Wix — founded in New York by ex-venture capitalist, Allon Bloch — offers users the ability to create a free, SEO-friendly, Flash-based web site using only drag-and-drop tools. I’m surprised I hadn’t come across Wix before, as according to the company’s PR, more than 500,000 users are actively using the service, a fifth of whom joined from the UK just last month.
Wix appears to be targeting professionals in various industries who want to set up a glossy site very quickly. The directory of published sites ranges from photographers, stylists, designers and actors to real estate companies, bands and arts sites.
What’s particularly notable about Wix isn’t the Flash-based authoring tools, but the ability to publish “widgetized” versions of your site to MySpace and Facebook, as well as publishing to online marketplaces such as Etsy, Craigslist and eBay. Handily, Paypal and Google Analytics integration is also included.
As much as I’m impressed by Wix’s ease of use, integration with third-party services and widget-publishing tools, I don’t accept that a Flash-based site is superior to HTML. To quote usability guru Jakob Nielson:
Although multimedia has its role on the Web, current Flash technology tends to discourage usability for three reasons: it makes bad design more likely, it breaks with the Web’s fundamental interaction style, and it consumes resources that would be better spent enhancing a site’s core value.
As pretty as many Wix-powered sites are, they don’t contain anything that couldn’t be produced using HTML and CSS. Flash has its place as a video and animation tool, and to some extent as an interactivity mechanism.
Wixs assert that the thousands usually spent on producing a Flash-based site can be reduced to a hundred dollars or so using a premium Wix account. It’s not difficult to see the appeal of Wix to anyone lacking the skills to produce Flash-based sites, or indeed to professional designers using the service to produce low-end sites for clients.
What do you think? Is Flash a good substitute for general site design?