I don't understand why some people still insist on having a Flash Intro on their site. Yes, I actually made a few of them myself back in the 90's when Flash first came out. There were sites that made you say "Whoa!" like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix but they served no purpose once you watched their amazing intro. Today, the internet is actually very useful and almost every company can benefit from having a web site. A Flash intro however, is not a useful thing to have on any site.
"What's a Flash Intro?"
If you've read this far and you have no idea what I'm referring to, either you've been blessed or you've only been to 3 other sites in your lifetime. A Flash intro is a little animation or cartoon, sometimes with music, that plays before the site you want to visit actually loads. Even more annoying is the length of time these animations take to load. If you're on dialup, you could wait 5 to 10 minutes to see a 60 second intro. When designers realized that people weren't waiting around long enough to enter their sites, they began adding a "Skip Intro" button that allows the visitor to jump directly to the content they wanted to see in the first place. Unfortunately, many site owners fail to realize that Flash intros are useless and a waste of their bandwidth.
This is not what you want visitors to see when they visit your site for the first time.
First, lets look at what people expect and then what they don't want. When someone clicks a link or hits 'Enter' on the keyboard, they expect a site to appear, complete with a title, description, navigational menu, and hopefully a nice looking layout. No one wants to see a blank page where they have to click a second button that says "Skip Intro" or "Click Here to Enter". No one wants to see "Loading..." for more than 5 seconds. People generally visit sites to look at pictures (G rated or otherwise), to learn about something, or to buy something.
Second, take a look at any large, successful company's site. You won't even see a Flash intro on Macromedia's site. What you will see is the clever use of Flash for menu navigation and Flash movies embedded next to HTML content. I'm never one to follow the crowd, but it pays to look at what other hugely popular sites are doing. If you want your site to look professional, don't begin with a Flash intro.
"Aren't people impressed by a cool intro?"
Yes, they could be. The question you have to ask is, do you want people to come back to your site because of its content or the intro? For every person that is impressed with your intro, do you want to turn away 10 other potential customers because they expected to see some content immediately? People are very fickle. When someone does a search on Google or another search engine, they get a list of results. If they click on your site and can't find what they want in a few seconds, they click on the next site in the list.
"So what should I do?"
There are several alternatives to using a Flash intro. You don't need spinning animations to get someone's attention. Great images work well too. Use a slideshow of your products on your homepage, like Exceed Wetsuits does. Use one large, background photo and flow your text over it, like I do on gallery215.com. Look through magazines and take notice of the full page ads that get your attention. Use the same style elements in your layout.
Small Flash animations like this one can be effective as elements of an HTML page.
A second approach is to keep your intro, scale it down, and add it to your homepage. Visitors will see your logo, title, description, menu, and a button that says, "Play Intro" or "Begin Tour". This way, your site loads immediately and visitors can decide to look at your Flash animation or not. People with dialup connections won't get annoyed and will be more likely to return to your site again. If you have an amazing Flash animation that people will talk about, each new visitor that comes to see the animation will also see what the rest of your site is about.
31 Jan 2009 10:01am
09 Jul 2009 6:39am
"Thanks for making this clear!"
22 Aug 2010 6:10am
"Thanks for the article... I'm using it to convince a client to forget the whole flash intro idea entirely! I like your design for this site too. It reminds me of one I had created for my own business, except I had a dark transparency over a bright image: big mistake! Rocking it dude ;-)"