The Future of Flash

For a number of years Flash was the most in-demand skill within the digital , but with the rapid growth of new platforms which don’t need Flash to operate, we are seeing less need for it.  Over the past year at Source we have only had around 11 or 12 full-time Flash designer roles, out of around 200 jobs in total.  However, we are still receiving freelance bookings from clients for Flash banner designers and coders. These are mainly from production agencies, or agencies that are at the production stage of a project. More and more though, our clients are producing projects using HTML 5, which is starting to become the default.  HTML allows you to be more dynamic with your designs and coding, whilst looking and working equally well on all platforms.  FWA (Favourite Website Awards) is still showcasing some of the world’s best Flash projects which continue to inspire us all, but as we know, Apple’s iPhone doesn’t support flash and Apple are currently leading the way with how the future of design will be.

Interestingly projects which involve design for kiosks, digital escalator panels, interactive bus shelters and other touch screen applications still use Flash, as it works well with ActionScript, Papervision, Away3D and augmented reality solutions.

Will you get paid more if you can use Flash?

Salaries for people with Flash are no higher or lower then other types of designers or developers.  Flash designers and coders can expect the following salaries:

Junior Designers/Flash Designers £18k-£25k £150pd- £200pd
Mid/w Designers/Flash Designers £25k-£38k £200pd- £250pd
Senior Designers/Flash Designers £40k-£55k £250pd- £325pd
Junior ActionScripters £18k-£25k £150pd- £180pd
Mid/w ActionScripters £25k-£40k £200pd- £250pd
Senior ActionScripters £40k-£60k £250pd- £400pd

Does Flash remain a key skill worth training in? Read on for opinions from some of the industry’s thought-leaders:

“Flash is a flexible set of tools that offer easy multimedia capabilities and entry points at all levels of ability. In our prototyping we strive to use the best tool for a certain job, not just the tool that we know best so I’d say that Flash definitely has a future but it is not the only technology around. It has the advantage of being present in one form or another on many mobile devices and as such is a valuable skill to have but it needs to form part of a portfolio of skills – I would want to see it partnered it with javascript & HTML or Qt Quick & C++.”
Alistair Wharton – Design Technology Lead – Nokia

“Given that HTML5 is pretty damn good already – I would rather not be a flash developer when it gets up to HTML8”.
Will Cole – Creative Director – Maverick Media

“Flash is still used, but sparingly it seems. Gone are the days when agencies like ourselves would deliver flash site after flash site. There is so much you can do without flash now, and there’s a big emphasis on accessibility from most clients. However, it’s still a useful tool when delivering specialist products, and I would say its a skill that’s still needed, albeit less frequently – I mean someone out there still needs to know Flash right?”
Will Pyne – Owner – Holler London

“If you’re looking for a digital design career more focussed towards advertising flash is still a useful skill set to have as it’s still the standard application for online advertising production. But, if your focus is larger scale website design flash is definitely in demise because of increased web standards and brands looking to produce SEO friendly, accessible online experiences. Add to this the emergence of mobile and tablet devices, particularly the iPad which doesn’t support flash and you’ve got some pretty big reasons for flash moving out of favour.”
Anthony Oanes – Associate Creative Director – Lbi

“Flash is still one of the ‘tools of the trade’ for any online designer and being installed on 98% of internet connected browsers it is still a valid piece of software.  At Disney we are trying to reduce the heavy reliance on Flash, finding alternatives to create a more efficient, optimal and accessible multiplatform user experience. Much of Flash’s simple interactive content can be replaced by an alternative code-base such as HTML5, but it still leads the way in regard to online casual gaming, video streaming and short-form animation where it will still remain the ‘go to’ piece of software for the foreseeable future.”
James Bruce – Head of Creative – Disney EMEA

“There is no doubt that the future of flash on mobile devices has been put into perspective with the recent Apple iPad announcement.  But, Flash has always had a minor slice of the digital content pie – after all, flash driven sites only account for a fraction of online sites – and this share is likely to continue to shrink.  Recent projects we delivered in a subset of HTML5 have demonstrated real potential for rich web experiences – some of which are arguably more accessible (no plugin required), possibly less processor intensive and platform independent.  Ultimately, if Flash were to go extinct, as a creative I would miss the flexible and intuitiveness of its script and timeline based interface.”
Yann Caloghiris – Head of Film & Video – Navyblue

“10 years ago Flash was the creative saviour of digital creatives, they could finally make pretty, interesting and interactive applications.  But the digital technology has moved on. However with the arrival of HTML 5 and the number of platforms that support HTML5 instead of flash, I certainly wouldn’t call Flash a generalist digital skill set anymore.   I’m not only referring to Apple’s reluctance to support flash. The biggest emerging technologies like WebTV and Mobile won’t be using flash.

Flash has already become a niche product and it will continue to have a niche market for a few years to come e.g. in some types of PC based gaming.
It will soon become a speciality like Adobe Director: perfect if that’s your game but it won’t be an ongoing requirement for advertising and marketing agency creative staff.  Last year I would’ve insisted that every digital designer have some flash experience e.g. for building banners. But in a year’s time this will no longer be a required skill set for digital creatives.”
Leroyson Figueira – Digital Creative Director – Haygarth

“Flash is essential to a huge amount of digital activity – and irrelevant to much more. As an animation tool, it’s not that sophisticated. It has issues with accessibility. It tempts designers into thinking they’re movie makers, forgetting the attention span of web users.  But because it does what it does so well, it going to be around a while longer.  We use flash in our work because it offers such a handy mid point between the back and front ends – between the data and the eyeball.  It’s been around long enough to be just about the only guaranteed cross platform and browser language.  It just works – and that counts for a lot.  But the big question here is ‘What happens when Steve Jobs dies?’ His feud with Adobe and refusal to include flash for the iPhone and iPad has started all this anxiety. As well as drive the demand for Android phones that have no such inhibitions.”
Matthew Maxwell – Digital Creative Director – Draft/FCB

“For the next few years there won’t be a technology with the penetration and features of Flash. As time goes on, simple Flash applications, banners and games will be built using HTML5 and Flash will be used to create mainly complex and rich applications. There is some amazing work in HTML5 largely created by Flash Developers, such as Mr Doob and Seb Lee-Delisle but HTML5 is still much less developed compared to Flash, especially from a programmer’s perspective.
Learning Flash Development is a great introduction to programming plus it’s very easy for a Flash Developer to learn other similar languages such as Javascript for HTML5, Objective C for iOS or Java for Android. Flash Development will be a valuable skill for the next few years and maybe beyond, but any good developer is not tied to one language. At Kitcatt Nohr Digitas in London and Digitas in New York, our Flash teams are starting to work in HTML5 and iOS as the skill sets are so similar.
I would say anyone getting into Flash Development now should also be coding Javascript and looking at the other new technologies that excite them like Open Frameworks or Arduino. No one knows what technologies we will be using in 3 years time but the skills that you learn as a Flash Developer equip you well to hop technologies as things evolve.”
Alistair Colling – Technical Manager – Kitcatt Nohr Digitas