Let's Flash!Written by Elmer Horvath
Most of you have visited web sites filled with video-like animation, sound effects and music synchronized to animation, enhanced interactivity, and stunning graphics - all of which appear to load and play almost instantly.
These sites seem to have rocketed their design to "another level"… and you've surely wondered, "How did they do that?"
More than likely, you were experiencing a site designed using Flash or SWF file format.
Flash (developed by Macromedia) is leading vector graphics technology for designing high-impact, low-bandwidth web sites. SWF (ShockWave Flash) is file format used by Macromedia Flash to deliver graphics, animation and sound over Internet. These techniques are rapidly changing way we play, work, or just browse online.
What are vector graphics? Vector graphics, which manipulate coordinates and mathematical formulas rather than pixel-by-pixel bitmaps, produce graphics files that are one-tenth size of bitmaps. Additionally, SWF can deliver animation, rich colors, sound, and interactivity. Moreover, this approach downloads faster, it's scalable (more on this below), and it boasts higher quality than other graphics formats.
Well over 95% of Internet users can now view SWF content: over 300 million people have downloaded Flash Player for their browser. Even better, if you already run at least a 4.0 browser, no plug-in is required - it's already there. Macromedia published specifications for SWF in April 1998. It is now an open source format for development by third parties. The SWF file format is being integrated into web design and graphic applications more and more, and it's becoming increasingly easier and faster for web designers and developers to learn and to use.
Still, some of us just don't have necessary time to learn (or money to invest) in these high-end applications. What to do?
A quick search online will bring up dozens of resource sites specializing in Flash and offering free ready-to-use SWF files for you to download and embed into your site. So take advantage of these generous offers and flash-up your site too.
But if you've never worked with these newer SWF files, you might encounter a few initial problems -- or be unaware of some interesting capabilities. Here's an explanation that will make it quick, simple, and painless.
The SWF or Flash needs two basic ingredients. First, you need SWF file itself -- which contains animation and any sounds, all in one easy file. For our brief explanation here, let's call this file "super.swf".
Second, you need HTML script to place in your web page. The HTML script contains simple instructions (called parameters), and executes SWF file in area of your web document where you insert script -- kind of like a Java Applet, but that's where any similarity ends.
Flash Design Does It Really Deliver What Is Promised?Written by Jody Hatton
Flash design? Is it all it's cracked up to be? In this article, we'll be confronting all questions head on: What is Flash? What's good about it? What's bad about it? And, most importantly, what will it do for your online business?
When Flash was first introduced by FutureWave Inc. in August 1996, it was known as "FutureSplash Animator." Macromedia acquired FutureWave in December and renamed application to "Flash." What made FutureSplash unique was fact that FutureSplash's images were created in "vector format."
As you may know, most images you see on Web (such as logo that appears on http://www.worlddesignservices.com/), are drawn by thousands, sometimes even millions, of colored square dots known as "pixels." Any image that displays shapes using pixels (called a "raster image") can have a significantly large file size since color and location of each dot must be recorded inside image file.
The vector graphic, on other hand, is an image type that uses mathematical equations to define lines and shapes. For example, a drawing of a circle uses only a single curved line, rather than relying on hundreds (or even thousands) of pixels to create an image. This not only results in a drastic decrease in file size, but also an increase in image quality. Vector graphics can be scaled up or down and never lose their sharp lines, whereas raster images end up looking "chunky." For a side-by-side comparison of vector and raster images, have a look at following page: http://www.worlddesignservices.com/designtips/flash/
Because Flash relies mostly on vector graphics to display text and images, it delivers excellent image quality and exceptionally small file sizes. On Internet, where no two users are ever connected at exactly same speed at same time, this reduced download is always appreciated.
In unlikely event that you've never seen a Flash animation before, have a look at banner on top of http://www.internetcashplanet.com/. Not only does it look great, but it MOVES; Flash, when created properly, will deliver any message you want and keep your audience interested.
Gone are days of slow downloads and endless reading! As you've seen from previous comparisons, Flash banners deliver sharp, great-looking graphics which load quickly and get your message to your viewer fast. Flash banners also get read more often than your basic static HTML page because they have ability to move smoothly, whereas traditional animated web graphics are clunky at best. Everybody knows 30-second rule, which dictates that you MUST make an impression on your viewer within 30 seconds of them hitting your site if you want them to respond to your offers. Since this rule is ALWAYS in effect, a Flash banner's ability to transmit a message quickly, smoothly, and effectively is always worth investment.
The application of Flash reaches far beyond simple animated banner. Worldprofit's new "Ultimate Home Business Promo," when it was first released, generated so many responses, they were difficult for us to keep up with! Once you have a look at http://www.worldprofit.com/uhbp/, you'll probably understand why. Flash, when created properly, not only has power to captivate your site viewers, it also has power to strike emotional chords and make your viewers feel whatever you want them to: excitement, hope, enthusiasm.
Up until last year, Flash banners could only be made using "Macromedia Flash" utility. For many, it was a difficult program to master, and creating even simplest of banners could be a week-long project. However, recent introduction of third-party applications such as Swish (http://www.swishzone.com) and SwFX (http://www.wildform.com/) have made it much easier to create animated banners that use same file format as Flash.