Okay, the title of this article may be a bit harsh, but I still urge you to rethink your small business’ use of flashing text, scrolling photos and music as the first things potential customers see on your web site. Remember, your site visitors are coming to you web site to learn about your products and services, not to be entertained by your logo dancing across the screen. Here are a few questions to consider before asking your web designer to create a Flash intro for your site:
- What is the purpose of creating this Flash intro? If small business owners are honest with themselves, they will find that many just want a Flash introduction for their web site because it looks cool. The idea of a mini-movie starring your company is exciting, but if it will not enhance your brand image or is irrelevant for your industry, leave it out. Now if you own a video production house, make jewelry, design clothes, take photographs or engage in another industry where visuals are important, then a Flash intro may be appropriate.
- Are you hoping to reach those who use mobile phones? Well, you may be reaching fewer than you think. Nothing annoys me more than seeing a web site on the go, checking it with my Blackberry and being met with a blank screen. You see, many smartphones are unable to process Flash, which means these mobile users cannot access your web site. Unless these potential customers are extremely interested in your site, they may not remember your web site address when they access to a computer with Flash enabled.
- Is your target market patient? The more things you pack into your Flash movie – graphics, text, music – the longer it takes the home page to load. Remember, the home page to your web site is your business’ first impression. A slow loading page could get your business labeled as slow to respond and inconsiderate of customers, especially if said movie ends up being 60 seconds of text and graphics spinning across the screen to your favorite music.
- Will a Flash intro hinder the SEO (search engine optimization) of my web site? Unfortunately, the answer is yes in many cases. According to Google’s webmaster central, the search engine has made improvements in how it indexes Flash web sites, “Google can now discover and index text content in SWF files of all kinds.” There are still some limitations. For example, if the text of your Flash introduction is pulled from an HTML or XML page, that content won’t be considered part of your Flash home page. Remember, when your web site comes up in Google you want to not only see the title of your web site but also a text description that lets potential customers know why they should visit your site. While Google can now index Flash pages, there is no guarantee that other search engines, such as Yahoo and Bing can do the same.
If I haven’t convinced you to reconsider the Flash intro for your small business web site, then please make sure to include 2 very visible buttons: skip intro and music off. While some potential customers will sit through an intro page once as a precursor to the true content of your web site, it is unlikely that they’ll sit through it a second or third time. The “skip intro” button allows them to get right to the heart of your site. The “music off” button is equally important as every site visitor will not share your taste in music or be in a setting where music is appropriate.
Lastly, before asking your designer to hit “publish” on your business web site’s Flash intro, put yourself in your consumers’ shoes. If you were a potential customer and happened upon this web site, would you be excited to visit it or annoyed? Would you quickly click away or would you eagerly look for the products/services page? Remember, your small business web site is for your target consumer, not you.