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What\’s Wrong with my Website?

Useless Flash Welcome Pages

We’re not fans of Flash on inn/B&B/hotel websites, but we’re especially not fans of useless Welcome pages.

The Oatmeal is a funny, irreverent site. Today they take on this topic and others in 8 Websites You Need to Stop Building.

Websites with Flash Intros

What's Wrong with Your Website – Stop Using Flash

Flash is evil. Aaron Wall, SEO Book

Like Aaron, we don’t like Flash and we don’t think you should have it on your website!

I look at a lot of inn, B&B and hotel websites and many of them use Flash. There seem to be three main reasons (excuses?):

    Adobe Flash

  1. Slide shows
  2. Fancy navigation bars & menus
  3. Splash pages (which are a complete waste of your visitors’ time and clicks!)

Why is this important to me or my visitors?

Flash has four big problems. The first is technical, but still impacts your site visitors. The other three impact your ability to reach as many people as possible.ipad.png

  1. Flash has some technical problems that create headaches for your visitors. It consumes a lots of computer resources (memory, CPU) for your site visitors, which can slow down and destabilize their computers. And it’s probably the leading cause of browser crashes. You don’t want your customers cursing you because their browser crashed while they were viewing your website.
  2. Flash doesn’t work at all on some devices and platforms. Most importantly: Flash does not work on iPhones and iPads. Apple have picked a fight here and have made it clear that Flash doesn’t work on these devices and will never work on these devices.
  3. Flash can negatively impact your websites search engine results (SEO). Aaron Wall, one of the leading SEO authorities on the web, says the following in his SEO Book: “Search engines struggle to index, navigate, and classify flash. Flash typically offers little descriptive content, so even if engines could index it, most won’t care to.
  4. Because of #1, more and more people are using tools in their browsers to block Flash. Some of these tools include FlashBlock for FireFox and ClicktoFlash for Safari. I use these and this is what I see when I visit a site with a Flash “splash page”.

Here’s what I see on a couple of sites that rely on Flash (click to enlarge):

What does SiteValet do about this?

Our sites don’t use Flash … at all. We achieve the same sorts of effects using CSS and Javascript. Right now we might not achieve all that can be achieved with Flash, but we continue to find and implement new tools and effects. And our customers rest easy, knowing that they’re providing a good user experience for all their website visitors.

The only exception to this might be video. Embedding video from sites like YouTube and Vimeo still relies on Flash. But even these sites are beginning to offer ways to deliver web video without Flash.

Further Reading:

What's Wrong with Your Website – Code … the Techie Stuff

On of our goals at SiteValet is to take care of the technical stuff so you don’t have to worry about it. But you should at least understand why this stuff is important.

Why is this important to me or my visitors?

You need to make sure your site has been properly coded and that it uses certain technical best practices. This is critical for two big reasons:

  • It ensures your site displays properly on different devices (think iPhone, iPad, Blackberry) and in different browsers. This is becoming more and more important as more users visit your site from mobile devices. This is especially true as travellers are making last-minute, on-the-road travel planning decisions with their smartphones.
  • It’s one of the key steps in optimizing your site for search engines (SEO) like Google.

To put it as plainly as possible: There’s a good chance your website looks weird or doesn’t display at all on smartphones and other devices. And there’s some very low hanging fruit in terms of what you can do to improve your placement in search engine results!

OK. Tell me more.

First, there are a number of coding standards that your site should adhere to. Without getting too technical, here are a few :

  • The code of your site should be well structured. By using using various levels of headings, your site can convey the relationships between pieces of content and their relative importance. This helps search engines understand your site better.
  • There should be a clear separation of content (HTML) and formatting/style (CSS). Older sites (5+ years old) will fail in this regard, as this is a (somewhat) newer practice. Even today, some web developers aren’t diligent in this regard.

Next, there are a few additional files or features your site should have:

  • 301 Permanent Redirect. This tells Google and others that a website at one URL can actually be found at another URL. The most common example is redirecting mysite.com to www.mysite.com. Without this 301 redirect, search engines treat those two URLs as separate sites. This can dramatically reduce the SEO impact of multiple links to your site from other websites. For example, if you have 50 sites linking to you using the URL www.mysite.com, and another 50 sites linking to you at mysite.com (no www), Google will only give you “credit” for 50 inbound links. But with a 301 redirect, Google knows and credits you for 100 inbound links. And inbound links are the single biggest driver of search engine optimization.
  • sitemap.xml. This file gives search engines information about the structure of your site and also lets them know when parts of your site have been updated.
  • robots.txt. This file give instructions to search engines like Google about what they should and shouldn’t add to their search engines. It’s primarily used to tell Google to ignore particular directories of files on your site that don’t include actual content that you want showing up in searches. The robots.txt file can also be used to tell Google that you have a sitemap.xml file and where to find it.

What does SiteValet do about these things?

  1. SiteValet websites use well-structured, valid HTML and CSS. We properly separate content (HTML) from style (CSS). We test our code on multiple browsers and devices to ensure your website displays properly.Valid CSS
  2. We automatically create a 301 Permanent Redirect for the www.mysite.com and mysite.com URLs of your site. We’ll also create additional redirects for any other domain names you may have registered that you want pointing to your main site.
  3. We automatically generate a sitemap.xml file for your site and we submit it to Google and Yahoo. The sitemap.xml file is automatically updated anytime you make changes to your site.
  4. We automatically create the robots.txt file, with all relevant entries.

Further reading:

  • Blizzard Internet Marketing’s 5 Invisible Things. Trent mentions some other best practices, too. We cover them, too, but I’ll write about them in separate posts.