Bringing back the bells and whistles

June 3rd, 2004

I went on an official Macromedia Flash “Rich Media Design” course presented by Symbiosis last Thursday and Friday. I rarely use Flash these days but in the instances I do (interactive learning objects for the OU) I tend to blunder about until things work. It kind of reminds me of working in Front Page Pro back in 1996. So I thought a little structured, formal training would do me good. My god how Flash has changed in the last few years.

To be honest I gave up with Action Scripting a few years back when I came across a web developer who could make all my design do the singing and dancing thing. All I’d say was “hey, Steven, do your magic with this”, bung my movie his way and marvel at the results. So it was quite nice to get a grip with the under-the-hood workings of Flash so I too could manipulate my web sites to make them interactive and fun to use.

I’m now trained with Flash and intend to use it (where it would be the best solution). I’ve had my head in the whole standards/xhtml/css/accessibility thing for three solid years now and whilst the rest of the world has caught up there haven’t really been any massive moves forward. However, with things like separating the behaviour layer from structure (xhtml, javascript) and Flash Replacement Technique we do have a couple of exciting things to work with. Tie into that the much improved accessibility features and XML parsing native in Flash and there’s some real potential for greatness in there (if used effectively). Flash is a proprietory technology and as such puts many off. Whilst we can use Apache, MySQL, PHP, XHTML, CSS and other free technologies, Flash remains (a very good) tool the firmly belongs to Macromedia.

As the CSS Zen garden proves, you don’t need Flash to make stunning looking sites. But in terms of interactivity it blows Javascript out of the water. So maybe we can let this one slip through? Zeldman speaks of the web losing its creativity. I think he’s just baiting the community to stop changing their unique web efforts into mere blogs (something that’s very easy to do). I’m fairly confident that this phase of deconstructing the web is just about done. Now we all understand the issues it’s time to let the creative juices flow once more on the cusp of the cutting edge.