Adobe® Flash®, and the engaging animations that it creates, have been one of the most influential innovations to ever come to the Internet.  However, with the increasing popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, developers and site owners alike will need to begin rethinking their implementation of Flash-enabled content.

Personally, I have always had a love/hate relationship with Flash.  Like everyone else, I am enthralled by some of the amazing Flash animations and sites on the web.  However, I have also at times been annoyed with the slow download times, browser crashing, and obnoxious overuse of Flash.  As a designer, I have often counseled clients on the “smart implementation” of Flash content.  While it may look cool to have this “flying in” and that “spinning around,” you have to remain aware of the impact that it will have on your target audience.

The question of how Flash impacts your target audience has now taken on added emphasis as web surfers increasingly utilize mobile devices to view web content.  Of particular concern are the growing popularity of the iPhone and iPad.  Why you might ask?  Neither of these popular devices by Apple allows Flash content to be displayed on their platforms. The iPhone currently accounts for 25% of the US smartphone market.  That number will grow with the announcement that Verizon will begin selling the iPhone as well.  Alternatively, the iPad accounts for more than 90% of the global tablet market.  Despite the extensive use of Flash on the Internet (particularly Flash video technology used by sites such as YouTube.com and Hulu.com), Flash content cannot be watched on their platforms.  In addition to being an annoyance to iPhone and iPad users, it also puts website owners in quite a quandary—whether or not to disenfranchise a significant and growing segment of potential customers for that “cool” Flash animation, site, or video?

Several factors, such as: industry, target audience demographics, region, etc., need to be analyzed before the decision is made to implement Flash in a site.  Many features in CSS3 and Javascript, along with the new advancements in HTML5, are highly effective in delivering the same effects and interactivity that Flash can provide, without the drawbacks.

Despite these advancements, that doesn’t mean that Flash is going away anytime soon.  Flash is still a viable option in many instances.  However, site owners do need to understand that Flash is just that—one option.  The point is that, as with any venture, proper planning and assessment needs to be performed before embarking on a project so that the end product achieves the desired results, even if it is less “Flash-y.”