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Acceptable Uses of Flash

Document Type: Standard


HHS must use Flash (animation, video) only when it helps convey, or is supportive of, the Web sites message or other content. All uses of Flash must be approved at the concept stage before design and/or coding begins. HHS will not use Flash for navigation. HHS will not design Flash to play automatically; the decision to view flash must rest with site visitors.

In addition, when providing content in Flash format, HHS must conform to accessibility (Section 508) best practices, such as providing users with a non-Flash (HTML) or accessible Flash version (e.g., with tagging for readability by screen readers).


Flash for the sake of flash is a distraction and annoyance. Used productively, multimedia can add great value to a site’s content.  Flash animation and video should only be used when there are clear and useful reasons; it should not be used to make a site “flashy".


Overuse of motion can negatively affect the user’s experience.  Thus, HHS prohibits animation that blinks or moves simply to attract attention.  Animation that opens with a new page is also banned.  (There may be exceptions, but they must be approved in the concept phase before implementing.) 

All Flash videos must have user controls to start, stop, rewind, and adjust volume as appropriate.  Other implementations of Flash should have appropriate controls that are fitting to the situation. 

Flash files should be embedded and users should be provided with links to download the Flash player if they do not already have it.  Alternate versions (non-Flash) should also be provided for users who do not view Flash files.  Finally, users should be provided with an explanation of animation before it begins to help them better integrate the animation and associated content. In other words, HHS should briefly explain to users what they are about to see before they see it.


Flash is a creative element and its utilization is evolving.  All proposed use must be approved at concept stage. Exemptions may be granted on a case by case basis. 


  • Campbell and Maglio, 1999; Chen and Yu, 2000; Faraday and Sutcliffe, 1997; Faraday, 2000; Faraday, 2001; Harrison, 1995; Nielsen, 2000; Park and Hannafin, 1993; Reeves and Rickenberg, 2000; Spinillo and Dyson, 2000/2001; Sundar, Edgar and Mayer, 2000. 

Related Web Standards and Usability Guidelines: