Topic: Flash, when to use it

I think this is appropriate for us to discuss. When do you think it is appropriate to use flash for the Church?

My opinion is that flash should not be used for navigation and content display. If there is animation that needs to be added, such as a animated header, then fine.

Or, if flash is used for navigation, then there has to be something else in place for those who don't have the flash plugin. Many people who are dial up don't want to view a flash website because of the load time.

I would like to see a discussion on this and all of your thoughts on when it should be used and when it shouldn't be used for the Church specifically.

Re: Flash, when to use it

I was thinking about this the other day. I'm of the same opinion, that a site should be perfectly navigable without the Flash plugin. I think there's even a way to offer graceful degredation if a header doesn't load. With JavaScript, anything between the <script></script> is the fallback in case JS is turned off. Using the object method of embedding flash, I think you could do...

<object><img src="/img/fallback.gif" alt="Fail-safe Header" /></object>

^ That should display a static picture instead of the Flash animation. Don't quote me on that though, haven't tested it. What's interesting is that Adobe is going to merge SWF and PDF support into one plugin. We'll have to see if that means improved accessibility for Flash, or if it will just be bloat-ware.

I've got Essentials of Flash 8 coming to me in the mail sometime within the month, wanting to learn a bit more about how to use it with XML.

Last edited by Nathan Smith (2005-12-05 21:26:48)

Give me liturgy or give me death.

Re: Flash, when to use it

In flash, I have done a picture header that goes randomly through a set of pictures that is defined in an XML document. Any time I want to add a picture, I just add it to the XML document and it works. I don't have to update or change the swf file.

I have no problem with flash designed websites, but I think if you are going to do a full flash site, then you need a full html site as well for those who don't have flash, are on dial up, or just don't want to view flash. That is when I think you can use the splash page for the user to choose which site they want to see.

Last edited by Robert Evans (2005-12-05 22:56:46)

Re: Flash, when to use it

I've used the object / image fallback and it does work, it's the method I tend to use with flash content on websites.

It's a really interesting topic, I am actually a huge fan of Flash but especially more of late find myself really wanting to use standards based XHTML / CSS as much as possible. I just can't use flash if it's really not contributing anything really significant to the site.

I actually developed a site 3 years or so ago (with a couple of other guys, but I did pretty much all the flash / coldfusion backend), it was a really difficult decision as to whether to use Flash or not, I explored the potential of doing it as HTML but we just couldn't get the layout that we wanted (I'd blame this now on two things: My inexperience with CSS and on poor browser support). So we opted for Flash using a custom built ColdFusion powered backend which actually let us deliver a text-only version of the site (I'm not sure if the term 'accessible' is appropriate here or not as I have no idea how well someone using a screen-reader would get on with it!).

The site was for Edinburgh College of Art, www.eca.ac.uk. It was developed using Flash 6 (mx), ColdFusion MX and MySQL. Wow, it's ages since I've looked at that site! brings back memories of hard work! smile

Interestingly though the Flash version of this site loads pretty quickly on dialup, it was definitely in mind when developing this site as I had only recently gotten broadband myself and was still familiar with 'slow' surfing. I think it's one of the possible mis-conceptions about Flash that it is slow to load. It certainly can be but often it's because of bad design / structure / methods. Flash has awesome ways of streamlining the content, very modular.

Flash is also my favourite choice for video on the web too, no worrying about plugins / players etc.

~Rick

Last edited by RickCurran (2005-12-06 14:34:23)

el corazón del problema es la problema del corazón

Re: Flash, when to use it

Rick: That's very true. XML based Flash apps tend to load a good deal faster than ones that have embedded images and whatnot. I used one such app on my wife's website recently, for her photo gallery: http://olgasmith.com/fotos/ - She just updates the images via Textpattern and then they pull dynamically into the Flash gallery.

Give me liturgy or give me death.

Re: Flash, when to use it

Flash has it's place, no doubt and visually it can be very beautiful. It should be okay to use as long as it doesn't take too long to load (especially for those who are on dialup) and there is an alternative should the user not have the Flash player.

Exercise your faith!

Re: Flash, when to use it

It's all in target audience and client preference. We've done plenty of jobs where the client just didn't want to spend the time on two versions of the site. We've of course, made plenty of mistakes in not making Flash alternatives for nav's and things, but there are really starting to be some viable alternatives such as Google Sitemaps to help in indexing the site or even by placing some script that checks for the plugin and writes a basic nav in text if they don't have it.  I'd be curious to really know what percentage of internet users have Flash disabled.. and more importantly.. what percentage of target audience users have Flash disabled.

Full flash sites definitly have their place, but to be honest you just have to look at your client and determine what is best for them. For instance a band may benefit from a full flash site but a church may not.

I dream with an XML intereface

Re: Flash, when to use it

I have to agree with Tank on this one.  It all comes down to the target audience and the client preference and sometimes Flash is the right choice.  In light of that though, I honestly can't think of more widely abused program than Flash.   The sad thing is that with every good use of Flash there are about 50 bad and I think that contributes to unneccessary restriction in it's use.  You have to choose the right tool for the job and obviously allow for ease of accessibility for search engines and user navigation.  It's true that you have to take extra considerations when using Flash for a menu, but as Tank mentioned there are alternatives that can help maintain accessibility while allowing designers/developers the availability of using Flash's strengths.

Re: Flash, when to use it

Kob: Hey, glad to see an advocate for the "other side" of the argument. It helps balance out my zealousness for all things web-standard. Truth be told, I'm facinated when I see Flash used well, as the case with your site. To flesh out my idea of good Flash usage: 2advanced.com isn't "well done" in my book, simply because it takes forever to load.

And hey, who am I to say Flash is evil if it feeds your family, ya know? I'm wanting to learn more advanced Flash wizardry myself, and am curious to see how CSS and Flash can interact. For instance, on my site, with the small bit of Flash I use for my portfolio, I've styled the <object> to have certain dimensions, so that I don't have to set it in the HTML. It's cool things like that, using Flash wholistically, that make it fun for me.

Last edited by Nathan Smith (2005-12-11 15:54:34)

Give me liturgy or give me death.

Re: Flash, when to use it

just a comment on 2a.com ...

With them... it's about target audience. If you call them, their receptionist informs you that if you don't have 40K to play with then don't bother (probably not that bluntly smile ). They are targeting upper level clients that will have broadband, etc... and want something to "wow" their potential clients. Personally I don't think it's their best work, but I suppose it works for them.

I mean, the case could even be made that you are leaving people out by designing GodBit to a 1024 resolution. I think you tied in directly to your target audience and did the right thing by moving to the 1024 layout. But not all project have that availability.

I dream with an XML intereface

Re: Flash, when to use it

Tank: Good point about 1024. I just figured I'd try to keep up with A List Apart! wink

Regarding 2advanced.com, by "taking forever to load," I should have clarified. I didn't mean the time it takes for the Flash player to cache all the data. I just meant that the length of the time it takes from the animation starting to the point where there is actual content is ridiculous. To me, that's the type of thing that belongs in its own promo-popup or something. That's what I like about Intereactive.net - It animates very quickly into place after it's done loading.

Last edited by Nathan Smith (2005-12-12 10:00:40)

Give me liturgy or give me death.

12

Re: Flash, when to use it

I agree with you Nathan about lengthy flash transitions.  It's a pet peeve of mine to see a site that has unneccessary stuff such as long flash transitions or overuse of After Effects elements in flash just because they look cool.  Things like that are a detriment to the viewer.  I've also seen the other extreme to this where you have content with no regard for aesthetics.  As a designer it frustrates me to see sites that are highly regarded because of their adherence to web standards and ease of accessibility, but are a complete eye-sore.  You have to determine a balance.

Now, my number one pet-peeve with flash......12 fps animations.  There's nothing worse than seeing an animation that someone spent time on and would look good if it wasn't so JERKY and unfortunately I see this alot with faith-based organizations.

Re: Flash, when to use it

Yeah, I don't see why it's so hard to set things from 12 fps to 24 or 30. As far as over-emphasis on either aesthetics or plain info, I think that if there was a sliding scale, it would look like this...

2Advanced.com « - - - - - » UseIt.com

Last edited by Nathan Smith (2005-12-12 12:13:33)

Give me liturgy or give me death.

Re: Flash, when to use it

Nathan Smith wrote:

2Advanced.com « - - - - - » UseIt.com

Yes. That's outstanding

Re: Flash, when to use it

I'm a flash-leaning designer, but am in no way a "Flash-it-all" kind of guy. It's a tool...a very useful one, especially when paired with XML. Unfortunately, the Age of Intros years ago put a bullseye on swf files all over the web. Personally I am not a fan of intros, unless it promotes the site product or service in some way, is short (with a skip button), or acts as a preloader for a full-flash site.

There has to be a happy medium for site design. 100% attention to 100% accessibility to 100% of users ends up making mind-numbingly bland sites 100% of the time. I personally love CSS, and am trying to stay within XHTML guidelines with all my newer projects. I don't push full flash sites, unless the client is dead-set on for one. Most Flash work I do involves passing parameter/variable info either through text/XML files or url-encoding. Flash is a beutiful shell for this type of psuedo-dynamic way of providing content. I'm not a programmer, by any means.

I routinely use flash text SWFs to act as headers, where I pass the text to be displayed in the HTML code. This allows MY font choice, and ends up being a reuseable (and cached) alternative to creating image headers for everything. Export as Flash 6, and most everyone sees it with no problem. If no flash is installed, the text is included in the alternate content <div>.

SWFObject (which is how I embed most flash I do now), provides alternate <div> content when a user does not have the player.

Flash is a wonderful tool for the web, but it has it's place; it should not be vilified because of the way people use it - annoying intros/popup ads et al.

BTW, that new 2Advanced site is absolutely beautiful smile

Re: Flash, when to use it

One note about "target audience"  some churches are located in areas where broadband is the norm.  I live in SF, just down the street from Silicon Valley, and DSL is as cheap is dailup, in some cases it is cheaper than dialup (entry level DSL is $12/mo, goes up to $80/mo).  The people deing targeted by the churches in this area WILL have a high speed connection.  So for here, the obstacle for heavy media flash sites is not bandwidth.

Is flash appropriate in this instance?  I think the answer goes back to when any flashy (pun intended) technology is introduced to a project.  It must be done tastefully with the driving idea that content is king, and design should enhance and highlight content, not replace or distract from it.  In music production world, you can always tell the young new prodeucers because of their over use of plugins.  Their track is saturated in reverb or tons of delays.  Their production is always way over the top, to the point that whatever their working on is lost.  The same applies to websites whether you are talking about flash, ajax, or some other "tricked out" web technology.

Ok now everybody repeat after me: "Content is king"

Disclaimer: Of course Jesus is the King of kings wink

Re: Flash, when to use it

As you can see in my portfolio online I use Flash for almost everything - including content. Most beginners aren't aware of how to build a Flash site that is broken into pieces and loads when requested. If you take an entire site and develop it using Flash and everything is in one large file the user will have long load time without a doubt. I've accomplished this with an empty movie clip (that has an instance name) and loading every section of the site into that - which replaces the last section that was loaded there (acts as a temporary placeholder).

I think HTML is great and all, but being constrained to tables is frustrating for any designer........no matter how proficient you are with it. As long as you use use the right player detection method you should be good to go to use Flash for content development as well as navigation, etc. The only issue with Flash the past few years has been search engine stuff, and I've seen that become less of a player if you know what you are doing. Bandwidth is also becoming less of an issue every day. The future is with Flash without a doubt.......I've tried to prove myself wrong on that one and continue to fail.

Re: Flash, when to use it

About the frames per second thing........default 12 will give you choppy results for sure. I usually go with 30-45, although some designers these days tend to be using 60 for kicks.

Re: Flash, when to use it

Using tables for anything other than table based content is a big no no...  Proper design methods suggest using XHTML + CSS for placing content on a page.  It's fast, it's light, and it doesn't require a plugin to work.

As far as the future?  I highly doubt that any one technology will completely dominate the landscape.  There are always new players being added to the mix.

Re: Flash, when to use it

I haven't spent much time with XHTML + CSS, but you are saying that you can force things to be designed / spaced out a certain way using those? Spacing is a big issue with clients and how they want things to appear, and the only way I've done that in the past with HTML is by using tables to force certain widths between content areas.

Last edited by gtaviano (2006-07-11 03:52:50)

Re: Flash, when to use it

as far as framerate, i've never understood doing anything at more than 30fps (i tend to use more around 18fps or so). all you're going to do at 60fps is create a not-really-noticeably smoother transition for people on blazing fast machines and making your transitions drag for those on slower systems.

g (don't know your first name, sorry), in a word YES smile I've recently become a CSS convert after designing in tables for years and while there's a bit of a learning curves it's sooooo much better in so many ways. css 101 is a great place to start.

Last edited by chrisfig (2006-07-11 08:20:28)

chris (fig): i'm not random, i'm tangent oriented... : www.tangentoriented.com

Re: Flash, when to use it

Thanks for the link! My name is Gabe Taviano.

Re: Flash, when to use it

Nathan Smith wrote:

As far as over-emphasis on either aesthetics or plain info, I think that if there was a sliding scale, it would look like this...

2Advanced.com « - - - - - » UseIt.com

I searched Google for the 2advanced "lead story"

search terms: 2advanced fwa interview
search hits: 113
search hits leading to 2advanced.com: 0

I searched Google for UseIt's "lead story"

search terms: useit log traffic problems
search hits: 10,700
search hits leading to useit.com: 2  (I never looked beyond page one...they were #1 and #2 hits)

So your flash target audience had either (1) already know about your company website or (2) you get other HTML-based friends to point to you.  Otherwise, you'll be the world's most beautiful tree in the woods falling -- that nobody hears.  wink

Last edited by Carl Camera (2006-07-12 12:44:08)

Content Management with Standards In Mind: Vine Type | www.vinetype.com

Re: Flash, when to use it

Carl Camera wrote:

So your flash target audience had either (1) already know about your company website or (2) you get other HTML-based friends to point to you.  Otherwise, you'll be the world's most beautiful tree in the woods falling -- that nobody hears.  wink

maybe... I doubt a company with +50K to spend on a website is going to be searching through google for a web designer.

I dream with an XML intereface

Re: Flash, when to use it

is 2advanced a web designer site?  I spent several minutes interacting with it and never did figure out what they did.  but it was, like, totally cool just to visit. smile  but seriously, the effects distracted me from the content.  all I remember was the interface.  and the annoying sci-fi music.  i have no idea what that company's products or services are.

Last edited by Carl Camera (2006-07-12 12:38:32)

Content Management with Standards In Mind: Vine Type | www.vinetype.com