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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard johnn's Avatar
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    Build your entire site with Flash and PHP?

    Is Flash going to be popular and hot in the coming years? I saw some sites built entirely in Flash. If it is hot, I'm thinking about learning to create these sites with PHP + MYSQL + FLASH.

    Thanks in advance,
    John
    Last edited by johnn; Nov 20, 2001 at 14:45.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Zealot Marek Bereza's Avatar
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    I don't know whether flash is going to get that much bigger than it already is, although I doubt it. Having invested a lot of time working in flash and learning it, I can say that it is a very good tool for building whole sites in, because of so many reasons which I won't go into.

    You have to assess what technologies you want to employ and then decide if flash is the way to go. For instance, if your website is going to have lots of photos of raster graphics then maybe a combination of the two or no flash at all would be a good idea, but when you are just using line drawing or very few pictures, it can be SO much better.

    People say that it's hard to make a flash site dynamic (especially without generator) , but that is certainly not true.
    I hope I could help, I've already forgotten the question
    of the brethren of disco metal
    Disco metal tunes at www.wikid.co.uk

  3. #3
    SitePoint Enthusiast appetent's Avatar
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    Hi Johnn,

    I have been working with Flash for a year or so and would definately say go for it. Recently I have started doing PHP and mySQL coding to integrate with the sites as it seems to be as good a future as any to me. I'm still in the early learning stage but I am already impressed with the potential.

    Check out my last one: http://www.grovesphoto.com/site/groves.html

    This site is for a photographer friend of mine in OZ. I only uses PHP for the contact and share sections 'cos my current hosts have not got mySQL but it will soon be transferred to another host so that I can add the guestbook that I have working on my localhost. If you're looking for a book on the subjct check out http://www.phpforflash.com. F of ED have recently released this book and apart from a couple of typos I have found it easy going and useful.

    Happy flashing -

    A.
    Appetent
    Safe, safe, safe.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Zealot Marek Bereza's Avatar
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    Hey appetent,

    Nice site. One advantage of flash, which has got to be my favorite one is that you can make the edges of the movie stick to the edges of the browser, so that at any screen size at any resolution at any window size, it automatically resizes itself, so there will never be a scroll bar. If you are interested in how this is done, I would be happy to post the snippets of html for you. It's really simple, and it makes your website universally compatible with anyone whos got flash
    of the brethren of disco metal
    Disco metal tunes at www.wikid.co.uk

  5. #5
    SitePoint Enthusiast appetent's Avatar
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    Please do mate I would definately be interested in giving it a go.

    I have only one reservation, which is degradation of quality of the jpeg pictures. The only way around that I can see is designing one site at 800*600 and then another for higher screen resolutions and using some kind of screen reolution detect & redirect but that would mean creating the whole site, larger all over again Can you think of any other workarounds?

    Sorry to johnn for going off topic but so I'll continue, and I'm not brown nosing but I agree with Marek. There is a time and a place for flash. Generally, if I am working on a text heavy site, I steer away from flash as HTML with other techs deals with this much better. The site I posted above was a perfect match to be done complete in flash for a few reasons. It is a creative subject for creative people (not saying that you canot be creative in other mediums but I find this a better channel for me). Also, it held little text and allowed me to load external flash files (the pictures) as and when required so that the initial files size to load is only 68KB.

    A.
    Appetent
    Safe, safe, safe.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Zealot Marek Bereza's Avatar
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    okay I'll explain how to do it.

    Set your flash movie's html attributes concerning the size, usually in px to ...="100%". Be sure that you haven't typed ...="100px"

    Next step add these to your body tag :
    <body ... marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" topmargin="0" leftmargin="0">

    And that's it! And it means you can make your site 3 cm high and still use it (although you can't read it)

    About it degrading your jpegs : You could make it open a different flash movie with some simple javascript.

    The idea of it resizing like this though, is so there are no scrollbars on a smaller screen, which I think looks a bit less professional
    of the brethren of disco metal
    Disco metal tunes at www.wikid.co.uk

  7. #7
    SitePoint Enthusiast geeOff's Avatar
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    it's definitely possible to do this & (i believe) does almost everything Generator can do with no hardware level to hit...as in a ASP/generator set-up...i'm doing a project now w/ PHP, mySQL & Flash...basically i do a lot of
    Code:
     
    xNum = random(9999);
    qTextNum = "some_questions.php?"+xNum;
    loadVariablesNum (qTextNum, 1);
    play();
    things in the preloaders to keep Flash from caching the PHP (much of the stuff i dish from the DB is random / dynamic). the PHP just reads from mySQL, formats, parses & echos out all the variables i need in the "&some_Var=some mySQl dished results&" loadVariablesNUm() flash format. then writing TO the DB was a little nutty, but worked fine from Flash after i got the Var names between the two sorted out...similar to a form submit from flash.

    this is the prototype: http://155.229.210.99/

    Geoff

  8. #8
    Dumb PHP codin' cat
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    The one cool thing about generator is not its ability to pull variables in but to load your flash movie up with generator labels, generator takes care of putting the data in the correct places, without any heavy actionscripting, plus the ability to run generator in off-line mode to create swfs, jpgs, gifs, pngs and mov files from your flash template all on the server.

    Sure anyone could mastermind a great dynamic site using actionscript, but generator will allow you to do it in a tenth of the time. Not to mention with regualr actionscript you will be hacking something together to make a semi-dynamic site. With generator you can literally drop generator objects in supply a datasource and get true dynamic content.
    Please don't PM me with questions.
    Use the forums, that is what they are here for.

  9. #9
    Wanna-be Apple nut silver trophy M. Johansson's Avatar
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    Originally posted by freddydoesphp
    Sure anyone could mastermind a great dynamic site using actionscript, but generator will allow you to do it in a tenth of the time. Not to mention with regualr actionscript you will be hacking something together to make a semi-dynamic site. With generator you can literally drop generator objects in supply a datasource and get true dynamic content.
    How is
    loadVariablesNum (qTextNum, 1);
    heavy coding? Generator must be able to do some bloody amazing stuff...
    Mattias Johansson
    Short, Swedish, Web Developer

    Buttons and Dog Tags with your custom design:
    FatStatement.com

  10. #10
    Dumb PHP codin' cat
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    Do you always read between the lines like that? So that loaded some variables, now you need to use action script to do something with them right? And what can you change after the movie is loaded into the client anyways? Some text?


    I suggest you have a look at

    http://www.macromedia.com/software/g...info/features/



    Yes you can use actionscript to load variables into a movie. Generator is on a whole new level, with the ability to process flash templates and produce swfs from them by providing data sources. Try that with loadVariables.
    Please don't PM me with questions.
    Use the forums, that is what they are here for.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard Defender1's Avatar
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    Flash should really only be used in certain situations.
    It's good for art sites, movie sites, etc.
    It wouldn't be good for online stores, news/portal sites or search engines.

    When overused, flash can be the bane of your existance, but if used well, can create an awesome experience.
    Defender's Designs
    I'm Getting Married!

    Not-so-patiently awaiting Harry Potter Book 7 *sigh*

  12. #12
    Dumb PHP codin' cat
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    Where did you come up with that? Have you ever even looked at Generator. You can create a storefront with Flash, Generator and some middleware like PHP that would be both functionally complete as well as pleasing to the user.

    Yeah for the small time guys who can only afford flash, your options are limited to your abilities and the limitations inherent to flash. But with some middleware and generator tied in, you can most certianly make a storefront and you can make a portal site, the company I am currently employed with is developing a portal system made completely from flash with a Generator backend using PHP to assemble data.

    With news feeds and evewrything else a portal would include. You'll have to wait to see it in action but believe me, the capabilities are there. Plus you can loose all the lame cross-browser issues you have with HTML and javascript.

    So while your opinion holds weight in your own mind, in the real world flash is growing and the ability to make dynamic flash movies with complete interaction from databases and the end user, will only make it grow that much stronger.
    Please don't PM me with questions.
    Use the forums, that is what they are here for.

  13. #13
    Grumpy Mole Man Skunk's Avatar
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    Uuuuuuurgh1!

    <rant>

    Why on earth would you want to inflict something like that on your visitors!? I have never seen a site implemented purely in Flash which I would not have found far more usable if it had been done in normal HTML (or DHTML at a pinch). Nippy transition effects? Pretty the first time, but after the 15th delay waiting-for-the-pretty-transition-to-finish they start to grate... Fancy user interfaces? Brilliant, now I have to re-learn basic site navigation just to use your site. And don't get me started on flash intros...

    Personally I see Flash as a tool which favours the designer at the expense of the visitor. Arguments I've seen for flash include:
    • It gives me pixel perfect control of where things are!
    • It prevents users from "stealing" my code and images!
    • It lets me implement an impressive new navigation system!
    Great - now remind me which of those help me out as someone who actually has to surf around your site looking for information?

    There are almost certainly more advantages to using flash (and I'm sure someone will happily fill me in) - but here are the disadvantages:
    • You've just killed my right mouse button. I use "open in new window" almost every time I click a link (that way I can set pages loading in the background while I'm reading the current page) - on Flash sites I can't do that.
    • I can't bookmark sections of your site OR get at the individual URL. Sure I could bookmark the start of the flash monstrosity but that's not much help when I want to pass the URL of whatever site page I'm looking at to a friend via e-mail / ICQ / Messenger / IRC etc.
    • I can't copy and paste text. Oddly enough I don't want to do this to "steal" your content - sometimes I just want to paste a bit of information into another window for my own personal use (I often surf with notepad open and paste bits and pieces in there, that way if my browser crashes I don't lose useful stuff before I've read it).
    • As a web developer I often like to check out how a site achieves a certain effect. I don't steal code, but it's nice to see how something works and store that knowledge away for future reference. When other developers use flash to obscure my enjoyment of the technical side of their work I find it mildly irritating...
    • Scrolling! I scroll by rolling my mouse wheel, or dragging a selection over text, or clickign once on the middle mouse button and moving the mouse, or usign the arrow keys. I never use the scroll bar (why bother?). Flash sites frequently force me to scroll by hovering over some daft non-obvious icon somewhere. I don't like that.
    • Another right mouse button thing - I can't right click a link, select "Copy Shortcut" and paste it elsewhere.
    • Browser compatibility. "But Flash is available everywhere!" you say. For some reason my flash plugin for Mozilla freezes up occasionally and you've gotta be joking if you think Lynx is gonna handle Flash (and I use Lynx quite frequently, it's excellent if you're using telnet or SSH).
    • Presentation over content. Content is king, but most flash sites I see seem to have forgotten this. This isn't so much a problem with flash as it is with the way flash is used though.
    • Printing stuff out can be nice - Flash makes that a lot harder than it should be.

    That's everything that comes to mind for the moment - you've gotta admit that's a pretty comprehensive list of reasons not to use Flash...

    And finally - a case study.

    www.harrypotter.com

    The official Warner Brother's Harry Potter site, and it's a superb example of how NOT to use flash. Half the time it crashes IE (or Mozilla) before it's even loaded, but on the few times I did get it to load I found a very pretty site loaded with cute graphics and virtually no useful content at all. For the record I was trying to find the name of the actor who played Harry Potter's dad - after 15 minutes on the official site (which encouraged me to sign up for a house at hogwart's but failed miserably to provide anything resembling a cast list) I hit google and found the info I was after in seconds.

    Show me a 100% Flash site which couldn't be implemented to be more usable using standard HTML and I'll eat my words. Until then I'll continue thinking of Flash as a fantastic tool for animating monkees and writing games but a rubbish tool for serious web development. And I know flash can be dynamically generated and have database driven content etc but as I've stated above I'm more concerned with Flash's faults as a user interface than as a tool for development.

    </rant>

    If I've offended you in the above post I apologise - hopefully this will lead to an active discussion about the merits and disadvantages of flash

  14. #14
    Dumb PHP codin' cat
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    You aren't gonna see me try and defend everything you just posted, cause you have some good points, I was simply refuting the fact that flash cannot be used to build portals or storefronts. Also because I only started with Generator last week, although I am already impressed.

    You are correct you will lose a lot of the functionality you get with HTML. But Flash is a new technology and dynamic content in flash is an even newer technology. Only good things can come.

    As I said one of the major benefits of Generator is its use of flash templates which can be filled with content and then outputted either to a file(off-line mode) or to the browser(online mode) in one of the following formats gif,jpg,png,swf,mov

    So let's take an example of a pie chart. We all know how long it would take to create a pie chart with GD and PHP especially when calculating stats from a database. Now let's look at the generator approach. You create a template in flash and use the pie chart object generator has built-in. Of course the look and feel of it can be changed to fit your needs. Then you upload that tempalte to your server. With generator you could recreate that pie chart in any of the aforementioned formats through for example a cron job by passing a datasource either ODBC,JDBC or some middleware like PHP and MySQL.

    I am not saying flash is the answer for everything cause we all know its not. I just think in some instances it is very beneficial and like I said in a few months I will be able to show you a portal system done in flash using generator that is going to be great, IMHO, although you all may hate it.


    Case Study #2 - Flash Slideshow

    The old way - bang your head against the wall tyring to make something that works in all browsers and struggle with it looking so plain.

    The new way - drop a generator image object intoa flash template, add some fade in fade out to it, provide a list of images in the form of a datasource something like PHP grabbing 10 images from a folder and printing them to a text file. Load up the template in the browser and you have a great looking cross-browser slideshow.


    I know what you are thinking, so what, I can do that with DHTML. So be it, I will happily keep exploring the benefits of generator, its so new, I am sure noone but the developers actually know all of its capabilities.

    I hope that might have shed some light as to why I feel the way I do.


    Other than that, all I can say is the projectI am working now is only goona benefit from generator.
    Please don't PM me with questions.
    Use the forums, that is what they are here for.

  15. #15
    Grumpy Mole Man Skunk's Avatar
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    <grumblegrumblegrumble> OK I admit that pie chart thing does sound really neat :E

    Generator sounds interesting as well, like a super fast IDE for flash then? I'm not a big fan of visual effects in DHTML as they're such a pain to get working across all browsers so I'm happy to concede that flash is the way forward for visual transitions and the like, but as I demonstrated above whether or not it's worth having them in the first place is another thing altogether...

    I'm really looking forward to seeing this portal - sounds like bleeding edge stuff. You're right, I'll probably hate it as a comitted anti flash neanderthal but I'll be sure to reserve judgement until I see the finished product

    Thanks for the informative reply

  16. #16
    Dumb PHP codin' cat
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    Hey I am totally with you I hate 600k flash movies as much as the next guy. I have already impressed upon my bosses that we need to split the movie up into modules per se, so we can slpa dynamic content in the form of flash movies anywhere we need them inside an html page. Which means a db generated menu system among other things. I can't promise this thing will be done anytime soon, I just started with the company last week, but I am very hopeful to have a cutting-edge product that may change the way people view flash in general.
    Please don't PM me with questions.
    Use the forums, that is what they are here for.

  17. #17
    SitePoint Wizard johnn's Avatar
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    from Freddydoesphp:
    the company I am currently employed with is developing a portal system made completely from flash with a Generator backend using PHP to assemble data.
    Does that mean you use Flash and Generator to create Flash pages, and your host also needs to install Generator (backend) in a server where your Flash website reside?

  18. #18
    SitePoint Zealot Marek Bereza's Avatar
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    If you want to do a whole site in flash, then you should really do each section on a different page, and click in the button on the text panel called "selectable". Sorry I just wanted to say... You can do some blinding stuff with flash if the media suits the design, but thats the same thing with everything. Flash has XML sockets which are good too.. and secure
    of the brethren of disco metal
    Disco metal tunes at www.wikid.co.uk

  19. #19
    Dumb PHP codin' cat
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    Does that mean you use Flash and Generator to create Flash pages, and your host also needs to install Generator (backend) in a server where your Flash website reside?
    Yes, fortunately for us we have our own connectivity and me who spent the last two weeks getting that damn generator to run on Linux
    Please don't PM me with questions.
    Use the forums, that is what they are here for.


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