HTML vs. Flash: Choosing The Right Web Platform

One of the first functional decisions in creating a travel and destination site is the choice of programming language. Without getting into complex technical descriptions, the top two options are the text-based HTML format (hypertext markup language, or html) or the highly visual and graphic Flash format.

Search Engine Optimization

There are many arguments for a destination or resort to opt for an html site over a Flash-based website. With a properly coded and optimized html-based site, Google and other search engines can index the content on every page. The result? If you have, say 50 pages of content on your site, you have 50 homes pages - each relevant to a different set of keywords and search phrases. All that work invested in developing a killer content strategy will pay off as your site climbs the result rankings for a wide variety of search phrases.

In contrast, if your site is built in Flash, it's a self-contained application. Currently, Google and other search engines see Flash sites as a single page, relevant to a single set of keywords and search phrases. Most often, these Flash based sites rank high in Google for their brand name only. If the person searching for a place to go doesn't know the name of the resort or destination, it’s almost impossible to find it on the web directly. For obvious reasons, this is a huge disadvantage over the competition's sites written in html.

Referencing Specific Pages

Another compelling reason to avoid building your site in Flash is the inability to reference any specific page. If an agent, sales person, or brand loyalist for that matter, wants to send a potential customer to a specific page on the site that holds the key to closing the deal, they can't. They can't email a link directly to the content, they can't bookmark it using one of the social media tools like Delicious, Digg, or Technorati. The best they can do is send them to the home page, with instructions on how to navigate to the page with the relevant content. Most people won't bother.

Software Compatibility Issues

However, there is an even more compelling reason to avoid building a Flash site. Since Flash sites are applications, they can become inoperable due to software incompatibilities. About a week ago, we were discussing the sale of a resort in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. I had visited the resort’s website a month or so ago when the deal closed to see if anything had changed. The resort still had the same Flash site the previous owners had built.

Recently, I had to upgrade to Flash 10 player on my computer to accommodate the software we use to manage the agency. When I pointed my browser to the resort’s site with the new Flash 10 installed, I was served a Flash detector error page. The site wouldn’t load. Not only could I not view any content, but there was no way for me to contact the resort. I couldn’t even let them know that their Flash site has been rendered obsolete by the release of Flash 10. Given this sort of obstacle, most consumers would simply give up.

Our Recommendation:

HTML: Html sites, on the contrary, travel well between operating systems, work with any browser and are independent of software versions – therefore provide almost foolproof performance and expanded search functionality.