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Macromedia Flash
A Loaded Gun In Dangerous Hands

By Marlon Young -- June 20, 2001
Now, I will be the first to confess that I am perhaps from the 'old school' of web design and the Internet.  I can proudly recall the early days of digesting screen after screen of knowledge that others had so kindly placed upon the new fangled "Internet".  All this was done in a quest to sate my still constant desire for knowledge and facts.  However, it seems that to a large extent these days are well and truly over.  Who took this right away from me?  Which text-thirsty creature stole my first Internet love?  I have a culprit in mind...

The culprit that I think is to blame certainly has the motive.

Marlon Young

In fact, the culprit can be seen holding the blooded dagger in hand and laughing at me on every visit I make to a website that promises to enrich me with fact, knowledge and information.  Who is this dastardly creature?  Who is this hideous larcenist and plunderer of my days of old?  Well, ladies and gentlemen, I point the finger firmly in the direction of Macromedia Flash.

Perhaps I should qualify that accusation.  After all, we are all, in modern society, innocent until proven guilty.  Macromedia Flash promised dynamic interaction, enrichment of the quality of information, a miracle of the world wide web.  The information that I once read through plain text could now, it seemed at the time, be given to me in a way that would engage me, fulfill me and even excite me.  Wow!  I was excited.  The roller coaster ride had begun and I had a front seat!  Little did I realize at the time that there was the evil creature, "over-indulgence", sitting behind me.

So there I was, sitting in the front seat of this artistic roller coaster, waiting for the first big dip to thrill me.  It came . . . I was thrilled.  Smooth animation, synchronized pounding music, in my face effects.  The movies had finally hit the Internet!  One day this was going to be big.  However, like all good rides, it went stale very quickly as everyone jumped on and the queues formed.  We are now, it seems, left in a constant sate of waiting.  To over-use my roller coaster analogy once more, it has become a sleek ride on rickety old tracks that cannot hold the speed of the carriages.

I refer to a specific example that I encountered recently.  I visited a website about human-resource management.  After the infernal "Loading.... 3%" which had already taken almost a minute on a standard dial-up connection, I gave in.  This seems to be the common standard now. What makes these people think that I or many others like me, have the time for such luxuries? When I want information I want it yesterday. That is why I use the Internet.  If I wanted glitzy graphics, pounding music and moving animations then I would turn on MTV, grab a tube of Pringles and put my feet up.  How did "this person is visiting my site to find out about our HR services" ever get translated to "this person is visiting my site to be overly entertained"?  The mind absolutely boggles.

So, whilst I do point my finger at the Macromedia Flash, I also appreciate the old analogy that "guns don't kill - it's the people pulling the trigger."  The same has to apply here. Macromedia Flash when used effectively can be an absolute joy to witness.  I have even been to sites where I didn't even realize that it was there.  Only to later discover that the buttons which I thought were plain old Java were in fact, animated Flash components . . . Nice.

However, the competition now seems to be hotting up to produce the biggest and the best Flash intro for websites.  Gone are the days of "Welcome to our website..." in place of the techno laced corny marketing phrases such as "Information Today - For The Web of Tomorrow".   Yes, we know that they may look and feel good when you think them up but please don't think that we can't spot them for they are -- Corny, over-used (and very often very poorly researched) marketing messages that are designed to convince us that you are at the cutting edge of your chosen field.  Personally, I can gauge this from the quality of your information on your pages.  The subliminal messaging simply serves to tell me that you have not researched your client-base or indeed the Internet market that pays for your hosting space.

I should perhaps point out that I have recently been accepted as a judge of websites for an awards program.  Does this mean that I will instantly downgrade any Flash site simply because I happen not to like the medium?  No.  Here's why . . . When I am surfing as an everyday part of life then I invariably need information and as I run my own company, time is money, as they say. If that information is not presented to me quickly and effectively then I am wasting time and money.  However, when I am judging, I accept the fact that absolutely any site may be presented to me.  (I shall also make a point of dedicating time for the sole purpose of judging so that my time is not being hampered by the inevitable having to wait for Flash sites to fire up.)  Whilst my judge hat is on, I care not a jot whether the site takes 30 seconds or 30 minutes to load (though I don't recommend the latter) so long as the wait is worth it and the site offers something of value and excellence in its field.

It may be plain old HTML or it may be completely Flash driven.  When my judge hat is on, I shall look at the site on its own merits regardless of the medium used.  I shall look at how it offers itself to its target audience, how it offers itself to me, along with various other more technical aspects that are frankly way beyond the scope of this article.

I do see a very big future for Macromedia Flash, of that there can be little doubt.  But that is the key point - future.  That future is not now.  The internet as we know it today is simply not ready for it.  Not only is it not ready for it but it is actually kicking and screaming against it with all of its might!  Until broadband becomes a common standard to all users in all countries then ease off.   am just one person and I click away from hundred of Flash created sites every week simply because I cannot be bothered or do not have the time to wait to feed the author's ego.  If I do it then you can safely bet your bottom dollar that so do plenty of other prospective clients for your business.

Maybe it's because I am old grump who refuses to budge with the times?  Well at a mere 32 and very much into technology I would disagree.  I just appreciate what makes sense and what doesn't.

Trying to run a high-speed carriage on rickety wooden tracks is not a sensible act.

Copyright 2001
All Rights Reserved
Marlon Young

About the Author
Marlon Young is the owner, primary designer and search engine optimization consultant at VBMedia Web Designs in Nottingham England.  When not sat at a computer he is busy wishing that he was sat back at his computer, engaging himself in design work.

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