors, we decided to move into more non-traditional areas, such as photography, which are still aligned with our product but provide an added focus on the site.

The interest, buzz, and links this strategy generates allow us to reach out to a different segment of the population who might never run a search for our core product, but may well be interested if informed.  Our blog, still in its infancy, features nothing but unique content rather than a rehash of industry press releases and special deals generally found on similar blogs.

If search engine optimization is the number one consideration, then Flash might not be the best choice. While some web professionals still cling to the notion that a Flash site is completely transparent to search engines, this is no longer true. Nonetheless, a Flash site cannot currently be optimized with anywhere near the success that can be achieved with html pages.

If, however, you want to stand out in the crowd of millions, use or plan to use multiple strategies for pulling traffic, and the visual aspect of your site is important to you, give Flash a chance. Try to keep in mind that you can never be all things to all people; be true to your own vision.

I’m currently working on a new website which will feature other products in our market niche. It will require different approaches because the target customer is somewhat different and the products need to be showcased in a compelling fashion, rather than the company.  Is there going to be Flash on this site, too? Absolutely. No rehab for me.

Diary of a Web Gal is proudly powered by Flash. The theme was originally released by Roy Tanck and requires Flash and Javascript (although it doesn’t break completely if these are missing). Thanks to Geoff Stearns, the use of Flash does not affect search engine ranking. The Flash titles contain complex algorithms that change things like line breaks and font size in order to best accommodate the post titles.

Learn more about Flash.

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