It is true that modern technology changes and evolves at a staggering rate and this means that the software used within it is also changing at high speed. Platforms evolve and adapt in many cases but there are other examples where some fall away, flounder and eventually are obsolete.
‘Change is the result of insurmountable market pressure’ – Ted Coine
A classic example of this in recent times is Flash – once the ideal format for websites that used video and media content, it has slipped from its place of marketing dominance. Now it finds itself replaced by newer programs that better handle the requirements of modern technology. So, is it time to upgrade your Flash website?
Why you need to replace Flash
Back in 2010, Steve Jobs of Apple issued a blog post saying that their devices would no longer be supporting Flash. In it, he talked about the shortcomings of the software in the mobile era where low power devices, open web standards and touch interfaces would be the driving factors.
Back then, the mobile internet was still very much in its infancy and the addition of mobile-friendly content to a website was seen as something of a nice extra to include. This is now a very different position and with the largest percentage of people ever owning a smartphone, being able to access the internet from these devices has become of prime importance.
The figures paint the picture - in 2016, 51.3% of websites loaded via a mobile device. This meant for the first time, mobile beat desktop and laptop computers for numbers of searches. This also meant that if your website wasn’t optimised for mobile devices, you were losing half of your potential customers.
This realisation saw a change of viewpoint for many people where the internet was concerned. People began to look at not only what their internet site contained but also how well it operated on small devices and how easy it was for the audience to access all the content.
Flash based websites were, at the time, the epitome of sophistication but this is very much a thing of the past. Unfortunately, Flash is now bug-filled, slow to patch and simply cannot handle the intricacies of the modern internet. In addition, it is poor for mobile experience, hence customer satisfaction and there have been issued around security.
Support and accessibility
Flash has now found itself lagging behind developments such as HTML5 but there are still many websites out there that use the software. And these websites find themselves facing an increasing number of issues with compatibility with other software. As industry standards change but Flash remains the same, patches and new developments to the program still can’t keep up with the issues. Added to this is the natural forgetfulness of website owners to update their software and the problems compound.
This leads to problems with other areas of the website in addition to those operated by Flash. And while this might be a problem from a developer viewpoint, it also produces a poor customer service. With Google showing that 61% of users are unlikely to return to a website if they have access trouble, then this means you could be losing business. Plus, of those lost visitors, 40% of them will end up on a competitor’s website instead.
The evolution of the modern mobile internet has also led to an intolerance for outdated software that no longer functions on smartphones. Customers viewing sites through mobile devices don’t expect to be penalised for doing this and by using outdated or inferior software, this can be how people feel. Nor do they want to spend their precious time waiting for a video or graphics to load.
Two of the biggest search engines, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, have already said that Flash doesn’t give the customer experience that they require and have started to phase it out. Benjamin Smedberg, for example, said that moving away from Flash would mean that Firefox users would have ‘enhanced security, improved battery life, faster page load and better browser responsiveness.’
Google Chrome have said they will only offer Flash by default to the top ten domains that rely on the plugin so all other users will need to ask if they can run Flash or not. So unless you are in that top few, your audience will experience an immediate hurdle when arriving on your website and it still uses Flash.
As mentioned, Apple stopped using Flash some years ago and have now blocked it on their Safari web browser. In September 2015, Amazon announced that they had stopped using Flash ads on their sites.
Every business wants to be seen as cutting edge and forward thinking. While a lot of time, effort and money likely went into building your Flash website, the declining use of the software means you need to face replacing it. That old software could be losing you customers and they could be instead turning to newer websites with less awkward, slow software involved.
Using old and outdated software not only spoils the experience of your users but can spoil their impression of your company. It makes you look out of touch and slow to adapt and, depending on your market, this isn’t a tag you want to be associated with your brand.
While it is always up to you whether to replace Flash on your website, it is worth considering the pros and cons carefully.