Many people request Flash splash pages when they initially contact me about designing their web site. My standard answer is that I would rather them not have me design it. Now, you might be thinking, “Are you an idiot? Flash splash page design is good money! Why are you throwing away an easy sale like that?” My answer to that is my focus is providing high-quality web sites that work and provide my clients with value. The goal is to avoid bad website layout design ideas! The problem is that splash pages in almost all circumstances create a poor user experience (and we all know what that means… fewer sales conversion).
Here are just a few reasons why a splash page is a bad idea for the typical web site:
- It provides a barrier to accessing the content. Reducing the number of clicks someone has to perform to achieve an objective on your web site is critical. You don’t want them to have to jump through more hoops than needed.
- Slow load time for users with slower connections. This can be negated with a “loading” animation, but let me ask you this, “Would you rather them spending precious time looking at that bar or extremely good sales copy that’s going to make your client whipping his credit card out to buy your products?”
- Users just don’t care about your splash page. Most introductions on these are vague and just talk about how a company is cutting edge, cool, fast paced, etc. That’s all nice, but customers don’t care about “you”. They care about themselves and the benefits they’ll receive from your products.
- Search engines do not like splash pages. They cannot index Flash files like they can text. This means you’ve just added another hurdle to getting your content indexed.
- Navigation consistency is broken. Splash pages usually consist of “Enter Here” and “Skip Intro” links. This breaks the flow of the web site’s main navigation which is normally “home”, “services”, “about”, etc. This ties in with search engines having a hard time indexing your site. If they come to yourname.com and your root level document is a splash page, it may not always index all your sub-pages.
By now, it should be pretty clear why splash pages may not be the best idea. If that’s not enough, here’s a quote straight from Macromedia’s (the creators of Flash) User Interface Engineer Jared Spool:
“When we have clients who are thinking about Flash splash pages, we tell them to go to their local supermarket and bring a mime with them. Have the mime stand in front of the supermarket, and, as each customer tries to enter, do a little show that lasts two minutes, welcoming them to the supermarket and trying to explain the bread is on aisle six and milk is on sale today.
“Then stand back and count how many people watch the mime, how many people get past the mime as quickly as possible, and how many people punch the mime out.
“That should give you a good idea as to how well their splash page will be received. That’s the crux of it.”
However, Jared did add, if 100% of your site visitors are coming to learn one thing and one thing only from you, then a splash page might work. His example, “Michael Jackson’s home page today could say ‘I’m innocent of all charges,’ and that would be it.”
As you can see splash pages are disliked even by the people that made the software used to create them. As Joel Spool explained, splash pages do have a place in the world. It is just very limited. Basically, you will want to skip splash pages unless you’re promoting a one page movie trailer site or some other extremely unique concept that you believe will get a lot of links from 3rd parties or has a large promotions budget behind it.
Update Oct 11, 2012: Flash is not supported by mobile devices such as the Apple iPhone and iPad and more recently Android devices are doing away with it as well. Just one more nail in the coffin of Flash splash pages.