Creating banners in Flash, GIF of HTML5?

It has been said many times before: motion pictures are far more likely to catch the attention then static images. This means that an animated banner will catch more attention than a static banner. Now you may wonder what the perfect file type is to create that awesome banner: Flash, GIF or HTML5? There are some differences between these file types that need more explanation. Below, you’ll read more about the differences between Flash, Gif and HTML5, the advantages and the disadvantages and why we think HTML5 has the future.

Flash banners

Since long, Flash of Adobe Systems, has been the most commonly used software for creating animated banners. This is no surprise, as Flash offers a lot of advantages. You can use it to create advanced animations, the graphical quality is high, and the output is limited in size. It has some disadvantages as well. One of them is that Flash is a ‘closed’ format. This means that, in order to view the Flash banners, you need the free Flash player as provided by Adobe. This Flash player is not installed on every device. Furthermore, adjusting Flash files is generally cumbersome.

Will Flash disappear?

Over the past few years the use of Flash has decreased sharply. More and more people have switched to alternative solutions for creating animated banners. The decrease started when Apple refused to support Flash on iPad and iPhone. Several parties followed this decision of Apple. At first, the support on mobile devices decreased. Nowadays, Flash support on desktop computers shows a downward trend as well. The newest version of Google Chrome only shows ‘essential Flash content’. Other Flash content, such as web banners, are paused in order to save laptop batteries. Chrome is not the only browser discouraging the use of Flash. A while ago, Mozilla Firefox blocked the Flash player because of security problems. Since the beginning of 2015, YouTube stopped using Flash. Instead they make use of the HTML5 standard for their video player in Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Safari 8 and the beta versions of Firefox. This means that the chances people will see your Flash banner is getting smaller and smaller each day.

HTML5 banners as alternative

HTML5 (Hyper Text Markup Language 5) is not new. In fact, it already exists for years. However, it took some time before HTML5 could be seen as a full alternative to Flash. In October 2014, HTML5 has become a real W3C Recommendation. This means that HTML5 is an official web standard now. While Flash is being blocked by more and more browsers, the acceptance for HTML5 as a new standard is growing each day. And for good reason, as HTML5 appears to be a good alternative for Flash. hIt offers enough options to create great things, such as video players, games and last but not least: awesome web banners!

The power of HTML5

The main strength of HTML5 is that it provides one technological standard. In HTML5 it is possible to embed all types of rich content (video, audio, charts, animations, etc.) without using any plugins or third party software. The functionality is built into the browser. Once you’ve made a creation, it can be deployed on multiple platforms. Besides, HTML5 is open source. In contrast to Flash, there’s no need to buy a software license. Furthermore, adjusting files in HTML5 is easier than in Flash. Of course, you need to have the right technological knowledge, but the amount of developers with skills in HTML5 (like the developers at GO! Grafi Offshore) is growing rapidly. And last but not least: all modern browsers on all modern devices are supporting HTML5. It is far more likely your banners will reach a broad audience by using HTML5.

Disadvanages of HTML5 banners

Not everything in the garden is rosy. HTML5 has some disadvantages as well. One of them is that the range of fonts to be used is less than Flash. Furthermore, old browsers don’t support HTML5, the animation options are a bit less than Flash and at this moment HTML5 doesn’t support live streaming (yet). Despite these disadvantages, the chance your banner is viewed by your audience is much higher when using HTML5 then using Flash. And this gets higher every day!

GIF banners

Gif is a short term for Graphics Interchange Format. It is based on a powerful algorithm to comprise the file size. This is the main advantage of creating a banner in Gif: the limited file size. Another advantage is that Gif is supported on all devices. Gif has some limitations as well. One of them is the low graphical quality. Gif only supports 256 colors. This means the quality of the images is quite low. Furthermore, the options to animate are limited, leading to not very subtle transitions.

GIF as backup option

As the graphical output of Gif is quite limited, compared to HTML5 and Flash, the main reason to use Gif is as a backup option. In case the HTLM5 or Flash banner can’t be shown, Gif is a perfect backup solution. You may think of Gif as an inferior solution. To some extent you may be right, but when it comes to CTR statistics, there’s no negative relationship between Gif banners and the click through ratio. There are multiple factors influencing the click behavior. Banner layout is only one of them…

Should I create my banner in Flash, HTML5 or Gif?

A clear trend is visible. HTML5 has the future, Flash is losing ground. If you must choose between HTML5 and Flash, we definitely advise you to go for HTML5. By creating a banner in HTML5, you know for sure it will be shown on mobile devices. And as mobile is still growing compared to desktop, the chances you reach a broad audience by using HTML5 are bigger compared to using Flash. That’s why we think HTML5 is the best solution for creating banners. Gif is still a good alternative, second choice, especially if you have to deal with limitations in Kb.

One last note: Flash isn’t dead (yet). There are still advertising networks that only support Flash, and not HTML5. And there still is a group of people using old browsers. Are your arrows aimed at these people? In that case, creating a Flash banner together with a backup Gif banner, can be a valid option.

Questions? Call or mail me!

If you have any questions about banners, please contact me. I’d be happy to help. You can reach me on +31 (0)168 476 144 or send me an e-mail.

Lars van Dijkman
Project Manager Interactive & Multimedia