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e.costello
02-16-2001, 07:53 PM
Here's a discussion I would like to pose. Do you think that Flash content and other multimedia elements should be kept to a minimum on a site for the sake of public usability and accessability? I mean in the mass market website domain. Is it a bad idea to make Flash an inherent requirement to access a website? Is it better to compartmentalize any Flash content for a large audience website so that users have an easier time accessing your site and thereby giving the choice of whether or not they want to make use of your Flash elements?
Sure Flash is super cool and has virtually no limits to its interactive and animation potential, but are too many people using Flash just for Flash's sake?
On one side you have people who site that the most successful consumer sites, for the most part, avoid Flash and other multimedia. And if they do use such elements on their site they are seldom to never put on the homepage and are never a requirement to use their website. These people point out that the primary reason people use the internet is for information and e-mail and not for entertainment.
And then you have the Macromedia (I don't mean that to mean solely Macromedia's) viewpoint of "what the web should be" and that Flash is the future of the web. These people might say : "Your site can use entirely Flash and it doesn't matter if the public doesn't know a thing about Flash, cause they will in time."

You see I know how cool Flash is and could be. I remember the first Flash website I ever saw and thought, "Why aren't all sites like this?" I loved the program to death after I learned it. And when I got into the real world of web deisgn I tried to inject a little streaming animation in company of entirely static websites. And then I redesigned a site so I could ditch it's Javascript rollover navigation for a new nifty Flash navbar and I've come to wonder if it was a mistake. You see I've seen both sides of the fence and the majority of the commercial world has not caught on to the power of Flash. There are few (if any) commercial sites that have a Flash navigation lodged inside a predominantly HTML struture of pages. If there are I haven't seen them. Plus Flash content is a pain in the butt to update on large sites. In a world where 8 seconds (now it's said it may be down to 4 or 5) is the average time a visitor is will to wait for a page to load it doesn't matter if the plug-in only takes a minute to load; in that minute the visitor could have probably found what they were looking for and left. In the web world a minute is a long time. The fact remains that the cool Flash sites are mostly in the world of self-promotion and Design Firms. Not mass market commercial consumer sites.

So, I ask should Flash be kept off your homepage? Should it never be a requirement to access your site? Should it be kept to bits and pieces that can be viewed at the user's discression?

Or should we beat the web world into submission and force visitors to bend to our will?

Or even better, should we subversively integrate more and more Flash until the web is as cool as we really know it can be?

Whew! Don't hate me cause I'm wordy! :)
Did any of that make sense or am I just full of it? EIther way I'd like to know what people think. This debate may have already taken place on these boards for all I know, so if it has please tell me. Thanks.

Sincerely,

E. Costello
[Edited by e.costello on 02-16-2001 at 06:56 PM]

a_slosh
02-16-2001, 08:47 PM
it all depends on who your target audience is

mbritton
02-17-2001, 12:52 AM
Yeah.

Neelixx
02-17-2001, 04:28 PM
IMHO, how will Flash become a de Facto standard if it is not used? Granted, we still have to take into account accessiblity. And our audience is still limited. But, if you remember... that's how it is everywhere. Not just Flash. If you were to just build an HTML site.. you have to take into account platform independant tags, just so you can expand your audience. Many companies place an HTML page on their homepage and either detect if Flash is installed, or have the user click on the Flash site link.

I believe this will ALWAYS be the case, with competition between companies. You do bring up a good point, though, Costello. But, overall Flash will succeed. Oh yes! Flash will succeed. :D

--Neelixx

mbritton
02-18-2001, 05:24 PM
I agree that Flash will succeed. I even think it will become the standard once database integration gets easier and bandwidth increases.

This of course will initiate a debate on whether one company's solution should become the standard for the internet. I'd like to think Flash will win out over SVG. No one wants a new acronym; they want the most widely used format to be integrated further.

wseligman
02-18-2001, 09:10 PM
Whew! Now I don't feel so bad posting long rants.

I think Flash will succeed becuase Macromedia is putting a lot of money behind it. This isn't Beta tape vs. VHS, an apple vs. apple. Unless you use Swish, what else is there that competes with Flash? I think their attitude with Flas is, "if we build it with Flash, they will come." Might be a little elitist for some.

Design that works doesn't reveal itself and busy doesn't work regardless of the media chosen. But still, design your a** off man! Let others figure out how you do it. Look at the fashion world. All that wack stuff on the runways eventually trickles down to K-mart anyway. With fancy Flashed-out sites, you have to filter out the useless meant for 1/10th of 1%, and get to what may find it's way into a larger visual library for a larger audience.

Props to mbritton for the great zen answer also.

kronik420_
02-18-2001, 09:20 PM
Originally posted by mbritton
Yeah.


This is WAY off the subject but I gotta ask. Mike Britton you didn't possibly go to school in Oklahoma did you?

mbritton
02-19-2001, 01:56 AM
No -- I went to school in Wilmington, NC. http://www.uncwil.edu Great place.

One more important thought I think we all should consider before making blanket statements about the future of the web: it would be a shame if the web became a place where "standards," technological or otherwise, prevented the average joe from participating. Participating either by experiencing content, or by creating it. I think the best way to create on the web is to embrace change the same as you do that which is familiar and "safe."

dragonlord
02-19-2001, 03:45 AM
Another thought... at http://www.giger.com, that navbar they use, that would be h**l to try to construct with javascript and would require supercomputers to function properly. But with flash, it is quite easy to create and really doesnīt need that supercomputer, that kind of navbars were done with flash 3 and flash 3 worked on my 486DX2 computer... =)
This kind of flash intergration I think will be the most common for a long time now, before the "great mass" realizes that it is really cooler with complete flash sites... :)

//Gustaf

e.costello
02-19-2001, 12:19 PM
Thanks for all the cool opinions and feedback! :)

The main reason I delved into this discussion was because I have to design for a mostly non-web-savvy audience and I ran across this article in publish siting how all the successful commercial sites avoid elements like Flash. I was having second thoughts about introducing a fun Flash navigation bar after running into conflicts for designing a site for such an audience. But I also knew that none of the competitor's sites have anything remotely as cool as what I was designing. By the way my audience is mostly the older female sewing crowd, not exactly a group hip to the latest of the web. You can see what I mean at:
http://www.amazingdesigns.com

I took a simple site and made it a little more fun, but I also created a few problems I cannot seem to fix. Pages where the nav never comes up, etc. And I've been working on adding a Flash nav to another of our sites (a sewing maching company) and I'm wondering, "do the cool things I can accomplish with Flash outweigh the usability of a non-Flash navigation?"

http://www.babylock.com/index7.html

Or is possible that a Flash navigation bar can be even more functional than a practical navigation bar that requires no plug-in? One answer is that most of my audience probably isn't as aware (and maybe not quite so appreciative) of Flash as I am. Another answer is that if done properly, I could make this very functional and a feature that would draw people to come this site more often than our competitors. I suppose it really is something for my client to decide. But I really hope that if done well enough, you can introduce a non-Flash audience and have them like using it. I suppose the standard "do you have Flash?" gateway page isn't too intrusive and I know it's rather common. Am I just mucking around in wishful thinking or do I have something going here?

-E. Costello

mbritton
02-19-2001, 01:16 PM
I would focus on delivering Flash CONTENT before I'd risk a buggy navbar. Navigation is the heart of your site's usability.

I work for a software company and one of the issues for redesign is the separation of navigation and content. They want the nav back in HTML, and the content in Flash whenever possible. That way no matter what happens, the user will be able to cruise around the site whereas if a Flash navbar fails, the usability of your site is hosed.

Neelixx
02-19-2001, 01:25 PM
Costello,

If you are still concerned with the penetration and viewing accessiblitiy of Flash (Which, is a concern for most), get the statistics of it from Macromedia:

http://www.macromedia.com/software/player_census/flashplayer/

--Neelixx

Boris the Frog
02-20-2001, 03:20 PM
I recently got asked to design a site with the requirements
"make everything move". They had seen a flash site and loved it.
So I made them one

Unfortunately the client couldn't work out what the buttons where.

He showed me some sites with his 'favorite' nav bars, (wait for it) ........textlinks!

This supposedly net savy businessman likes the way the flashing orbs moved and spat the name of the button out when he mouse overed -
BUT didn't realise he could CLICK on them.

Some people are just dense.

I put all my sites to the granny test.

If they pass they get through.

The one I mentioned passed. (the lady had never used a computer before and couldn't use the mouse - but understood the navigation)

Like I said some people are just dense - design how you feel - it's not a matter of everything being one way or another there's room for a bit of both on the net.

Why does everyone feel global domination is the answer?

Sorry I'm rambling.

e.costello
02-20-2001, 03:44 PM
I understand what you're saying. I suppose it is possible for Flash to work on any site to work or any audience, so long as any (have I said the word any enough?) person can understand how to use it. If I or my client insist on Flash, then I can do so as long as everything is as intuitive as possible (or if not, provides clear easy to understand directions). The product division managers here (who could be considered clients in a sense) are not to dissimilar to the people I am designing for and few of them are very web savy. When testing this nav:
http://www.babylock.com/7index.html

I thought I had made everthing pretty simple. But when I had one of the managers try it out with no outside instruction, I learned two key flaws in my design. One, it took this person forever to realize the "sew on" was something to click on. And second, it just wasn't as obvious as I thought to drag on the little handles of the sub-menus I created. This enlightened me to the fact that methods of a nav bar have to be totally obvious to be successful. A child must be able to understand it or it's probably too complex (at least for a large audience).

So I guess, you can use Flash for any audience, as long as you do it well.

-E.Costello

mbritton
02-20-2001, 03:45 PM
I concur. Or design so well, the blockheads hit themselves on the forehead when they realize how simple and intuitive and superior to the previous navigation your new design is.

Someone once told me to design intuitively enough for your target market and let the rest sort it out. That's pretty extreme, but I see his point.

darkstar
02-24-2001, 09:24 AM
imho flash should augment, it should not a panacea.

unrealreality
02-26-2001, 01:37 AM
I think the big problem with flash is not so much what everyone said (which is all valid) but is the CONTENT. A lot of Flash sites are created and then never updated. I admit, I'm guilty of a few sites like that. But I'm trying to create sites that have not only an easy to use interface, but updated content, in one way, shape or form. And I think that's the big problem with a lot of Flashed sites out there. As for using flash in commerce/consumer sites? It's possible.

Granted, the ability to communicate and update using databases is easier using HTML, but Flash will get there in time. Also, like some of you said, what's wrong with doing an HTML site sprinkled with some Flash? I'm also working on a site that incorporates 3 car dealerships online. It's HTML, but it has little Flash animation stuff around to keep it fresh and interesting. I think we need to see more sites like that.

Content is king

Eric

claes
02-26-2001, 06:49 AM
Flash Navigation >> I think a whole site can be built in Flash. In relation the comments about it being difficult to update... Flash could just be a thin layer that is the user interface to a strong backend.
When flash is used as a splash page, or unessecary animation intros and navigation - it may be annoying and people may wonder why it is there... and become bored of those minutes for it to load.

But if a whole site is fast and easy to use - then flash can be seen as a real solution.

take a look at http://www.vraustralia.com - the entire site is really a HTML, PHP and MYSQL solution with a flash interface... the entire site is dynamic and very smooth.... and illustrates great use of flash as the GUI rather than just one component.

the other option for us was to possibly build something similar with DHTML, javascript etc etc... but you can imagine the broser issues?!....

Flash was an excellent solution for a dynamic experience.... I cant see any other tool that could match the finished product.

Claes

e.costello
02-26-2001, 01:43 PM
I agree with claes about unecessary animated intros being a bad idea. Lately I've been guilty of propegating such design practices. You know how it goes, make a cool animation with a new effect you created, apply it to a site and you think, "yeah, it really doesn't relate to the message of the site, but it looks cool and get's people's attention." But that sort of thinking doesn't make for good design in print and shouldn't be used in web design either. You remember in design class, during critiques, you always had that one person who points out, "But what is that part of the layout for?" And you're only answer was that it looked good or interesting. That didn't fly with your professors and it doesn't fly in the real world. All of the rules for print design should apply (in their own ways) to the web. So I've come to believe the Flash should either be used because it can accomplish more usibility than a non-Flash approach or because the client wants to use Flash.

Either way, design principles apply and so the look and animation of the Flash should relate to the feel of the site. It's waaay too easy to stick in a bunch of alpha effect tweens and scaling changes and whatnot into a Flash movie and then plug that movie into a site to spice it up a little. If done carefully though, you can create some outstanding content and usability with Flash, thereby surpassing anything that can be accomplished with simple coding. For instance, http://www.balthaser.com. This is a sweet site that has a high impact introduction explaining all about the purpose of the site and in actuality the intro is also a preloader, downloading files while the visitor is engaged in the presentation. Very cool.

I think Flash has the potential to become a standard element for any web page. We just have to overcome the trend of using Flash for Flash's sake.

-EC

wseligman
02-26-2001, 06:30 PM
e-costello

Good point about maintaining the "rules" in the transition from print to internet. Although, who's to say what "rules" mean anymore! Lol. (I remember in school when they said don't ever drop an image out of type, 'cuz you can't read it, yet I see it everywhere now, movies, websites, ESPN promos, etc.).

I think the Flash intro is a :30 spot. It has to be scripted well, regardless of the visuals used. If the message is compelling, simple words alone will fo the trick. (Look at Amnesty International, sparse type, not Flashed, striking becuase of the simple images and the intense stories). I look at a lot of broadcast spots and see how many could actually be Flash movies, because they have a lot of moving type, with a simple voiceover. (Jannis funds, some MSN spots, other financial spots, etc.)

No matter what the technique, I think as long as the viewer can't "see" the way you did something, and that the technique itself made you focus on the message instead of the messenger, then the designer has done his or her job.

unrealreality
02-26-2001, 09:26 PM
Originally posted by e.costello
You remember in design class, during critiques, you always had that one person who points out, "But what is that part of the layout for?" And you're only answer was that it looked good or interesting. That didn't fly with your professors and it doesn't fly in the real world.

Do I remember? I'm living it now! heh.... And lately, I've become one of them. I mean, I know that there things that a designer uses to make it more aesthetically pleasing. I do that. sometimes, there is no reason other than "it looks cool" However, the majority of what's there should communicate your idea, otherwise it doesn't fly. You should have a concept behind what you're doing overall. I'm gonna miss college actually. While it doesn't teach you web design and all that fancy stuff, it does teach you concepts and theroies behind things. And this type of stuff, if used well, can further one's thinking and imagination much more. Stuff can be self-taught, but sometimes, learning from someone else who's been in the field is a great asset. I mean, that's how design got this far!

Eric

bobnsons
03-01-2001, 10:11 AM
Good disscussion here. A couple of things I really agree with is "content is king" and the drawbacks with Flash and the web being "database intergration & bandwidth". The database part should be coming pretty quick. To me the key to the whole Flash & Web agrument is bandwidth.

For what it's worth I don't think you are going to see the move to high speed connections coming at a mass rate for a good while to come. I don't have it and know of a lot of others that don't have it and don't plan to get it no matter how kewl it is......call me the tightwad!

Which comes down to the WEB mindset. I hear in most discussions like this is "what is the best combination for the web?" It seems to me like we keep thinking inside the box....and for what it's worth the box is a little shaky right now. Look at the dot com shakeout and NASDAQ.

Boris was in on a discussion earlier on a pretty good idea. The CD Biz Card. It frees people from the web's limitations. It free designers and web developers from having the extra hassle for keeping file sizes down.

Do they work? I think so. I'm just having a hard time getting other people to think so...which means having a hard time pitching this for money.

I have a good friend and customer, in the past when a client or potentinal client called and requested information he would have to send a package which had 1.) business card 2.) Catalog 3.) Design Calculations 4.) Full sized CD with Autocad files. His price was close to $20 for this package. Now he sends his CD Biz Card. I charge him $2.50 per card. He loves it.

Also the customer loves it. About a month ago he went to a meeting with a large energy company.....really large. When he arrived at the meeting he did not carry the usual brief case and the executives there were wondering why he had shown up so unprepared. He reached into his shirt pocket and passed out his cards. The execs well litterly blown away and he is now negoating a large contract.

The card was done in Flash and defies all the rules. Large file size over 1 MB. Many pictures and custom voices. Being a projector file it plays. I had my doubts to begin with. The customer was a good beta test for the CD. He has not upgraded his computer for a long time...which means it's a P90 with 16 megs of ram. When he first pluged the cd in he had a large excel file open and an old DOS program he still uses. I had my fingers crossed. It took a little while of CD spining but finally came up.

Enough rambling to me the box is just too confining.

Bob S.

e.costello
03-01-2001, 11:43 AM
Um, the card sounds interesting, but I've never seen or heard of it so I don't know what it does, nor can see how excatly it relates to this discussion. We were talking about judicious use of Flash and letting content dictate the need and look of Flash in websites. I'm not so concerned about broadband issues, because you can create killer Flash movies with small file sizes if you know how to optimize enough. Hillman Curtis' site is a good example of this (www.hillmancurtis.com). Being one of the first testers of Flash, he knows a thing or two about optimization. Furthermore his approach to Flash in web design resides on a level I am striving to achieve in my future as a designer. His attitude is very much "content is king" and he looks upon low bandwidth as a challenge, not a hinderance. I think his design philosophy (and the one I hope to follow) is best summed up in one of the intros on his site:
"FInd a theme,
Then communicate it...clearly.
Honor Consistentcy...
And eat the audience."
:)
Words to live by, in web, print, and animation. I feel this should be the base goal of any successful visual communicator. Communicate your message well enough and you can reach any audience.

-EC

Boris the Frog
03-02-2001, 05:54 PM
I think we need discussions like this every once in a while just to remind ourselves of what we are doing, so that we don't go off the track.
Flash is here, it's not going away and what it may lead onto in the future - who knows

There is nothing wrong with using it - we just need to remember not to overkill - otherwise we will end up destroying the medium ourselves.

We need to remember the work WE do affects the way the rest of the world views and uses the web.

We are the media and in the same way the press affects the way we perceive the world, we affect the way the web is viewed.

If we produce crap sites - then the internet becomes crap!
I think those words costello found on the hillman site are right.

If we mess up too much we might ruin our own future in this business!