… only bad Flash Icon programmers. 

Flash is often criticized for creating unorganised pages, where the core message of the page is lost amid the flashing, blinking, animated images that Flash programmers, in general, love to create.

With the functional, minimalist look that identifies new pages as being ‘Web 2.0’ it seems that someone has forgotten to tell many Flash programmers that less is more. Whilst programming something in Flash to look as bad this bot generated mess would take a monumentally ‘gifted’ programmer there are still people who break the same basic design rules as before.

1) Design compliments function

A web page should be designed to present your ‘pitch’ to a visitor. This pitch can be what your product offers them or something less sales focused such as simply showing them a picture. Distracting their focus from the pitch negates the point of the page.

On the other hand, if a page has no defined function, pages can degenerate into a display for display’s sake. User made GeoCities pages had hit counters, clocks, animated backgrounds and changing mouse cursors that came to define the user generated web at the turn of the millenium. These people had no reason to make a page other than they could – and many seem to have now become Flash programmers.

2) Images speak a thousand words

Web users like their information quickly and efficiently. With those two thoughts it stands to reason if you can get people to look at 3 images, when they won’t read more than 800 words, then you’ve told them more than you could without images.

However if you bombard them with hundreds of animated images the information becomes too much to process and the impact of each is lost. Choose your images carefully and don’t lose the visitors focus by giving them too much to take in.

3) The web is interactive, not passive

Flash would seem to be the perfect way to interact with visitors and, when implimented properly, this is true. However when it takes more than a couple of seconds to load a page or if you make users navigate through an intro page people lose patience and go somewhere else.

When navigating between sections, elaborate and lengthy animations before arriving at the link destination are frustrating when most users are just looking for specific information. This leads onto…

4) Navigation must be intuitive

Just because you can hide the link to the dog toy page in an animated puppy doesn’t mean you should. Links must clearly be links. Users do not want to hover over every element of your page to try and find the way to the information they want.

There are hundreds of mistakes that designers can make, but when navigating a Flash site I find the lack of focus to be the biggest drawback to giving designers the creative reins.

Of course when implimented correctly Flash can be a powerful tool and even sites that do some of the above can make a good user experience in the hands of a good developer.

What examples of good or bad sites have you seen and what mistakes would you like to see Flash programmers correct.

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