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A more in-depth look

What do I need?
Looking at a Flash website (or a traditional website with some Flash components) requires a plugin to be installed in your browser to handle the Flash file. Fortunately, most browsers come with Flash support as standard, so there's a good 99% chance that you already have the Flash plug-in.

What is Flash?
Flash started off in 1996 as a simple animation program called FutureSplash Animator, designed pretty well exclusively for making cheesy Web cartoons. Just before the turn of the century, a rudimentary programming language was bolted in. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and people started using Flash to make games and websites. These sites were usually pretty awful; Flash was an animation package with a basic programming language crudely slapped in, and it certainly wasn't designed to make websites!

Over time, as new versions of the Flash authoring program (and the Flash browser plug-in) were released, the emphasis shifted more towards the programming side of things. We can only assume that the guys over at Macromedia (now a part of Adobe) saw how people were misusing their product, and figured "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" - they extended the programming language and added new commands and functionality more appropriate for making websites, and today, Flash has evolved into a very useful website creation tool.
More information about Flash in general

What can it do?
Just about anything. We can use it for simple things like illustrating something that would be hard to do with still images, or we can go all-out and make a website that works in a way that the user doesn't expect. You can use smooth, full-screen fades between pages, or expand menu entries with a click, or even create a degree of artificial intelligence in the website. You can even construct games in Flash - and we've taken that a step further with the JAMMAForever project, which makes a new type of game for converted arcade machines!

Flash can also be used for artistic purposes; entire animated series have been created in Flash.

Let's say for the sake of example that your website has a background of a summer's landscape, as taken from the top of a big hill. You could have the image change throughout the day, reading the information from the visitor's system clock, so that the website appears to cycle throughout the day. You could even add changes in weather, accomplished by a randomiser. When a visitor clicks on a link, the camera would zoom over to the next hill, giving a sense of speed and motion.
More information about Flash animation
More information about Flash games

What are its limitations?
As said before, getting a decent search engine ranking becomes a more complicated process when you're running an all-Flash website. Although Google's technologies are improving every day, it's still quite hard for them to look inside Flash files to find text to spider. There are ways of getting around this, most of which involve showing Google an alternate route to static HTML content, but they all take up time and ultimately drive up the price of the website.

Although the technology behind Flash has come on in leaps and bounds, it's still practically useless if you're visually impaired. Again, there are ways to get around this, but they all take time to implement.

Reading this, you'd be forgiven for thinking that we don't like Flash - well, we do. We love it, in fact, as long as its use is always justified. When used responsibly, Flash can really take your breath away. We just want you to be aware of all the potential troubles, so that you go into this with your eyes open, prepared for any speedbumps you might encounter along the way.

If you're not sure whether your website idea justifies Flash, or want to know whether your idea is technically possible, please don't hesitate to contact us.

 

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