September 7, 2006, 12:00 AM

New site is designed for consumers, not spiders

Search engine spiders can’t crawl a site’s Flash content, so most sites are built in HTML with Flash elements embedded. But to improve the customer experience, new blinds site is based on Flash.


Search engine marketing firms generally recommend sites use mostly HTML, with needed Flash elements embedded within that, given search engine spiders’ ability to crawl HTML but not Flash-based content. When designing its just-launched private-label custom blinds site,, retailer HomeSublime – which also operates – went in another direction: it build a site almost entirely based on Flash.


The site allows consumers to click on any of its more than 350 swatches to apply them to a model window treatment. The action scripting programming underlying the new site dynamically renders a depiction of the chosen option on the window display.


The Flash-based functionality was necessary to provide customers with that experience on a level acceptable to HomeSublime, says vice president of marketing Sarah Perkinson. Without Flash, the site would depend on photography from manufacturers – not available in every color and option possible with a custom order, which would have left the custom-order customer without an adequate picture of exactly what they are buying, she adds.


The company looked at dynamic rendering from outside providers but decided to do the development work itself. It uses mathematical formulas and action scripting to build the renderings, factoring in how opaque the window treatment should be in the rendering so as to give an accurate representation; how light falling on the patterns would change the view when the shade was totally vs. partially closed, and other elements.


HomeSublime is exploring development options that could work around the challenge Flash presents to search engine optimization. But the fact that the Flash-built site would start out less search-engine friendly than one built in HTML was the source of “a huge debate” in the company, Perkinson says, one it’s betting a better consumer experience and word-of-mouth will outweigh. “In order to be able to show what we wanted to show on the windows, we had to be able to use Flash 8,” she says, referring to the technology`s latest release. Most of the rest of the site is built in the previous version of Flash. “We felt that was what was missing in the industry and it’s really a given in every other category.”


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