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a_slosh
01-23-2001, 03:11 AM
I have just started a streaming site for a Counter-Strike clan. For those of you who don't know, Counter-Strike is a multiplayer, first person shooter between 2 teams, terrorists and counter-terrorists. Groups form 'clans' and then become allies. Here is the site:

http://q-designs.port5.com/clients/i_op

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The original post:

Flash was meant to be used for streaming multimedia (i.e. no preloaders). Using preloaders defeats the whole purpose of why Flash was designed.

I know it can be difficult to design a streaming site, especially because most people have dial up connections and not broadband but f you have to use a preloader then I recommend reading the following tutorial:

http://www.flashkit.com/cgi-bin/tutorials/jump.cgi?ID=555

After reading this, I have started to design with these ideas in mind. My original work, even my main web site used to use preloaders but I have started to think more about aspects of design.

I know that lots of people will disagree with me but lots of people will agree. Have a think about this and next time you design a site, put 'STREAMING' at the top of your priorities list.
[Edited by a_slosh on 02-17-2001 at 08:33 PM]

phooka
01-23-2001, 04:12 AM
First of all, as I posted in another thread about streaming or preloading, there was not an "intention" or set of rules when the guys at Macromedia released this wonderful tool they were probably waiting to see how the tool would evolute. The existence of a command like _framesloaded> demonstrates that as a tool, Flash can be expressed in a lot of different manners... :)

And second: what is streaming? In lots of cases, when a swf is streaming, it uses lots of routines for the movie to know that the streamed swf has been loaded. From this point of view, couldn't we conclude that a streamed process is nothing but a glorified preloader? :D

Regards,
david

Eddie Hillegers
01-23-2001, 08:31 AM
Originally posted by phooka
First of all, as I posted in another thread about streaming or preloading, there was not an "intention" or set of rules when the guys at Macromedia released this wonderful tool they were probably waiting to see how the tool would evolute. The existence of a command like _framesloaded> demonstrates that as a tool, Flash can be expressed in a lot of different manners... :)

And second: what is streaming? In lots of cases, when a swf is streaming, it uses lots of routines for the movie to know that the streamed swf has been loaded. From this point of view, couldn't we conclude that a streamed process is nothing but a glorified preloader? :D

Regards,
david


eeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhh:p
yes, but then we have ended up streaming the streaming
that doesn't sound right does it?
cheers eddie

pigghost
01-23-2001, 01:08 PM
Hi........

First of all,I agree with you a_slosh and Eddie.....and that tutorial is very good......the "spikes" thing is something I'm definitely going to try.

In my opinion, while streaming may be the ideal, it's not always easy to achieve.......but, I think the real problem is visible preloaders.

Eddie with your kite site and Jelve's new site, both prove there's a better way......I know I'm convinced.

Just my two cents..........

-pigghost-

a_slosh
01-23-2001, 08:43 PM
Originally posted by pigghost
I think the real problem is visible preloaders.


That is the perfect way to put it. That tutorial discusses ways of having an 'invisible' preloader, maybe an intro which makes the movie stream.

derrickito
01-25-2001, 03:21 PM
the less your end user has to wait (no preloader) the more the user will take the time to see...

i hate using preloaders, if my content needs a preloader, then its too damn big in my opinion.

check out the master of non preloaders, this guy can deliver TONS of content down a pipe with no preloader seen whatsoever

http://www.xdude.com

i dont think he links out to his work sites from his site now, but he makes sites for warnerbros movies, and his sites for them are just as quick

a_slosh
01-25-2001, 08:49 PM
That xdude.com is excellent.

When I say no preoloaders, that is what I mean, that site must have been about 250k and I didn't see one preloader and it loaded perfectly.

This is a perfect example of how we all should design our sites.

domain75
01-25-2001, 09:40 PM
you cannot refer to the xdude site as an example for not using preloaders!!

theres no content in it. all it is is just a flash movie that plays. theres no buttons, no different areas in the movie to go to, so why would he need a preloader? he wouldnt.

my view is that preloaders give large "interactive" sites usability as if you stream a site with other areas in it, the user may end up click on a muenu option only to find that it hasnt even loaded yet and cant view it anyway. i have sometimes worked around this by just having an interface and using the load movie function, but still sometimes its not enough. i say that preloaders are required to make a flash site fully interactive, and increase the usabilty of the site.

derrickito
01-25-2001, 11:03 PM
i say that preloaders are required to make a flash site fully interactive, and increase the usabilty of the site.

that is the most blatantly stupid thing i have ever quoted

a preloader makes a user WAIT
that is not good for your site, waiting makes people leave.

and when people leave you have NO interaction. interaction does not mean large bitmaps preloaded into flash.

i cant say it any other way. preloaders make people want to leave, not interact

domain75
01-26-2001, 12:04 AM
but when you think a site as a total, and this is my opinion ok, everyone has their own.

you go to a site, wait for the first page to load, select a menu option, wait for that page to load, select an item from within that page, and wait for that to open etc etc.

for me, a user, i would rather wait a little longer for a "complete" site to load that when i click on something it apears instantly, than to have to wait and wait everytime i want to view something in a web site. if you are going to a regular html based site, and you have to wait 10-20 seconds for just the first page to load, why would you say that a 10 second preloader is bad?

would rather see a preloader showing me that something is happeneing that see nothing at all

derrickito
01-26-2001, 12:22 AM
i think a html page that takes 20 seconds to load is equally horrible.

thats just bad use of file size. pages shouldnt be 200k a peace.

if a html page is over 60k total for html and graphics, its way way too big for most users to see

domain75
01-26-2001, 12:27 AM
so you see my point for the use of preloaders??
they are good but too oftenn we see them being used just cause they can.

if a site has a need to be preloaded? then i say use it. if you can do it by streaming, then stream it.

The Evil Mika-El Vance
01-26-2001, 02:26 PM
Originally posted by a_slosh
Flash was meant to be used for streaming multimedia (i.e. no preloaders). Using preloaders defeats the whole purpose of why Flash was designed.

I know it can be difficult to design a streaming site, especially because most people have dial up connections and not broadband but f you have to use a preloader then I recommend reading the following tutorial:

http://www.flashkit.com/cgi-bin/tutorials/jump.cgi?ID=555

After reading this, I have started to design with these ideas in mind. My original work, even my main web site used to use preloaders but I have started to think more about aspects of design.

I know that lots of people will disagree with me but lots of people will agree. Have a think about this and next time you design a site, put 'STREAMING' at the top of your priorities list.

Sorry I came to the party so late! But I agree with you 100% I have been developing sites that truly stream themselves across the web. Using the 56k standard you'd be surpsrised at the little tricks that you can learn.

I have become a better designer as such and peope will appreciate is when they come to your site and dont have to site through a mouse-chasing preloader.

Good work on this observation and please do keep iy up.

Everybody - time to start streaming!

domain75
01-26-2001, 10:14 PM
well could you give some ideas on how you would stream a site with 5 scenes, with the 5 scenes being menu options, and how you would avoid the user selects a menu option that hasnt downloaded yet as the site is streaming??

SuperMario
01-26-2001, 11:19 PM
Doh -- I beg to differ :)

Streaming content may have been a major concern as to the purpose of the product, but I highly doubt that it was as high on Macromedia's list of priorities as you describe it to be.

Preloaders are effective and appropriate if used correctly, especially if you have a whole bunch of music to play, etc. Furthermore, if you have an explosive intro, your viewers will see the first frame of it while they're waiting on the content to stream. The reason I turn to preloaders is so the animation runs smoothly when it comes time to play it.

My $0.02

Dan

Robert99
01-27-2001, 06:07 AM
Aloha everyone, from Honolulu. I've been lurking Flashkit for a long time, never really felt the need to add my 2sense, but this is a fantastic forum packed with alot of talented people and I just signed in to get some views and site recommendations...
My background is primarily in CAD, 3D and cd-rom, but I've gotten pretty heavily into Flash lately, and now professionally, but applied in a somewhat different manner than what most people are using it for. Nothing on line yet to demo or get opinions on... just want to put this out there: taking a look at Flash sites/content OTHER THAN "I'm cool" demos like Balthaser and animated shorts, what about this topic of streaming content, and true periodic (zine) content that changes daily/weekly/or?
Anybody have any suggestions? I'm curious to see anything that's out there...
P.S. An interesting (to me) side point: Although I agree that the Jakob Nielsen view is grossly obnoxious and overstated, I've noticed that the more talented and experienced Flash creators, when making various functional suggestions, are really addressing alot of the same basic issues that got Nielsen going off on his trip (gratuitous ani, static content, no control within the ani, long preloads, etc.)
Whaddyathinx?

derrickito
01-27-2001, 11:43 AM
great point robert.

i think you hit it right on the head. as much as some people wont be able to handle it, i think much of what nielson says is pretty true.

and if some of this community would calmly read it, common sense would tell them that he hits some good points:)

example
and the ones that dont get it will continue to force 500k animated flash banners onto customers, telling them that "its cool" with no clue as to what it will do to the end user
/example

jelve
01-27-2001, 12:43 PM
The idea of preloading an entire site of 200kb or more just to be certain that the user can click every single option as soon as the movie starts is, IMHO, just not necessary and will drive many, many users away before they see anything.
Using multiple SWFs, loaded either sequentially as you suspect that most users will want them and/or as the user asks for them is really essential to delivering Flash for the masses.
Our current rebuild of jelve.com (http://www.jelve.com) is made up of over 20 separate SWFs, none over 30kb (except the streaming music). With the exception of the initial interface, most of these do have preloaders. However, if a user is on a reasonably fast 56k connection, they shouldn't see more than 1 or 2 of these and only for a maximum of 5 seconds, if they do. By disabling buttons until at least the preloader for that SWF is loaded, we have attempted to eliminate any chance of a user clicking and nothing happening.
We've also considered at least one other of Nielsen's issues in the 'visited/active' link display on our main menu.
BTW, this site has over 400kb of regular interactive Flash content PLUS a 1.5Mb streaming music track. If a user hits the site with a slow connection, the music starts later. If they hit with a very slow connection, the music does not start automatically and the music button only appears after the music has sufficiently preloaded. The user with a very slow connection is also given a warning when they hover on the music button that this may slow down loading of other parts of the site.
Doing all of this error catching and organizing a package that should play well for all users with little or no preloader is a huge job. Two of us spent about 100 man hours on this aspect alone, after all the swfs were created. It would be much easier to say that the user needs to wait for a 400kb preloader before entering. We find this attitude unacceptable, since so many users will understandably leave after ten or more seconds of looking at 'loading . . . ' You must make it immediately watchable or they won't watch it.

jaredigital
01-27-2001, 06:59 PM
the basic principle of a preloader is a good one, IMHO. i think we have all just seen way too many 300k+ sites trying to preload the entire .swf right off the bat, and that is totally unfriendly to The Dail-up People :) like myself who sit there for 2 or more minutes to see what may or may not be something worth our time. jelve makes a good point. breaking up sites into multiple .swf files just seems more effective and if there is still a need for a preloader, at least it isn't so disruptive to the viewer.

i will personally continue to use preloaders to make sure that my content is sufficiently loaded before it is presented. I do agree, however, that with a little planning flash sites can load in small sequences rather than in one big chunk.

i have been inspired to change my old habits. thanks all! :)

Robert99
01-29-2001, 11:31 AM
Jelve - your site is fantastic. I never had to wait more than 4 seconds for "something to happen". And I think you give a great example of why flashy (no pun intended) hyper-graphics are cool only once, whereas clean, sharp and functional are what really counts. An insignificant detail that I mention just in case you want to check it out: your sniffer is very impressive, but somehow it got my connection speed(s) totally wrong. A major plus: either your server is mainlined into some serious pipes, or the reach between me and you is particularly clean - your HTML opener came up in 1 second on DSL, 3 seconds on 56k - and I mean time after I hit go! That is fast.
Kudos to you!
P.S. : there are so many good things about your design that I won't try to list them, but one point (pet peeve) in particular I want to give you a medal for: your opener is no longer than it needs to be to do the job. Why don't more people do this? Yours is the kind of site which will work for anyone - I assume you prioritize function over ego-trip. Good going.

bhughes
01-30-2001, 01:52 PM
bottom line:

it depends on the site, the contents, and the developer! there is NOT ONE RIGHT OR WRONG HERE! think about it. you all might as well be arguing about round or square buttons!

the web is a DYNAMIC ENVIORNMENT...which means that the only issue here...in this thread anyway, are the egos. leave the preloader debate to the developer creating the site. either it will be good or bad...THEN judge that particular use... don't condemn an entire design tool, that obviously has a place in the flash world.

-anyone that says they haven't been annoyed by a large preloader is lying.

-anyone that says they haven't been entertained by a creative preloader is lying.

draw.

Robert99
01-31-2001, 07:04 AM
You are absolutely right. It's only the superlong preloaders that are obnoxious really, and in any case, what ever the developer wants to do is up to h/h.

My personal angle on this is simply that I'm working on creating this zine-type all Flash delivery vehicle... there's no point in trying to describe the thing, but I'm looking forward to hearing feedback once it's up... Anyway, a significant concept with it is that, because freshness (cycling, periodic) is one of the main priorities, almost by definition there can be little or none of what you see in the really cool "dig me" demos, simply because the creation of that stuff is so time-consuming. Even a site with MSN's traffic, say, could not justify economically spending those kinds of hours on movies and then tossing them out every day or week. However, there can be some amazing "coolness" in the static portions of the interface, quite apart from the content portion. This tendency of Flash sites to become static is one of the main trips that sets off the Jakob Nielsen types who berate Flash.
I'm curious to look at what others are doing along this line... which is an issue I raised in the Flash Streaming Sites thread, which, unfortunately seems to have sort of died on the vine, although there were a couple of interesting finds...

a_slosh
02-04-2001, 02:31 AM
I honestly didn't think that this thread would cause such a debate - I posted it thinking that I would get 3 or 4 replies and then went on holiday for 2 weeks.

There are a lot of interesting points being posted here and I think that everyone should be allowed to have their own opinion and voice it, but not put down someone elses.

I suppose when I originally posted this, I should have said the following:

A preloader like on Jelve's site is fine, you barely notice it.

He has designed the site so that for most people, they won't even have to know that there is a preloader but there is one for the odd person who is still using a 33.6 or lower modem (I was using one until about 2 months ago).

If I hadn't read his post, I wouldn't have known that there was even a single preloader on his entire site.

It is only really the big preloaders that try and load 100k plus (I admit that mine does do that but I'm working on it) are the only real pains.

I have tried to stop using preloaders in the traditional manner and plan my site so that it is more efficient - in the end, everyone benefits.

jelve
02-04-2001, 10:10 AM
Wow.
Thanks for all the nice comments on our site.
My son and I both have long felt that preloaders were something to use only as a last resort. When we did this build, we were constantly checking the 'show streaming' option with the bandwidth profiler set for 28.8.
One trick I'd like to share is that we found that almost all windows machines are configured to receive only two downloads at once per server. With that in mind, we use our main server (burlee.com) to serve the bulk of the content. However, we also use additional servers during the opening of the Flash site. The free space that came with our ISP serves two and a common free hosting account serves another. This solution is not necessarily open to or needed for every site but, if the client wants speed, they may have to pay for at least one additional (small) host server.
I'm especially happy to hear that it's hitting Hawaii as fast as Robert says. It's being served from the eastern part of NA so, I imagine that there are quite a few hops between here and there.
Cheers and thanks,

dstewart21
02-04-2001, 10:20 AM
I agree wholeheartedly with this article. As a freelance designer, I've encountered a couple complaints from customers dialing up on slower connections. In the past, I simply removed some of the "suspected" content, thus sacrificing the design. Had I known this ahead of time, I could have possibly avoided it. Hmm...maybe I should revisit these sites.

dstewart

OddDog
02-05-2001, 06:48 AM
hi all.

Right then, here is my 2 pesetas worth, from a non design non techie view point.

A lot of you guys/girls seem to be very sure of yourselves when you state that a long preloader drives away visitors to client pages as people do not wont to wait. I would like to question this premise.

Here goes, firstly the truth is that sadly people are already used to waiting on the net. Cliche but fairly truthful. Ok I realise some of you USA citizens have a nice T1 and some amsterdamers have a great cable connectoin to, but the majority of us are still dependant on a very poor local infrustructure.

Secondly and I think the most important point, is that due to this acustomizacion to a poor service, we navigatores tend to use the right click OPEN IN NEW WINDOW thingie. This cannot be under stated. So let me say it again. We navigatores tend to use the right click OPEN IN NEW WINDOW function, and while waiting for one page to download are already looking at another. Can you guys arguing that a 20 second wait is to long, and the client will go, respond to this please.

This is not a tech issue, it is, as always a client user issue. From what I have seem and read, always add a lot of salt to what a design guru says, why ?

becuase they forgot what it was like to be a normal human..

Odd Dog

a_slosh
02-05-2001, 07:00 AM
OddDog, I am using a 56k modem and I also use the open in new window function. The only problem with this is that if there is an intro straight after the preloader or a transition between the two, you miss it and if you refresh, the page will have loaded and you wont need the preloader so wont see the transition.

Not a major issue in my life but something to consider.

mutant
02-07-2001, 11:10 PM
I really agree with u, but you have to reconsider some factors that might affect especially "business" or shall we say "CLIENTS", let just say B2B or B2C and these clients dont wait for more than 30 secs and if they dont see your SITE, we lose money. Its not just designed, animation, etc. Its how you design your site to be more presentable and fast to view. hope these clear things out.

Neelixx
02-08-2001, 12:48 AM
What a great thread! Not very often do I see much "productivity" in a discussion. And to even convert existing "preloading designers".

Here is my opinion and possible proposal. Ever since I started Flash, preloading was the cool thing to do. It made everything go very well and quick, and was kinda the "norm". After reading the previously stated tutorial, I was convinced that Flash was not being used to it's full potential. There are times, however, when preloading is a must, i.e. Jelve's site. An invisible preloader is just ingenious. But, here is another proposal.... how about an interactive preloader? Strange, I know. But, keeping the file size low.... it doesn't take much to create a neat little program that users can click and watch, drag and play, while the movie is preloading in the background. Granted, we must not overdue it, and use Flash as efficiently as possible. But, this is just an idea.

Questions, comments?
--Neelixx

Neelixx
02-08-2001, 12:53 AM
Ooops.. sorry Jelve. That was not to imply that your site needed a preloader. I was trying to refer the "invisible preloader" to your site. My punctuation was incorrect. Sigh... must I go back to school? :D :D

--Neelixx

DJ_SFinKz
02-08-2001, 05:18 AM
Ok....this is getting outa hand...
Preloaders ARE useful!!

a_slosh
02-09-2001, 07:52 AM
Yes, preloaders are a must sometimes and yes preloaders can be very useful but as one of you said:

If a potential client has to wait too long then they will get bored and leave. Especially in the web design and flash design areas, your site is the first thing they will see and no matter what you say, first impressions last!!!

If your site takes forever to load and then they have a look at Jelve's site for example, everything may be exactly the same, down to the last pixel except for the loading, who will they choose to use?

Not a difficult question to answer. Who would you choose?

After all, a potential client will want their site / flash presentation to be as good as possible and they will choose the person who demonstrates that they can design the fastest loading, most eye-catching etc. site.

You have to admit that this is how a viewer will think most of the time. Isn't this what we should all be doing? Pretending that we are the viewer or testing the site on non-bias viewers? That is part of the most important things to do when designing.

And now for something completely different:

I am very pleased to see that this has caused such a debate (I think that's a good thing) and that people are willing to voice their opinions freely. 10/10 to Flashkit on providing us with an excellent portal to express ourselves!!!

fink
02-09-2001, 08:47 AM
Originally posted by a_slosh
Flash was meant to be used for streaming multimedia (i.e. no preloaders). Using preloaders defeats the whole purpose of why Flash was designed.

I know it can be difficult to design a streaming site, especially because most people have dial up connections and not broadband but f you have to use a preloader then I recommend reading the following tutorial:

http://www.flashkit.com/cgi-bin/tutorials/jump.cgi?ID=555

After reading this, I have started to design with these ideas in mind. My original work, even my main web site used to use preloaders but I have started to think more about aspects of design.

I know that lots of people will disagree with me but lots of people will agree. Have a think about this and next time you design a site, put 'STREAMING' at the top of your priorities list.

The use of preloaders can be annoying, but then it is better at least to allow the user to know that something is going on than having a blank screen (like some sites have when there is no pre-loader). The ideal thing to do is to create a site that is as seamless as possible so that the user doesn't experience any MASSIVE waites, this can be achieved by streaming information, or by "pulling the wool over the users eyes" by small animations and interactive "things" while important information is loading.

There are no hard and fast rules on how this is done, only techniques created by the designers. To make the users experience as seamless as possible, that is a good GOAL, and there are many paths to do this.

fink

a_slosh
02-09-2001, 10:37 PM
what we should be trying to do is have a preloader but not let the viewer know about it

Ekostudios
02-10-2001, 08:44 PM
one word - buffering.

I agree with streaming, but unfortunatly flash can be a bit bumpy on the bandwidth.

I always stream, but you hafta build a-bit-o buffer first!

a_slosh
02-11-2001, 01:23 AM
That's what I mean by streaming, of course you have to build some sort of buffering otherwise streaming for a user with a dial up connection would be almost impossible.

Start off by using just text or simple graphics at first and tweening is a definite no.

a_slosh
02-11-2001, 01:43 AM
Here is an example of a site that uses a preloader when it is not necessary:

http://www.madewith.com

With the amount of info that comes after the preloader, the designer should have overcome the need to preload. IMHO this is bad designing.