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Flash and Ecommerce

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

According to Adobe Flash is “…the most advanced authoring environment for creating rich, interactive content for digital, web, and mobile platforms. Create interactive websites, rich media advertisements, instructional media, engaging presentations, games, and more”. Although Flash can be used to create dynamic applications it commonly is used for adding a “WOW” factor to many websites.

While using Flash to deliver your content and manage orders may seem like a great way to make your users’ experience more pleasant it actually can work against you and prevent you from even getting customers in the first place! While Flash may be a method of delivering eye catching content to your website it is not suited to powering websites especially ecommerce websites.

The problems with using Flash for ecommerce include:

  1. Not everyone has a Flash player installed on their computer

    Adobe claims that Flash is installed on 98% of all computers. While that number is very impressive it still is not 100%. That remaining 2% of users who do not have Flash installed will not be able to access your site. Another way to phrase that is to say they will not be able to make purchases from your website. Would any smart business shut out 2% or more of their customer base needlessly when they can use an alternative that lets everybody in?

  2. Flash is not very accessible

    While it is true that Flash is more accessible then it used to be, the unfortunate truth of the matter is it still isn’t as accessible as properly written HTML. While this may not be an issue to most users there is a large, and growing, portion of Internet users who have some sort of disability that requires them to access websites differently then many users. Flash, intentionally or not, may prevent some users from being able to access your site. An alternative would be to build a non-Flash-based version of your site for users who cannot use Flash. The problem with this is two fold: not only do you have a second website to maintain which means extra development and maintenance costs but why would you want to have a fully accessible version of your website be an alternative instead of how you deliver your content in the first place?

  3. You lose the power of semantic markup

    In the world of search engine optimization HTML plays a very important role in helping the search engines understand what your pages are about. They can use tags, <h>eading tags, and more to infer what a page about. Basically, if a page’s title or heading contains keywords within them the odds are the page is probably about them in some fashion. If you do not have HTML to markup your content you leave no clues for the search engines to use to determine the importance of keywords in your content. Do you know any ecommerce site owners who would willingly give up the potential for thousands of not millions of free visitors and potential customers just to use flash when they can have an equally exciting shopping experience using HTML/CSS/JavaScript? </p> </li> <li>You don’t have any anchor text since you don’t have any internal links <p> Expanding on the point above, a huge factor in determine a page’s ranking are links. While this can get complex the part we are concerned about are internal links. Internal links are links on your website’s web pages that link other other pages within your own website. When done properly these links play a very important part in helping search engines determine what a page is about. Once again, because Flash-based website do not use HTML you lack these internal links. That just kills your site’s rankings in Google and Yahoo. </p> </li> </ol> <p>The short of it is this: if you plan on developing an ecommerce website do not use Flash to deliver your important content. This includes your product information and shopping cart. Stick to proven methods that are not only accessible to the vast majority of users but to the search engines as well. This means using a shopping cart that produces HTML. If you feel a need to use Flash for that “WOW” factor use it to enhance portions of your site that do not deliver important content. This can be internal ads that promote other products on your website or let your users see data you do not want or cannot be viewed by the search engines like the products a customer has placed in their shopping cart (search engines cannot view this because they aren’t looking over your customers’ shoulder while they shop!)<!--3170e5aa5d68c8407365e413ae17f23d--></p> </div> <p class="postmetadata">Posted in <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/category/ecommerce/" title="View all posts in Ecommerce" rel="category tag">Ecommerce</a> | <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/flash-and-ecommerce/#respond" title="Comment on Flash and Ecommerce">No Comments »</a></p> </div> <div class="post"> <h3 id="post-109"><a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/blocking-high-risk-countries-from-using-your-website/" rel="bookmark" title="Permanent Link to Blocking High Risk Countries From Using Your Website">Blocking High Risk Countries From Using Your Website</a></h3> <small>Tuesday, July 17th, 2007</small> <div class="entry"> <p>A common problem in ecommerce is fraudulent orders from overseas customers. The risk is so high in fact that some merchant account providers will not allow their merchants to accept orders from foreign countries. Even if they did, and you wished to solicit foreign orders, some regions pose such a high risk for fraud that accepting any order from that region would be just bad business.</p> <p>So how do you reduce your risk of fraud from there regions? The easiest way to mitigate your risk is to block users from these regions from reaching your site. The Apache webserver offer the ability to block these regions as a group from your website. To do this create a file called .htaccess and place it in the root directory of your website (or your store if you only want to block that part). Place this code inside of it:</p> <p><code><br /> <Limit GET POST><br /> order allow,deny<br /> allow from all<br /> deny from 195<br /> deny from 218<br /> deny from 219<br /> deny from 220<br /> deny from 201<br /> deny from 221<br /> deny from 222<br /> deny from 202<br /> deny from 80<br /> deny from 223<br /> deny from 211<br /> deny from 60<br /> deny from 210<br /> deny from 57<br /> deny from 58<br /> deny from 59<br /> deny from 60<br /> deny from 77<br /> deny from 78<br /> deny from 79<br /> deny from 80<br /> deny from 81<br /> </Limit><br /> </code></p> <p>That’s it! This should block users from high risk parts of the world from accessing your site. Keep in mind they can still use an open proxy to make their IP address appear to be different and this doesn’t mean that the users now able to visit your site is honest. You still need to scrub your orders for fraud. But this should reduce the opportunity for fraudulent users in high risk areas to attempt to commit fraud on your website.</p> </div> <p class="postmetadata">Posted in <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/category/ecommerce/" title="View all posts in Ecommerce" rel="category tag">Ecommerce</a>, <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/category/programmers-toolbox/" title="View all posts in Programmers Toolbox" rel="category tag">Programmers Toolbox</a> | <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/blocking-high-risk-countries-from-using-your-website/#comments" title="Comment on Blocking High Risk Countries From Using Your Website">2 Comments »</a></p> </div> <div class="post"> <h3 id="post-84"><a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/high-assurance-ssl-certificates-make-their-debut/" rel="bookmark" title="Permanent Link to High Assurance SSL Certificates Make Their Debut">High Assurance SSL Certificates Make Their Debut</a></h3> <small>Saturday, January 13th, 2007</small> <div class="entry"> <p>As <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/microsoft-squeezing-the-small-ecommerce-shop/">previously mention in our blog</a> new high assurance <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> certificates have made their debut. If you visit <a href="https://www.entrust.com/" rel="nofollow">Entrust’s home page</a> in Internet Explorer 7 you will see the address bar turn green.</p> <p>As mention in our original blog post these new <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> certificates will be expensive. Entrust sells theirs for $99. Verisign is offering packages that <i>start</i> at $1300 per year. Once again, it looks like the small ecommerce shop will be priced out of game.</p> <p>Technorati Tags: <a class="performancingtags" href="http://technorati.com/tag/ecommerce" rel="tag">ecommerce</a>, <a class="performancingtags" href="http://technorati.com/tag/ssl certificate" rel="tag">ssl certificate</a><!--95a11cbf3ffa18fbb66b1839aa356a75--></p> </div> <p class="postmetadata">Posted in <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/category/ecommerce/" title="View all posts in Ecommerce" rel="category tag">Ecommerce</a> | <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/high-assurance-ssl-certificates-make-their-debut/#respond" title="Comment on High Assurance SSL Certificates Make Their Debut">No Comments »</a></p> </div> <div class="post"> <h3 id="post-80"><a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/microsoft-squeezing-the-small-ecommerce-shop/" rel="bookmark" title="Permanent Link to Microsoft Squeezing the Small Ecommerce Shop?">Microsoft Squeezing the Small Ecommerce Shop?</a></h3> <small>Tuesday, December 26th, 2006</small> <div class="entry"> <p>Shortly after the new year, Microsoft plans to move forward with a plan to flag certain ecommerce and banking sites as “safe” in an upcoming update to its Internet Explorer 7 browser. It will do this by looking for a special kind of <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> certificate called an “extended validation certificate”. For an ecommerce site to qualify as safe their SSL issuer will need to do an extensive check on the ecommerce applicant as well as an audit by a company called WebTrust.</p> <p>What these companies will be verifying are:</p> <ul> <li> Physical existence <p> The certificate issuer must verify that the business’ legally registered address matches the address provided to the certificate issuer. If they do not match the issuer must visit the physical location provided by the business to verify that it exists. In these cases photographs of the business’ location must be provided. </p> </li> <li> Legal existence and identity <p> The certificate issuer must verify that the business is legally registered. <acronym title="Doing Business As">DBA</acronym>‘s (Doing Business As) that differ from the business’ legal name will also need to be individually verified. </p> </li> <li> Individual’s authorization <p> The person applying for the certificate must be verified as being a legal representative of the applying business with the authority to apply for the certificate. This requires contacting the business as well as receiving a written verification. </p> </li> <li> Domain name <p> The domain name that the certificate is being applied for must be verified as being owned by the business. This means verifying the whois information as well as possible having the site owner make specified changes to the website to verify they do in fact control the domain. </p> </li> <li> Telephone number <p> The telephone number provided in the application for the certificate must be verified. This can mean calling the number or checking publicly available phone directories. Cell phone numbers will typically not be allowed. </p> </li> </ul> <p>Although at a glance this sounds like it will offer a strong assurance for potentially new online shoppers, there are issues with this process. Business registered for less then three years may require further validation including verification that they have a valid business bank account. Because many of these checks require government filings certain business entities (sole proprietorships, general partnerships, unincorporated associations) will not be able to get these certificates. Also, due to the amount of work that must be performed by the certificate issuer to validate the business, the cost for these certificates will be substantially higher with costs possibly reaching as high as $500 or more.</p> <p>Because only a limited subset of all businesses will be eligible to receive these certificates. Additionally, only Internet Explorer 7 will support these certificates. This means the extra validation done will not offer any additional credibility in all other web browsers and thus provide virtually no additional benefit to merchants. </p> <p>Additionally, Microsoft is implementing this on an unfinished specification. This means if the specification changes, and it likely will as most of the participants in creating these specifications do not like the current draft, then these certificates may not be valid in the future or may not be compatible with all browsers. Imagine paying for an expensive <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> certificate that results in some browsers saying your site is verified while others saying it is unsafe.</p> <p>Technorati Tags: <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/SSL" rel="tag">SSL</a>, <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/ecommerce" rel="tag">ecommerce</a>, <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/Verisign" rel="tag">Verisign</a>, <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/Comodo" rel="tag">Comodo</a></p> </div> <p class="postmetadata">Posted in <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/category/ecommerce/" title="View all posts in Ecommerce" rel="category tag">Ecommerce</a> | <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/microsoft-squeezing-the-small-ecommerce-shop/#comments" title="Comment on Microsoft Squeezing the Small Ecommerce Shop?">2 Comments »</a></p> </div> <div class="post"> <h3 id="post-70"><a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/when-to-use-an-ssl-certificate/" rel="bookmark" title="Permanent Link to When to use an SSL Certificate">When to use an SSL Certificate</a></h3> <small>Monday, October 9th, 2006</small> <div class="entry"> <p>A common question from merchants entering the world of online credit card processing is when should an <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> certificate be used on a website. <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> allows websites to encrypt sensitive data when in transit to and from a user’s web browser. This prevents hackers and other nefarious characters from stealing sensitive data being sent during an online transaction.</p> <p>Based on that basic description of what an <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> certificate does it would seem to make sense that a merchant should simply make their entire website encrypted. That way they can be sure every page that needs to be encrypted is. At a glance that would seem to be a logical solution. After all, if every page is encrypted then it is safe to assume that every page that needs to be encrypted is. </p> <p>But upon further scrutiny important flaws can be found in this solution:</p> <ol> <li><acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> requires the server to do more work</li> <p> Every time an encrypted page is requested by a web browser the server must first process the encryption portion of the request before sending the web page to the browser. This requires server resources to do. Encryption must be done <i>every</i> time an encrypted page is requested. If your site has simultaneous users this will increase the burden on the server even more. </p> <li><acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> is not search engine friendly</li> <p> Naturally every ecommerce website would like to be in the search engines as they can provide a lot of free traffic for a website. However, search engines cannot read pages encrypted by <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym>. This prevents them from finding and reading the pages in your website and thus they cannot add your pages to the index. If you are not in their index, you simply cannot be found by searchers. </p> </ol> <p>So what is the proper way to use <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> to secure a transaction? As explained above, <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym> is used to encrypt sensitive data. For an ecommerce website, this would mean encrypting the information your customer submits to you during their transaction. This includes their personal information (name, address, etc.) and credit card information. Some websites collect this information on one page; some collect in on multiple pages. However you choose to implement your checkout every page that transmits your customer’s data needs to be encrypted. Your order confirmation page should be encrypted as well if you print out your customer’s personal information on it.</p> <p>By only encrypting these few pages we are avoid both pitfalls of using <acronym title="Secure Socket Layer">SSL</acronym>. Since only a few pages are encrypted, and these are only used by the small percentage of your site’s visitors that checkout, we relieve the server of the burden of encrypting the other pages. Plus we do not have to worry about the search engines as they do not need to index your order form or order confirmation page (as it won’t even exist until after checkout anyway).</p> <p>Technorati Tags: <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/ssl secure socket layer" rel="tag">ssl secure socket layer</a>, <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/ecommerce" rel="tag">ecommerce</a>, <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/credit card processing" rel="tag">credit card processing</a><!--f887041cad05274992757f798620047c--></p> </div> <p class="postmetadata">Posted in <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/category/ecommerce/" title="View all posts in Ecommerce" rel="category tag">Ecommerce</a> | <a href="http://www.merchant-account-services.org/blog/when-to-use-an-ssl-certificate/#respond" title="Comment on When to use an SSL Certificate">No Comments »</a></p> </div> <div class="navigation"> <div class="alignleft"><a 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