*quick edit: I’ve gone ahead and included some of the anonymous answers on the survey in long form and completely unedited.  If you are interested in reading these responses, please click here. If you have yet to read this entire article, I strongly suggest you do that first – unless, of course, you enjoy being confused…


About three weeks ago I openly asked the following question on Twitter:

Why?  Well, for whatever reason I struggle with Flash implementations because I always feel like I’m waiting.  Loading bars are no longer cool to me, but rather a reminder that I’m actually waiting.  Also, I don’t like that a simple website can take up 90% of my system resources.  Mostly I don’t like having to “re-learn” how to navigate what I feel like should be a simple site.  Some Flash portfolios make me feel dumb.  How the @#$%! do I control this thing?!  They seem to vary wildly in how they are controlled – not all of them, but enough to annoy me.  If I have to wait too long, can’t figure out how to control your site, stare at a loading bar… I’m gone 80% of the time.  I’m not necessarily proud of it.  These are just my opinions so please don’t read too much into it – opinions people.  Not a sword I’d fall heavily on and I’m not tell you to feel this way


The question elicited quite a few responses from people who shared much of the same sentiment.  The amount of responses I received, within minutes, was surprising.  People shared things like “I can’t stand the loading times!” or “Lack of iDevice support ruins the experience for me!”  Other people complained about the ability to control the platform.  Let’s get one thing straight – I don’t hate Flash and I’m certainly not against using it for the most part.  It’s a great and often quick way for photographers to get an immediate web-presence and is an absolute lifesaver for those who don’t have the time or skill to throw something else up.  It’s a tool, just like everything else – tools have limitations.

What is it exactly that bothers some people about Flash-based portfolios?

I decided to send out just a few emails asking friends what they thought.  The responses were interesting:

“When I’m on the desktop and come across a Flash website, I get frustrated at the loading time, and then when it does load, if it’s a slideshow I often get frustrated that it is too slow, or too fast. I would prefer to click on images I want to see at my own pace.” – Zoë Ambler (@phozographer)

“Often the flash animations seem to take more importance than the work in the profile.” – Joel Kooistra (@JoelKooistra)

“Flash sites don’t allow the user/customer/viewer to control his/her interaction with the site.  I can’t pick the images I want to open and I have to wait for an image to load once I select it.”  Lane Davis (@lanedavis)

Flash solves a lot of [problems] – except for mobile. However, like most things, once they are overused, or used as a crutch, [they]fall out of favor. I think Flash portfolio’s solve the problems of everyone but the user or viewer.” – Eric Dacus (@edacus)

“Speed is a big issue. I’m not on communist China’s broadband, but I am impatient and,at times, time-limited. Watching a line crawl, a spoke spin, numbers slowly increase, etc. is extremely annoying”. – Matthew Connors (@MatthewJConnors)

“The clincher with Flash is that it doesn’t work on an ipad. It doesn’t matter if you hate apple for not implementing Flash. There are x billion ipads sold and it is the perfect way to look at images so if you use Flash you are out of the loop.” – Robert van Koesveld (@photokoesveld)

“Flash does not easily allow you to make hyperlinks to [other] specific parts of your site.” – Jared Erickson (@alliswell)

“Basically, unless you’re building your brand around more of an “idea” and an “experience” and don’t really care about good branding or what’s best for you or your clientele, Flash is always a lose.” Zach McNair (@zachmcnair)


I decided to dig a bit deeper and go ahead and send out a mass survey to a sizable group of people and see what kind of results came back.  The survey covered the following subjects.

  • How user friendly do you find most Flash-based websites?  Do you generally enjoy the experience?
  • Do you feel in control of your experience on Flash-based websites?
  • Have you ever just simply left a Flash-based website because it was Flash?
  • Is speed ever an issue?
  • How much time do you spend on a mobile/iDevies daily?

The results are as follows:


The results were interesting and probably raised more questions than they answer for me.  Most of these topics were asked in comparison to other portfolio platforms that are not Flash based.  Some of these numbers are staggering to me:

  • Only 23% of the people I surveyed said they had generally, at best, a “non-hindered” experience with Flash based portfolios
  • Only freaking 4% said they “almost always” enjoy their Flash experience while 43% say it’s a pain?!?
  • 4% said they feel more in control of a Flash-based portfolio versus other non-Flash-based portfolios.
  • 55% of surveyed people are online more than 3 hours per day with a mobile device; 74% more than 2 hours per day.
  • Only 9% of people surveyed say they never have the urge to simply leave a Flash website.
  • More than 50% of people surveyed say they describe the experience as “Boxy and confined”

There is unarguably value to knowing what your user base thinks – but these results raise more than a few questions:

  • What should we do as users become less and less patient & more and more mobile?
  • Are we limiting our audience by the platform we use – specifically with iDevices?
  • More and more web dev’s are moving away from Flash for more versatile platforms.  Of the 5 developers I surveyed, none of them have designed a flash website post 2004.
  • What should this say about the prevalence of Flash among photographers?  Behind the times or not?
  • Not all Flash implementations are the same, but do the majority of bad implementations influence user’s feelings about the good ones?


A person’s body of work SHOULD speak for itself.  By all means we should be worrying more about our body of work than our website.  At the same time we should be asking ourselves these questions.  What do you think?

What do you think about the reputation, strengths, and weaknesses of Flash based portfolios?

*notes:  I’m not a polling genius (or smart) and probably did all sorts of things wrong – if you are freaking out about that, don’t miss the point here.  It’s a discusion and these are some starting points for that discussion.  The questions present are honest questions and any bias read into them is totally my dumb fault.