Elance Blog

How to Get Started With Flash Programming

Most of you have probably heard of Flash and you’ve most likely seen it while browsing the internet … but how can you use it on your website?

Jon Emerson
Co-Founder & CEO, Siris Media

In a nutshell, Flash allows you to engage your audience with motion, sound and interactivity, which helps you deliver your message, sell your product or service, or promote your cause. Flash, well-designed and produced, is a great tool for developing dynamic content for the web and can be a great asset for your website.

In this article, you’ll learn what Flash programming is and how you can use it on your website to engage your audience and differentiate your business.

What is Flash?
Flash is a lot of things, but for our purposes let’s define Flash as a vector animation software program. Vector graphics are ideal for websites because they are lighter weight than other types of dynamic web-based content, and light weight graphics make your website load more quickly for your website visitors.

Also, if you’ve ever seen things move on the web -- and it’s not video -- it’s likely to be Flash (although Flash is now doing a lot of interesting things with video too). More recently, Flash has grown to become much, much more than video and vector animation, but for our purposes for the first-time Flash user, we’ll stay focused on the animation capabilities.

Why Use Flash?
Flash enables you to create dynamic, compelling, interactive elements for your website that are almost guaranteed to work on any computer and any browser. Flash is also very simple for you to deploy, so compared to other snazzy elements you can add to your website, you can think of it as almost a low-tech alternative to add powerful, differentiating and unique elements that attract and convert visitors.

Best of all, Flash has been around for several years now, and so there are a lot of great flash animators out there that can develop high-quality Flash content for you more affordably than if using other web technologies.

When Should I Use Flash?
Banner Ads
Flash is not THE answer to delivering compelling content for the web, but it is way to pack more interesting material into a single place on a webpage. Ad banners, for example, are a popular place to use Flash and they allow the advertiser to communicate more messages in a single space than they could with a static graphic.
Example: Intel Ticker

Product and Marketing Demonstrations
Flash can also help to create a movie-like experience for your audience, enabling you to reach customers who prefer to consume content in visual form rather than just text form. Where you typically see this manifest itself is in product and marketing demonstrations – these tend to be popular places to leverage Flash.
Example: Sum Total

Interactive Panels
If you have an online business, you are probably constantly trying to improve your website so that it not only attracts new customers, but provides an entertaining or educational experience for all visitors. Interactive panels, built with flash, are a great way to add interest and engage your audience for a more “sticky” experience.
Example: eBay Auctions Ending Now

Unique Delivery of Otherwise Static Content
Flash can also be used to create something simple and elegant, but be more compelling than a static image or text would be, as shown in this simple holiday card we produced for our good friends at Elance:
Example: Elance Holiday Card

Ready to Give it a Shot?
Below are some basic tips to help you effectively scope your Flash project.

Effective scoping and clear, complete directions are critical to getting accurate quotes and ultimately receiving a finished product that meets your expectations. In general, it’s better to provide more information than less because the more the vendor knows up-front, the better able they will be at providing an accurate quote and committing to a realistic timeline.

When scoping a flash project, be sure to follow these eight simple steps:

  1. Describe your project. Provide an accurate description of the piece so that the vendor is able to clearly understand what you are looking for. For example, is this a marketing piece, a product demonstration, or an advertisement?
  2. Outline the demo, ad or panel. What does the vendor have to work with? Do you have the graphics made, a storyboard outlined, and/or a script written?
  3. State what the vendor will do. What are you looking for from the vendor? Do you want them to come up with the concept from scratch, or just take an existing concept and bring it to life?
  4. Describe your audience. What does your audience look like? Do you need to accommodate a worldwide audience, an internal audience on a corporate network, or both?
  5. Identify the ideal length. Is there a specific length for the piece?
  6. Address special effects and audio requirements. Will the piece include any audio (music, sound effects or voice)? If so, do you own the rights to the music or will you need the vendor to purchase royalty-free music to use in the piece?
  7. State size specifications. What size (height x width) should the finished piece be?

What we’ve discussed here is really only the tip of the Flash iceberg, but is a great start for anyone looking to improve their website. As you progress with using Flash on your website, you can begin to think about using Flash to develop an entire website or RIA (Rich Internet Applications) that rival any desktop application on the market today, very high-quality video, and much, much more.

Jon Emerson (Elance ID:  sirismedia) is Co-Founder and CEO of Siris Media, a Silicon Valley provider of self-service video production solutions and corporate multimedia production services.