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"...unless you get in the door to explain HTML, SEO and usability to prospective customers, they will see Flash as The Leading Edge and want that..."
absolutey correct., flash looks good, when done well, and companies say heh I want that! It goes to show that most companies don't take the Web seriously enough yet, and can't put themselves into the shoes of the customer. It's easy to watch a smooth slick animation intorucing your own company.. to other than very casual browsers of the Web it can be excrutiating. Business owners still need to realise that most people are looking for their address or contact details, and some facts (rather than advertorial) about the company. Very few are looking for a presentation.
Most of my websites have no Flash. Some have a bit and I have one site that demonstrates how to use a certain software package - the site is 50% Flash with some full screen animated demonstrations, none of which take longer than 8 seconds to download on a 56k connection, but you don't click on the demos if you don't want to wait 8 seconds.
IMO WMW is the best forum on the net for serious SEO and Design. I use other Flash forums because WMW doesn't have one. The Flash forums are used by people who often have no idea about SEO and fast loading websites. Flash in fact, can creat fantasticly fast loading graphics, way faster than many gifs and jpegs, the fact that so many Ex-Print-Designers use Flash to create those horrible slow loading sites that make you want to run away - is not a reflection on the efficacy of Flash - is it!?
< Audio and Video are the wave of the future and Flash is an important medium > YES - I believe this is true. It will take a while but it is true. Like it or not, its what many people want. The world is not populated with a majority of computer experts and SEOs, it is populated with people who do other things, and the internet is something they use to find / learn / buy stuff.
Imagine what the expert help at WMW could do for Flash. Flash in well educated hands is a great tool. It can, for example, be combined with html elegantly to create pages that are mostly html but have nice little Flash enhancements - producing an attractive site with good: speed and SEO
<i'm for intelligent flash use (where appropriate)> Me to.
IMO a Flash forum at WMW is a great idea.
I think the group here is far more performance and results oriented than typical. By and large, participants here understand traffic - how to attract it, how to keep it on site, and how to convert it into dollars. The guys who design a 60 second animation of the site owner's logo morphing from nothingness and flying around are typically far more interested in something that looks cool than tracking the impact on site stickiness, return visits, and conversion to sales. (My apologies for those readers who like 60 second animations of flying logos... :) )
Having said that, I'd suggest the simple alternative of setting up a Flash forum when Flash posts start to take up a major portion of the space in the graphic design forum...
The best forum out there on Flash is [were-here.com....] I spend a lot of time over there and the folks that post - like here - are the best in the business at what they do. There is a place on the web where folks understand 'smart' Flash use... :)
The primary reason to use Flash is to convey a message in a manner that cannot be conveyed statically. However, you must engage or have captured the customers interest, usually with good content, before using Flash.
Example. Opening a site with Flash or designing a site completely in Flash, in general, turns a prospective buyer/client off. He wants the information now. However, once you have captured the customer with good design and content enhancing his experience with a Flash presentation is welcome. He has accepted your site and wants to know more.
From a marketing standpoint, bottom line, you can engage a customer more with Flash than with something static. If you don't believe me, check out most of the cutting edge music videos. These sell artists to the public even though the artist may have questionable talent. However, content, whether static or in Flash is still the key.
It's just a matter of marketing 101...maybe that's marketing 501...
My unbillable 2 cents.
Here are some other great uses.
- Training (with animated demonstrations)
- Corporate brochure website (with small Flash items)
- Audio lectures for blind people (and everyone else)
- Super-fast loading static graphics
I do agree that there is a lot of very bad slow loading Flash out there. All the more reason to have a Flash forum on WMW where people understand the importance of SEO, Speed etc.
1) Poor web designers
2) The content can't be indexed by search engines
3) Limited bandwidth
Unfortuantely, we will never irradicate the first point. It will probably get worse as more people become web savvy and the cost of software comes down. But we need some crap out there to make my half-baked efforts look good. The more the better ;)
I would be very surprised if there aren't plans afoot in all the major SE companies to have the capacity to read the content of SWF files. I believe Atomz search technology has recently introduced this ability so I'm sure it's only a matter of time before it becomes more widespread. Besides, anyone with half a brain would do an HTML version anyway. So point 2 shouldn't really be an issue because it's the poor web designers who are at fault.
It's going to be some time before broadband reaches the masses. But if you know what you're doing you should be able to create the desired impact without making the user wait for a lifetime in the process. Again - poor web designers.
So to recap. Flash isn't the problem. It's the people who use it.
I think this would be an excellent place for a flash forum, although there are many good ones already out there.
Try not to get bogged down in /clickhere. Main has a music console which makes real music, the background music of the site too is one of the most soothing sounds I have ever heard.
TV interaction is passive, almost hypnotic. Web interaction is mainly about active navigation.
Fail to get navigation right and you fail on the web. People will not sit passively watching the web - it is against the nature of the medium itself. Most Flash designers seem to expect users to sit impassively and watch like they are watching television. Flash navigation, if it is there at all, is often cryptic.
The sooner Flash designers realise this, the better.
When we did the amazing squish athon or whatever it was called with the map image, I tried a whole bunch of file formats trying to beat png. And guess what beat it? Flash. I imported the png image into flash, made the canvas the same size as the image - one frame - no image compression and lo and behold the entire exported flash file was smaller than the png. Of course, flash wasn't acceptable as an 'image' per se - its definitely pushing it to call it that even with 1 static frame.
Flash is also very compliant. Assumming you turn on plugins, most major browsers have had flash by default for a few years. If not, its a standard plugin that you can download relatively quickly(few hours on a slow dial up, but thats quick). I would bet more people can see flash correctly than they can css.
Flash is powerful. Its the only well adopted vector graphics for the web (SVG is still taking its time going live). Its scriptable. It can perform server interactions with encryption while you aren't looking. It can load progressively, and you can define exactly what that means. The only problem is when this power is abused (bad flash designers).
And the best part about Flash is that it has been left alone by Microsoft!
Honestly, if I had the time to learn it, I can see lots of applications of the stuff in regular business. I'm not talking about making entire sites out of it, but simple user interactions, product demos, web applications, etc. Its just that it doesn't seem essential right now, just 'nice', so I don't put the time into it when I could be developing more sites instead.
In short, the reason why most people use the internet is to find information... thus the heavy use of SEO and the like.
As far as Flash being leading edge, please don't mistake "I like it, it's purty" with innovation. Flash was innovation when it came out, it's been here way too long and we are still waiting on that broadband explosion to make it happen. XML as a technology has been much more of an innovation allowing other technologies to spin off of it at an alarming rate. Flash is in comparsion ,dead-end. There is nothing springing from Flash except more swfs. What's leading-edge and innovative about that?
Marshall McLuhan in his book Understanding Media addressed issues like this although the term 'eye-candy' was not in vogue at the time.
The central idea that "The Medium Is The Message" points out that how a message is presented is part and parcel of the message being conveyed.
Eye-candy is a dismissive term but the value of pazzazz can not be dismissed.
Monosized and monofont advertisements just don't sell as well as seeing the bubbles in a glass of champaign.
If it doesn't...you don't use it. If it does, you do. It's pretty simple stuff.
Personally, I rarely use Flash. Good copywriting can be extremely persuasive in print, on the web, etc. and I tend to push clients away from using Flash in favor of good design and content. However, there are occasions when good content when combined with a visual presentation just tells the story better.
My ...what am I up to...4 cents.
And I have noted that most pro-Flash comments fall along the lines of its the "next big thing just wait til everybody has broadband" and we of course are still waiting for this to happen. I for one don't see it happening anytime soon. About the same time someone comes up with "write once,run in two places" java code, I'll start to pay attention.
As for the rest it goes without saying "the right tool for the job" is always what is best. That's not even in contention from the start. The request was why isn't there a Flash Forum, but now I think its spiraled down into Flash Rocks vs Flash Sucks. Next we can start with Hammers Rule!! vs Screwdrivers Suck!!
Flash would fall into that camp. Actually, Flash is probably doomed.
Why? Once decent broadband connections kick in, we'll all be wanting video. Flash might be used for the remaining text, but it's going to need a way to be easily maintained.
What we really need is a decent layout standard that is easily maintained. CSS anyone?
SVG is the answer to easily maintained text in a graphic display format, that is once it gets browser support. Maybe SMIL is the real answer overall mixed with SVG, but is it just me or do I see browser overload coming? <insert list of 72 Markup Languages here> plus the kitchen sink in the next release.
>What we really need is a decent layout standard that is easily maintained. CSS anyone?
Ya know CSS is real nice but about the time browser vendors get it together and support Level 1 mostly and parts of 2, its outdated. Much as I like CSS, I still hesitate over going to extremes in learning it's quirks across browsers. I don't have a clue what can replace it though. XLS is just too much for basic formatting and comes close to DSSSL or whatever the Document syntax Style Sheet's acro is this week. Umm maybe CSS 3 can save us.
I'll have to file that D Adams quote heh.
Why do we need to wait for broadband to experience Flash??
The great thing about Flash is the you don't need broadband to experience it! Its wee, tiny, small, minute <bigif>IF</bigif> used in the right hands.
Most of the time I use Flash is becuase it is the most effective and efficient use of bandwidth.
(please, please don't respond with comments like :
"I went to a Flash site and waited 20+ minutes etc"
Using the same argument I could say that you should never go to Macdonalds if you want fast food as ONE time I went to a Macdonalds and had to wait over 40 minutes!
One bad use of something does not mean that every use of it is bad.
The site was well indexed, all HTML, and that presentation was fast moving, eye-grabbing, and beautifully integrated into the site design without being detracting or distracting at all.
It was one of the best uses of Flash I've ever seen; I've actually gone back to look at it and have it bookmarked. That is something that a web designer who doesn't use Flash could probably just sub-contract to someone who does for a small portion that would be an excellent investment for the visual benefit and impact it would add. It was *not* a Flash site but integrated a small portion prudently and effectively.
He was certainly a comic writing genius but I can't see him as knowledgeable enough for his comment to be more valid that the pro-Flash people that have written here. He may even been joking.
If you are referring to another Douglas Adams, the reference is too obscure for me to comment on.
>>The great thing about Flash is the you don't need broadband to experience it! Its wee, tiny, small, minute <bigif>IF</bigif> used in the right hands.
You put the emphasis in the right spot, too bad there isn't many of the right hands out there. Face the fact that the majority of Flash users come from the Design side of the tracks. And being biased as I am to the dev side, they don't dig "that file is huge" its all about how it looks. Which is fine. Just don't ask me to sit through "file loading..." and I am on broadband, I still click skip intro. Why? Cause the intro isn't what I am after. I am there for information 98% of the time. Where do I find information? In text, sometimes in graphics, rarely do I go to a site that uses Flash and say to myself "wow that was a gold mine of information". I'm sorry there's such a discord on the issue, I believe it boils down to what the surfer, client, whomever wants.
As for why does it require broadband? Well thats just fact, multimedia is huge as far as its content files. Flash does do some good things as far as compression etc, but if theres a 2minute song with a matching 2 minute video, that will take time to download even on broadband. At the least a 20-30 second delay on cable. Have we forgotten that most users will not sit there for 25 seconds staring at the screen? There will not be complete multimedia sites without broadband. Else the wait will make that 40 minutes at McD's seem short ;) Heh, don't you wish McD's had a skip intro button?
But overall, most times with Flash I believe people have suffered through it so much on dialup that its just ingrained, Flash == slow. Applying that bigif again, if the use is restrained and its not the sole purpose or use of the site, its acceptable. Sites designed in pure Flash (ones I have seen) have much larger problems over download times and thats usability.
The use of Flash on a small scale as an enhancement is good, Flash as "this is the site" sucks. Applications in Flash I haven't seen enough of those to comment on yet. Any examples?
online learning is the one area I think Flash can just totally dominate. It has to be the best area I have seen it used. Plus, I know it was 10 times easier on the developers to design in Flash over the nightmare of cross-browser js.
>...He may even been joking.
I would be more worried if Douglas Adams was serious.
Imagine, the site loads near instantly because the first frame is under 2k. While the user is selecting where to go next, the heavier flash for the following selections is loading constantly in the background. There is *always* preloading going on, so the user gets a near instant response when they go to the next page, assumming they looked around for a few seconds on the previous one.
Vector graphics make all those curved lines very smooth, very scalable, and very small in terms of download times. The site has lots of curves - very "sexy".
The user gets a bit lost, needs some help or something. They click the help button. An animated actor walks onto the screen (low res, cartoon maybe) and talks to them(radio quality). He/she/it points at the controls on the interface and shows them around.
You want 3d views of products? Forget annoying java or video plugins, its still the same single flash. Bandwidth detection built into the flash interface lets you scale the quality of any short animations or transitions to a quality that better suits the individual.
The Press Releases would be enough to make up for the lack of SE optimization. Besides, looksmart and yahoo directory submissions are still pretty good at driving some traffic. And you'll want a text only version of the site for those .5% of the web that doesn't have flash installed anyway, so google can pick that up without difficulty.