Flashing Sites: Best Practices for Integrating Flash Animation into Your Firm’s Website

What do the websites for Target, Apple, Dow Jones, DLA Piper and the IRS all have in common? Well, not much but they do all utilize Flash animation in one form or another. While once rather limited in use, Flash animation can now be found on a large number of sites across various industries including retail, media, healthcare, technology, government agencies and yes, even law firms.

Despite, its growing popularity, many attorneys resist the incorporation of Flash into their firms’ websites concerned that it might interfere with search engine optimization or deter site visitors who lack a fast internet connection or up-to-date operating system. A great deal of this resistance, however, stems from a misunderstanding of Flash.

Simply defined, Flash animation is comprised of a set of moving images and objects created using Adobe Flash. For attorneys, it can be a very effective way to attract attention to specific practice areas, special expertise or a slogan.

Benefits of Flash:

Aesthetics: One of the most obvious benefits of Flash Animation is, of course, that it enhances the design and adds visual interest to the site. Flash animation allows you to incorporate multiple images and colors into a site which is sure to catch a visitor’s eye.

Informative: With the option to include multiple images, Flash animation enables you to display an array of practice areas within one header graphic. This is incredibly helpful if you offer a diverse group of services. Say, for instance, that you are an estate planning attorney but also assist businesses in your area with corporate law. If you are just limited to one image, you may not be able to accommodate both target audiences without splitting the image and respective messaging.  Flash animation allows you to use a broader “canvas” to showcase a variety of images and messaging within a confined area, such as the website header.

More sophisticated feel
: When properly implemented, Flash animation can portray a more credible and sophisticated image of the firm.

Downside of Flash:

Potentially slower loading time:  While Flash animation is engineered to load quickly, it can take a bit longer to load for users who don’t have a high-speed internet connection.  To mitigate this potential for slower performance, you should avoid using Flash on pages other than the home page.

Compatibility with iPhones and iPads: Unfortunately, iPhones and iPads do not support Adobe Flash Animation.  Users who visit your site using one of these devices will not be able to view animated sequence, although the rest of the site will function as usual.   So long as the Flash animation does not include essential information, such as the site’s navigation menu, users will still be able to access the website’s content without issue.

A work-around is to have a specially-programmed website that can detect whether the browser supports Flash.  If not, the website can load an alternate website that does not utilize Flash.  This could be something as simple as replacing the Flash portion with a graphic or loading a completely different website.

Will Flash Animation harm my site’s ranking?

One common concern many have about the use of Flash animation is its potential detrimental effect on search engine optimization.   This apprehension is justifiable if the site is either done completely in Flash or otherwise displays important textual content in Flash because doing so makes it difficult for search engines to decipher its context and meaning.  However, if your site is using Flash animation sparingly and only in lieu of a static graphic, there is no adverse effect on search engines’ ability to read and index your website.

Here are a few sites which exemplify effective Flash integration:

The Like Law Group — This law firm successfully combines all of its specialties into the header graphic through the use of Flash animation. Within just a few seconds of landing on the home page, the visitor has a better understanding of the firm’s expertise through the effective visual display on the home page.

Robert T. Acker, PC – This attorney website utilizes subtle Flash animation to highlight four very different practice areas. This design perfectly illustrates how just one site can be used effectively for a general law practice.

Bridge Builders—This law firm strengthens their branding and mission of preserving legacies for generations through the Flash animation on the website. This animation is creative and sets them apart from other competitors in their area.

Lennington Law Firm—The Flash animation on this firm’s website is both attractive and functional. The prominent links in the sequence serve as a navigation aid for visitors to the site.

Miorini Law PLLC—This firm serves a wide geographic area including 4 major cities in 2 different countries. The Flash sequence on the site highlights these locations and thus broadens the reach of the design for visitors in any one of the service areas.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Flash can be incredibly detrimental to a site, if it is not integrated properly. The following site is the perfect example of what not to do:

CT Trust Counsel, LLC—This entire site, text and all, is made of Flash animation, This means that search engines cannot read any of the copy on the site and, as a result, the site will not secure a spot in the top search results. Furthermore, Flash-only sites are not user-friendly. If a visitor has a slower internet connection, they may have to wait a very long time for any one of the pages to load. Or if a site visitor does not have the Adobe Flash player, he or she will not be able to view any part of the website.

Given the complexity of Flash and the technical skill required, it’s important that you contact a professional designer (we know, we know your cousin’s son is majoring in the arts but it’s not the same). With the right design team and proper integration, Flash animation can really enhance your site’s appeal to multiple audiences and take your website to new heights.

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Dolores Obrien

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