Depending on who you talk to, Macromedia Flash may be the predominant product for web construction in the not too distant future. The problem Flash developers face at the moment is search engines reluctance to index anything in a Flash (.swf) file.
With the increasing acceptance that search engines provide the key to sustained, profitable traffic to a web site this causes concern for anyone intending to develop a highly graphical site in Flash.
Listening to Search Engine Marketing (SEM) experts talk at the Search Engine Strategies conference in Sydney (July2002) there was very little interest expressed towards solving this issue. When asked by a Flash developer what can be done to help her search rankings there were two standard responses throughout the conference.
The first was, "Build a duplicate site without Flash", the second was "Don't use Flash - It doesn't sell anyway".
To give credit, Detlev Johnson, the moderator for a number of the sessions mentioned that search engines can in fact index Flash files they just choose not to. The reason behind this is supposedly that Flash files do not contain enough pertinent information regarding relevant search results.
SEM companies have a tendancy to shy away (and for good reason) from anything that does not increase rankings. Because of this there is a lack of pressure on the search engines to include Flash in search results. A second likely reason for this is that most SEM representatives come from either a copy writing or technical developing background. This may be a generalisation but it does add to the difficulty for designers coming up against reluctance to include more graphical UI's.
The designer is left with facing either a minimalistic approach (which is the common trend among developers on the web at the moment) or duplicating all content.
Pressure needs to be increased on the search engines from SEM professionals to include Flash files instead of focusing purely on ways to get around the current lack of acceptance.
Feedback is welcome - do you face a similar stumbling block or do you have other ideas for solving the issue?
Gary Jensen, B.com, LLB.