Sep 28 2011

Flash vs HTML5: The Race Is On

Category: internet marketingGuest Author


Website design is becoming more and more important in the internet boom which has become a money making phenomenon. A well developed website that encourages user activity to promote products or services is what people are looking for, and what they need in order to make an informed decision. When you are designing a website for your business you have two routes. Use template theme designs like WordPress, or have a custom built website. WordPress is a great way to conjure up a website quick, and start competing in your niche as soon as possible. However, a custom website that requires amazing interactions and specific preferences is going to require a little more. Maybe you have a website design in mind and just need to outsource the coding. If this is the case, you more than likely have been hearing a lot about HTML 5 and Flash going head to head.

The battle between Flash and HTML 5 was virtually started by Steve Jobs. With the removal of all Flash development from Apple’s site, and the lack of Flash support on iPads, a big debate began to stir within the web design world. The debate of which is better, HTML 5 or Flash.

The answer at this point is not exactly clear cut, which is why you should not exclusively use one or the other. Now there will be many Flash developers who tell you Flash is the best hands down, and many HTML 5 developers who will say Flash is dead, or HTML 5 is the future. While both are interesting hypotheses, neither have a one size fits all answer for development of websites.

Flash has been around for a decent amount of years, and is usually what websites are using to provide a highly interactive approach for websites. Flash serves this purpose and it serves it well. So is it a thing of the past? Many people don’t think so, many say maybe, and still others just listen to whatever Steve Jobs says. The fact of the matter is, Flash is not a thing of the past, and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. Actually, Flash is getting better, and is paving the way for new ideas, and innovative websites.

The fuss about Flash really lies in the coding. Sites like Google and Yahoo, cannot simply index Flash content the way they can HTML 5 content. Therefore, you have to work harder to have your site mapped out correctly if you want to rank well in the search engines. Basically Flash is a much harder language to use and is also a much harder language to index (than HTML 5). For many, the internet is about simplifying all processes, which is great! At the same time you do not want to compromise quality with simplicity. Apple products are based on simplicity. HTML 5 is a much simpler language to learn, and this could be what Steve Jobs thought process may be based on. That doesn’t mean it is a better alternative. In fact, at this point in time, HTML 5 doesn’t have support of many of its different features, for virtually every single browser.

With HTML 5 still in the production phase, it is impossible to see whether or not it will outperform Flash in the future. Flash is outperforming HTML 5. A simple fade in and fade out with HTML 5 can use up to half of your computer processing power as a percentage, while Flash may use less that a quarter. It is clear that Flash is outperforming HTML 5 in this way. If you go to Apple’s website on a mobile device you will see this first hand.

Flash may be outperforming HTML 5 in some areas, but HTML 5 still has some great uses. With HTML 5 you have an array of new tags that is going to simplify your web design process including video, audio, header, footer, and even a simplified process for rounding corners. Yeah, rounding corners. Remember how many different hacks that used to take, well not anymore. Another great tag, particularly for blogs and SEO is the article tag. All of these new tags will easily identify the process of Google indexing your content for what it is.

The down side to HTML 5 when using it for interactivity is the slow, unappealing look. HTML 5 really kind of looks like Flash programming from eight or nine years ago. With that being said, HTML 5 is still being developed, and surely will see improvement in many different areas.

So what should we be using? Well, both. Flash should be used for complicated interactivity on your site. HTML 5 should be used to help with SEO, and will soon be a great tool for it. You have to integrate both technologies appropriately for the best possible website. Browser detection and writing code suitable for all users is the best approach. You definitely want to have SEO. You definitely want a site that runs smooth and fast. Most importantly you want everyone to see the same thing, including iPad, tablet, and mobile users. This means that you have to write code to support everyone’s browser. This may seem tedious, but you will surely benefit by having a multifaceted website for everyone, that will show up in the search engines.

The battle between HTML 5 and Flash is just heating up. Both languages have tactical advantages for web development, and for different reasons. Right now and in the foreseeable future there is no clear cut winner. For now your best bet is to incorporate both. This lets you give all users a great website experience, and lets you have all of the functionality of both languages. Of course this could be a little bit more work and could be a little more expensive, but the payoffs will definitely be great.

This article was written by Thomas Rudy. Thomas works as a freelancer not only designing websites, but also providing various White Hat SEO tactics – including link building services.

Photo from Josef Dunne

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One Response to “Flash vs HTML5: The Race Is On”

  1. Moose says:

    I started this weekend with my first canvas/js game and believe me: it’s a total technical regress.

    The learning curve is extremely steep. First learn HTML and CSS. Then learn javascript. There’s tons off free libraries for javascript but for every step during development you have to pick one. For example when you need a simple bouncing effect; would you do it with jquery, mootools, jstween, tweenjs…? they all work fine but have different capabilities and non of them is (currently) as nice as Tweenlite. Some are best used for css others for the canvas…
    After that you’ll have to test on all browsers only to find out different things are not working on different browsers, which will consume more time. Time otherwise probably spend on design and usability testing.

    The HTML5 demos look like Flash 5-10 years ago.
    All visuals look crappy because Flash has a way to separate over half pixels, html5 doesn’t. This makes it look jaggy.
    To get sprites moving you will need more programs (I used Flash (!) and Zoe). The distance between designing and development get’s very big at this point.

    I started out as a designer and Flash helped me to start learning code step by step. Current young designers will have a hard time to do so in in HTML5 and most won’t make it, they’ll stick to design and will have to work in large companies. From an artistic point of view (one on one) this is a disaster.

    So why would I switch to HTML5/canvas/js?

    Because the flash-guru’s are switching to HTML5 (btw folks: it really is 99,99% just javascript). Mr. doob (Three.js) and Grant Skinner (Easel.js) are working on js libraries right now. These guys are the people who really make the difference in innovation and provide the tools. They did this for flash and are now doing it for javascript.