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akroll
11-25-2003, 10:20 PM
This topic has come up a couple times with the recent launch of a significanly large site by Fantasy Interactive. The question of the day is how to integrate flash with browser functions, specifically as such:
- Enable use of the back and forward buttons in the browser to move through an all-flash site.
- Enable favorites linking to specific pages

A couple of examples can be found at:
http://www.robertpenner.com/experiments/backbutton/backbutton.html (use of back button)

http://www.teknision.com/ with specific example: http://www.teknision.com/siteVersions/tek2/#Site%20Design (favorites and back button functionality)

Teknision has proved that it is possible, however it does not yet work on all platforms and browsers. The ultimate challenge would be to create a system that works across various platforms and works well. What methods does anyone here know about? Anyone have specific examples?

Lets see if we can define some sort of standard for this implementation.

SJT
11-26-2003, 11:17 AM
It would be great if this could be implemented, but I see a couple of problems as well.

First off, there is no way to pass variables dynamically into flash in several mac browsers, unfortunately it seems the only way to reliably pass external variables is through url strings on the end of the object and embed src attributes.

src="myfile.swf?variable=value&var2=val2"
So I'm not sure how we could get around that.

More problematic in general is the accepted use of flash these days is that the back button doesn't work for it. If you just remove any 'back' navigation systems internal to the flash you've written, will anyone think to use the browser back button instead?

Cool idea though, lets see what we can come up with.

SJT
11-26-2003, 11:19 AM
Ooh, hold on, that second link worked (http://www.teknision.com/siteVersions/tek2/#Site%20Design)

aversion
11-26-2003, 12:28 PM
I tried it on the mac here and it didn't work, I think it works if you go to the URL but it has problems setting the URL from the backengine frame, so it is ineffective on anything but IE/win, haven't tried it with a mozilla though.

It is a great solution, it's invisible and works exactly the way you would expect it to as a normal set of site pages. It degrades elegantly, on the mac you don't notice that it doesn't work, you could even have some info inside the flash relating to bookmarking that is removed on non-IE/win systems.

It's not that hard to reverse engineer, there are some calls from flash to the backengine frame you'd have to create, but that's not hard to figure out what's going on, it's the concept that's interesting.

Can you use the local connection onject with the mac? That might be a different way of doing it.

SJT
11-26-2003, 12:42 PM
The second link worked in Safari.

The problem is really that support for these features is minimal to non-existent in many popular browsers on the Mac.

http://www.macromedia.com/support/flash/ts/documents/browser_support_matrix.htm

Though starting to get outdated really, that list is pretty handy for explaining most of these problems for the mainstream users.

aversion
11-26-2003, 12:58 PM
it still offers the best solution though, it's worth implementing especially as it degrades so invisibly. It won't be extensible to include macs at any time it seems but it's a sellable solution to a client for the majority of their visitors.

akroll
11-27-2003, 12:57 AM
Originally posted by aversion
... it's a sellable solution to a client for the majority of their visitors.

I totally agree. I think the PC user base is still somewhere around 97% of the computer population, which should be a sufficient audience unless the target audience is graphic designers or some other mac-dominated industry.

For the record, the back button implementation of Teknision works on Netscape 7 on PC, but the actual URL does not change. However, as you noticed on the mac, it degrades invisibly.

Its interesting, some people will argue that the general public has figured out how to use flash, and understands that these features dont work with it, but I disagree. I even ocassionally find myself wanting to use the back button to navigate flash sites that I built.

SJT
11-27-2003, 09:06 AM
I think it depends on how well the site integrates with the browser window as a whole really.
If you're flash content takes up the whole page, as it does on the Teknision site then as far as the user is concerned the flash is the page, so the back button makes sense. It would be interesting to test this.

aversion
11-27-2003, 12:24 PM
I've sat in on some user testing sessions and you should not, if you're building a site for 'everyman', like the RR site, underestimate the incompetence of people using the web, I have seen perfectly normal people completely lost on the web.

i don't agree with holding their hands while they use your site but i think it's safe to say that you shouldn't make assumptions about their ability either.

danthomas
11-28-2003, 02:57 PM
Just to add my 2p worth, if not to assume their ability at all - which sounds reasonable to me - surely having the feature to go back within the flash animation is neccessary also, else you're assuming they know the in's and out's of regular browsing...

aversion
11-28-2003, 03:09 PM
Some things in usability work on expectations, I think the expectation of a user, the average joe user, is that a flash site will function the same way in the browser that a normal site will, thus you can expect them to expect to be able to use the back and forward buttons, and to be confused if the bookmark function doesn't work.

when it comes to ability I think more people are getting used to flash sites and the fact that you can't use the browser functions within a flash site, i agree with that, but I wouldn't say it's a general expectation on the part of joe user (nor do i think it should have to become one), so i wouldn't design a site that expects them to know that... though of course we all do because there isn't a satisfactory solution, except maybe this system we're discussing here is a partial answer. We'll see.

akroll
07-30-2004, 01:49 AM
Does anyone happen to know the specifics of how Teknision actually implemented their linking system? Event if it only works on some browsers it seems to be the only system I have seen for such a robust integration with the browser.