Increasingly, Flash developers are going beyond simply creating intros, splash screens, and other ephemera: they're building full-fledged sites with Flash. For many designers, the reasons to do this are compelling: no other technology offers as much control over how your site looks and works. Even designers and clients who are concerned about the downsides of building Flash-only sites are still using Flash in more sophisticated and subtle ways than ever before -- including e-commerce applications.
Yesterday's Flash skills are no longer enough: Designers who want to succeed with Flash need a real understanding of how it works in the real world now. This means, among other things, that designers are looking for a new kind of Flash book -- one that shows them exactly how to create the kinds of Flash content and functionality clients are looking for now.
A book like Ken Milburn's Flash Site Workshop. You can begin building a complete Flash site on page 1 of this book, and by the time you reach the back, you'll be up and running with a fully functional dynamic site, complete with e-commerce capabilities.
Milburn provides a large CD-ROM library of prefabricated Flash components to handle most of the essential tasks developers need to perform nowadays. The result: You get the functionality you're looking for, faster than you ever expected -- and without the lengthy trial-and-error you would've faced if you built from scratch, or the costs associated with licensing third-party code.
There's more here than any single site is likely to use. Of course, everything's modular: You can pick and choose, and turn back to the book whenever you've got a project that requires it. Best of all, as Milburn explains each component and demonstrates how to customize it, you're also learning advanced Flash techniques and scripting, hands-on.
Among the projects Milburn presents: animations for e-commerce catalogues; e-commerce site customization and personalization techniques; constructing "sites within sites" for specific purposes or events; interactive invoices and shopping carts, presenting surveys, previewing related links, even creating images with their own built-in interfaces.
Let's take a closer look at one of these projects. (Two, actually, as you'll see.) Milburn walks through creating that must-have tool, the Flash plug-in sniffer. Everyone knows visitors need the Flash plug-in installed and enabled to view Flash content, but many sites simply place a warning at the front of their sites, asking users to choose between HTML and Flash. That's clumsy, wastes a click, and often leads visitors to simply skip your Flash content. Why not do the checking for them, and send them to the right pages automatically?
The second approach embeds a Flash movie in the site's opening HTML page. This one is arguably a bit more challenging but evades technical problems that can lead to a "false negative" with the first approach -- and also lets you identify which version of the Flash player is present. In essence, Milburn says, you're running a race: Your HTML document contains a meta refresh tag that sends you to a new page called no_flash.htm after ten seconds -- unless the Flash movie on the same page loads first. If Flash is present, the movie loads, and the user gets the full Flash experience.
The full Flash experience. If that's what you want to give your users, Flash Site Workshop is the fastest way to give it to them.