Killersites Newsletter Archive

Flash Based Web Sites and the Search Engines

Killersites Newsletter Archive: March 24th, 2004

This week's newsletter is a little less nerdy, and more, uh... philosophical. Ok, perhaps I can't think of the perfect word for it; just read on, because you may find it interesting and maybe even useful. :)

When reading my stuff, whether it be on the website or in the newsletters, please let me know of any spelling or grammatical errors. I have a hard enough time just writing these things, let alone punctuating them properly!

Giving a facelift to a web site that's 'long in the tooth' (old)

I had an itch, and decided to give a facelift; it was long overdue. In the process of redesigning the home page (sometimes called a 'splash page') I had to keep these points in mind:

  1. For years now, people have been familiar with the site's black background, similar to the book's cover.
  2. However, the style of the page was getting to be a little old, and made the web site look like it hadn't been updated in years - not a good thing.
  3. I wanted people to know what was offered on the web site (new articles, the message board, etc.) instantly, without losing the connection to the original web site and the book 'Creating Killer Web Sites'.

So, I came up with these three variations and asked some opinions of people on the message board. I only had a few people answer (which makes me so very sad), but there seemed to be a liking for the black background.

I have a natural inclination toward light-colored backgrounds because they are simply easier on the eyes, especially when having to read lots of text. So the first redesign looked like this:

Style number 1:

Style #1

The major changes include:

  1. Removing the black background and replacing it with a new off-white background, to keep it easy on the eyes. I don't use pure white because it can be hard on the eyes, too.
  2. Another change was of the center graphic. I thought an actual picture of the book would clue people into the fact the was the 'official web site' for Creating Killer Web Sites.
  3. Cleaning up of the layout: the page is pretty much the same (two panels with left side navigation), but now I right-aligned the left panel text so as to create a clean line that separates the left and right sides of the page. And if you look closely, the left panel has a lined background pattern that softens up the look even more while it helps to make the navigation a little more distinct from the right side of the page.

Style number 2:

Style #2

In many ways, this is like style number 1, except that I really was faithful to the book's cover with this version. You notice the black background and bright yellow. The problem with this style is that the yellow is pretty rough on the eyes; hence, I came up with this final compromise.

Style number 3:

Style #3

I removed the top yellow bar but kept the black background and the new, cleaner layout. The whole process took me about three hours, spread out over a few days. It's good to give your mind some time to rest so you can look at what you've done with fresh eyes while you work on your web site designs.

If you have a chance, I would appreciate it if you could send me an email with your vote on which version you like best.

Flash-based web sites and the search engines

As with many of my articles and newsletters, this one is inspired by a question put to me:

" Is it true that you should not have a flash web site since search engines do not recognize flash? "

The short answer to the question is 'yes, and no'. :)

Search engines traditionally cannot see flash, but since Flash 4, Macromedia (the guys who make Flash) built into Flash the capability to be 'seen' by the engines.

Today, search engines like, Lycos, and Google, among others, can index (see into) Flash movies, but only in a limited way. As far as I can tell, the engines can only extract links from the Flash movies and not much else.

Compare this to an HTML page where the search engine robots (the automated programs that search engines use to surf and catalogue the web) can read everything about the page, and thus your web site will have a much better chance of appearing in the search engines.

How to use Flash and make the search engines happy

It is best to combine both HTML and Flash on the same web page to cover your bases. Flash is best at creating interactive presentations, handling video, and displaying animations. HTML still renders text better than Flash; as such, it is my opinion that if your web site's job is to present information that will just be read by visitors (our company does x-y-z), I would stick to HTML. In the end, content is king. An animation is not going to keep them coming back, but good content will.

If your not convinced, check out ; even they combine HTML and Flash on their own pages.

A final note

I am actually working on creating a Flash section for because I feel it has finally matured to a level that I find interesting. But this can take time, so don't hold your collective breath. I can sometimes find myself falling behind in my work (anyone remember web site critiques?)! :(

If you liked the article and you want to see more let me know!

Stefan Mischook.

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