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To Flash or Not To Flash?
Usability and User Engagement of HTML vs. Flash

David T. Schaller and Steven Allison-Bunnell, eduweb,
Anthony Chow, Paul Marty, and Misook Heo, Florida State University, USA


Of the many challenges facing developers of museum Web sites, usability and engagement rank high. Many developers have adopted Macromedia Flash as a useful tool that allows greater interactivity and multimedia compared to HTML pages. This paper reports on a comparative evaluation of Flash and HTML versions of a single site, focusing on user information-seeking goals, behavior, and responses to each version of the site. We then compare the two versions based on holding power, time on task, user satisfaction, and qualitative interviews.

Testing found notable differences between the two versions of the site, and between youth and adult tester groups. The results provide valuable insights into the relative strengths and weaknesses of Flash and HTML. While we cannot draw broad conclusions from a single case study, these data can help us begin the discussion around developing preliminary standards and basic frameworks for suggesting rationales for choosing Flash or HTML in a number of typical situations facing museum Web developers.

Keywords: Web media, Flash, HTML, usability, engagement, user testing

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