When it comes to creating a new website, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration and a lot of decisions to be made. There are numerous tools, programming languages and aspects to think about, but if you are looking to make the website a bit more interactive, it all narrows down to two technologies: HTML5 and Flash. This article will compare the two technologies from various standpoints, allowing you to make the best decision and choose the one that’s right for your needs. If you are new to web design and are not very familiar with the technologies and other aspects, this online course on web design fundamentals is a must-read.
Flash has been around pretty much since the beginning of the Internet. Well, maybe not its exact beginning, but ever since you started seeing something moving on a website, chances are you were looking at a piece of Flash content. Flash uses containers to store the interactive content, which are then rendered in browsers using a plugin – Flash Player. Because the contents of the container don’t change from one platform to another, Flash content is basically platform-independent, so whether you’re watching a Flash-based website on your PC or on a mobile phone, it will look the same.
HTML5 uses a completely different approach, using pure code to generate the interactive content. This means that the elements are not pre-made in an exact form and stored, but rather have their characteristics coded and have the browser render the actual content when the page is loaded. For this reason, a HTML5 page can look and behave differently when accessed from different browsers, making it a bless for web designers that want to create different versions of their website for different platforms, and a real pain for those who just need to make a website look and feel the same on all devices.
When it comes to creating the actual content, Flash holds the upper hand, thanks to its longevity, which translates into a large resource pool and an even larger community to exchange ideas with. HTML5, on the other hand, is still a fairly new technology, so its capabilities are still limited at this point. This is prone to change, though, since the number of adopters grows quickly, but there it’s still a long road ahead. After all, you can’t expect a technology that’s just a few years old to catch up and surpass a technology that’s been in use for nearly two decades. Still, if it won’t be able to surpass it, HTML5 might incorporate it – that’s right, HTML5 content plays quite nicely with Flash content. Learn more about this aspect, and other HTML5 fundamentals from this online course.
Deploying Flash content is easy: you just upload the containers to your server, include the appropriate code into your website and pray that the visitor has Flash Player installed. That’s right, Flash content depends entirely on a variable that designers cannot control – whether the visitor has Flash Player installed or not. Even though the plugin is free to download, it isn’t included by default in most of the browsers out there, so unless the user installs it manually, Flash content won’t run.
HTML5 content works differently: you upload the files to your server, you create the code and the whole thing is put together by the browser, without any external plugins being necessary. However, HTML5 has a downside of its own at this chapter, namely the fact that older browsers don’t render it correctly or don’t render it at all. The newly introduced
As a fine irony, Google Chrome is the browser with the best support for HTML5, and also one of the very few browsers that come with the Flash Plugin installed by default.
Performance and Usability
New technologies are usually created to be more effective than the technologies they aim to replace. This applies to this scenario as well, as the amount processing power needed by a browser to render a HTML5-based page is considerably lower than the amount of processing power needed to fun Flash content. This is one of HTML5’s strong points, especially considering the fact that a lot of people use smartphones or tablets to browse the Internet, devices which have limited performance.
In the pre-HTML5 era, designers used to create different website versions for different devices, so when you accessed the website from your PC you would get one version, while accessing it from a mobile phone would get you a stripped-down version. Needless to say flash content was very limited or completely missing. HTML5 aims to solve that by being lighter on resources and by giving the designers an easy way to create variations of their website in order to get the best performance on the platform that’s being used to access the website. You can learn more about responsive designs and how to create them using HTML5 from this online course.
To put it simply, HTML5 is free while Flash is not. To be more clear, in order to avoid confusion: HTML5 is indeed free, as you can write your whole code in Notepad if you’d like to; still, you will need to create your images and other elements, process which might involve additional software, such as Photoshop.
Flash content, on the other side, has its dedicated development environment, which you have to buy. On the upside, the Adobe Flash environment comes with pretty much everything you need to create what you need, and if you need additional software, such as Photoshop, chances are you can get a pretty good deal since both Photoshop and Flash are developed by Adobe. If you want to convince yourself of just how powerful Flash still is, check out this Adobe Flash CS5 introductory course.
If you’re expecting a “choose this, it is better”-type of advice here, you will be disappointed. Why? Because both HTML5 and Flash are powerful technologies, and since each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, it’s safe to say that they’re both winners. It all depends on what you need them for.