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Overview

Intro - Flash History

Flash ActionScript

Building User Interfaces

Object Oriented Techniques

Beyond Flash MX

Conclusion

Recommendations

References

Appendices

Author Notes

Figure Captions

Questions?

Email Dianne

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Using Flash MX ActionScript

Intro - Flash History

Early Flash Animations example cartoon
Figure 1. Early Flash movie example taken from the Designer-info.com website http://www.designer-info.com/master.htm?http://www.designer-info.com/Writing/flash_usability.htm

What is Flash? Perfetti says, “Macromedia Flash is a powerful development tool that offers tremendous capabilities (at http://www.uie.com/whitepaper.htm, 2002).” In Flash’s early days, it was mainly used to create animations or short movies. As Flash’s popularity grew so did its functionality with each new version. Programmers were able to build real application user interfaces with the latest versions of Flash. Flash could now boast that it had client-server capabilities. Programmers use ActionScript, which is Flash’s programming language, to create these user interfaces. Franklin says, “ActionScript is a language that bridges the gap between what you understand and what Flash understands (p. 8, 2002)”.

Flash’s Early History

Animation Building Tool

Flash Interface
Figure 2. Early Flash application called FutureSplash Animator taken from the Flashmagazing.com websitehttp://www.flashmagazine.com/html/413.htm

Flash began as a simple drawing tool. Flash’s creator, Jonathan Gay, eventually added the animation part of this tool to his product and began selling it under the name FutureSplash Animator. In October of 1995, Jonathan tried to sell his product to Adobe, but they thought the demo was to slow and declined. Eventually, in December of 1996, Macromedia bought FutureSplash Animator, and named it Macromedia Flash 1.0. Flash has been through five revisions since then, and is now called Flash MX (Flash 6.0).

Flash’s Bad Reputation

Flash has had a bad reputation for being slow, and creating a bad user experience for the user. In October of 2000, Nielsen wrote that Flash technology discourages usability for three reasons (at http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20001029.html, 2000):

  1. Encourages bad design
  2. Breaks with the Web’s fundamental interaction style
  3. Consumes resources that would be better spent enhancing a site’s core value

It is true that many designers have created web sites with Flash that are not user friendly and are slow to load. The way some designers have used Flash is what really has given Flash its bad name. Meloni agrees that there are problems but his recommendations are as follows (at http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20001029.html, nd.):

  1. Designers: Read up on usability. Practice it within your medium.
  2. Project Mangers: Plan and outline your projects well.
  3. Check-writers: Hire the right agencies, ones that look out for their clients, not themselves.
  4. Nielsen: Step into the present. Adapt your tenets of usability and bridge the gap between the Ten Usability Heuristics and today’s designers.
    Nielsen has since recanted some of his beliefs, but his original remarks put a slight damper on Flash’s use as a web tool.

How far has Flash come?

Flash is more and more becoming a choice for web design/developers or companies to use for developing their websites. With bandwidth issues becoming less prevalent and developers finding more ways to make Flash movies load faster and developing more user friendly sites, Flash is fast becoming a dominant way to deliver Rich Internet Applications. Airgid and Reindel say, “The idea of a page or a static piece of information has been totally changed because of Flash’s layering capability. Content can now be displayed in pieces or mixed together to form new content by the end user. The booklike model of “turning” a page to ready more information has been surpassed. Using Flash, developers can layer information and design in a way that wasn’t possible with traditional HTML” (at http://www.macromedia.com/devnet/mx/flash/articles/flash99good.html, 2002).

Flash’s newest version, Flash MX, also works with other programs to help developers have a complete set of products to help them build dynamic web content. Kav says that Flash MX was built with ColdFusion in mind, and can also be used with J2EE, and .NET (at http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/02/09/index4a.html, 2002). Another product that Flash MX works with is Flash Remoting. Flash Remoting is able to invoke methods to talk to web services. Marinescu says that Flash out of the box – provides an asynchronous messaging model that allows Flash to invoke methods RPC-style directly on web services, EJB’s, JavaBeans, JMX MBeans, POJOs, ColdFusion pages, ASP pages, to perform ASO.Net data binding operation, and creates links to a number of other resources in the ColdFusion and .NET worlds that are probably less important to TSS than the JAVA cases (at http://www2.theserverside.com/home/thread.jsp?thread_id=14080, 2002).

Flash App Server example
Figure 4. Flash Remoting example taken from the blueedgedata.com websitehttp://www.blueedgedata.com/flash/flashremoting.htm

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