I was reading an article from Slate this morning about how CD and Digital Download sales declined in 2013 while vinyl sales hit a 22-year high and it popped into my head that the rise and decline of the CD is similar to the rise and decline of Flash in the web design world.
I remember growing up in the ’90s and always being thrilled at getting to buy a new CD or two from one of the many local music stores that operated in the area around my hometown. The thrill of tearing the shrink-wrap off of the CD and juggling the disc as I laid it in my Walkman was one of the highlights of my childhood. Both of my parents, having grown up in the 50s and 60s loved CDs and how much easier they were to store and play than their childhood vinyl records and how much cleaner they sounded. And then in 2001, Apple introduced the first iPod and the rest is history as music stores began closing and CDs were used primarily by independent musicians selling at shows. So how is this in any way close to what has happened in the web design world over the past few years?
Not too many years ago, almost every major website used Adobe’s Flash technology in some manor, whether it was for a slideshow, a video player, an interactive application, or even the entire site, Flash was a necessary tool in the web designer’s tool kit. But then something happened in 2007 that began shifting the web landscape; Apple introduced the original iPhone and marketed it as a web browsing device. Everyone originally said that it couldn’t be a real web browsing device like a desktop or a laptop because it didn’t support Flash. A few years later, after the release of the first iPad, Apple released an open letter from Steve Jobs titled “Thoughts on Flash” which outlined their reasons for excluding Flash from iOS devices as well as their support for HTML5. Once Apple threw their weight behind HTML5, small business owners and marketing department heads began a rapid migration away from Flash for future projects. Within two years Adobe began encouraging developers and large enterprise clients to move away from Flash for new web projects and begin using HTML5 technologies. So how did I draw a parallel between a brand new technology (HTML5) and an almost antiquated technology (vinyl)?
HTML5 is how the web was meant to function
Just like vinyl provides the highest fidelity music listening experience, HTML5 makes the web render the way it did before Flash came on the scene and just like modern vinyl is pressed with much more precision today, HTML5 has many new features that allow the web to be used for tasks not long ago relegated to desktop applications.
So what makes HTML5 so much better?
A couple of years ago, we worked with a restaurant owner to update the web presence of a local restaurant. As you can imagine, the older website was built in Flash with moving digital paper (complete with sound, of course). Originally the restaurant owner just wanted to update some information on the Flash based site and tweak a few design elements. But because it was in Flash, he needed help just to change the hours for the holidays.
When Oso Studio was founded and before that in my freelance career, I made the decision that we would not use Flash for any part of our projects. So with a client telling me that he wanted to maintain his Flash based site, I went to Google to show him why maintaining a Flash website would only hurt his business and an HTML5 website would help. I started by querying his restaurant category with his regional location and his website didn’t show up anywhere on the first 10 pages, I then fine tuned it and searched for his restaurant category within his city, but his website still didn’t show up until the fourth page, and even when I searched for his restaurant by name his website appeared as the 10th result. He couldn’t understand why his website wasn’t ranking higher and especially why restaurants that had closed years before he even opened were ranking above him. It all came back to his website being written in Flash and Google’s inability to index anything on his site. Once he saw how his Flash website was preventing potential customers from finding him, he was onboard with starting from scratch for his website. Once we launched his HTML5 site, he quickly rose to position number 1 on Google for his city and was on page 1 for his region within a month.
‘Flash’-y is always better…until it’s not
Just like our restaurant client discovered, sometimes the flashiest website isn’t always the best website. To allow him to update his website with new information, change his hours, or upload a seasonal menu, we built his new site with a content management system backend. Once the holidays were over, he was able to change his hours on his website himself in less than 5 minutes. A website, especially for a small to mid-sized business, should always be easily editable by anyone with a basic understanding of computer word processing.
And just like our restaurant client learned about his website, it may look great to you as the business owner or marketing manager, but if you’re the only person who can find the website, it’s not fulfilling its goal as being your best form of marketing. The best website is the one that can increase your revenue, whether you’re in retail, professional services, or a non-profit, and work for you 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. While the goal of a web company should always be to create amazing looking websites, the goals of the client cannot be neglected for the sake of good design. So is it time for your website to get a coat of HTML5 paint for 2014? If you want to work with a company that can help you refresh your design while also increasing the revenue driven by your site, send us an email or give us a call.