Flash - beyond animation

by Joe Gillespie — Feb 1, 2001

As soon as you hear the word 'Flash' mentioned, you immediately think of animation on Web pages, or to be more accurate, moving graphics. I make the distinction here because 'animation' involves more than making a few circles and lines of type move across the screen. However, I'm not going to discuss animation at all in this short series of articles, Flash can do a lot more than animation and it is those other things that I'm going to be looking at.

Before we go any further, a few basics. Why use Flash at all? It requires a browser plug-in that some people might not have, or they might not have the version of the plug-in required for your particular movie.

According to Macromedia's research of December 2000, more people have the Flash plug-in than any other. Better than 85% of surfers can view Flash 4 content. Flash 5 is newer and only accounts for about 35%, but is growing fast. Overall, over 95% of Web users can view some sort of Flash movies - that's 320 million people!

Flash's biggest advantage, as I see it, is that it helps to insulate you from the headaches of browser and platform differences and frees you from the layout deficiencies of HTML. If that is all it did, its existence would be fully justified!

Think about it. You can use any typeface at any (sensible) size, anywhere on the screen and in any color. You can hyperlink the text, twist it at an angle and make it jump about madly, if you are into that kind of thing. That's all fine, but just remember that the text in a Flash movie is not available to search engines or indexing so it is not going to replace HTML completely. If you want text on a Flash page to be indexed, include the important keywords in a Meta tag in the page's <HEAD> section.

The other thing to watch for is that if you want your Web pages to be bookmarkable, you will need to put related Flash movies on separate pages, you can't bookmark inside a Flash movie, only the page that hosts it.

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