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  1. #1
    Don't get too close, I bite! Nicky's Avatar
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    10 Usability Tips for Flash Website

    Based on recommendations from top Macromedia Flash designers, developers, and usability experts we've collected the top ten tips for creating usable Macromedia Flash sites.
    These tips are just a start and we will continue to provide more usability research, studies and articles.

    1. Remember User Goals
    Users typically come to a site with a goal in mind. Each link and click should meet their expectations and lead them toward their goal. When streaming your site, have key navigation links appear first, in case the user wants to get to another area in the site. Emulating common GUI elements will increase usability.

    2. Remember Site Goals
    Site design should reflect business or client needs, effectively communicating the main message and promoting the brand. Yet site goals are best achieved by respecting the user experience, so site structure should reflect user needs, quickly leading the user to their goal and avoiding company or regional jargon.

    3. Avoid Unnecessary Intros
    While intro animations are exciting, they often delay the user's access to the information they seek. Always offer users either a Skip Intro command or alternative access to your home page. On their second visit to your home page, skip the intro animation altogether (use a client-side JavaScript cookie to accomplish this) then on the destination page give the option of returning to the animation.

    4. Provide Logical Navigation and Interactivity
    · Keep the user oriented: Display the previous location and guide users to their next one. Remind users where they've been by programming links to change color after being visited.
    · Give users an easy exit from each major section of the site and an easy return to their starting point.
    · Clearly indicate each link's destination. Keep navigation structures and nomenclature visible, rather than hiding them until the user has triggered an event (such as a mouse over).
    · Make sure your buttons have well-defined hit areas.
    · Display primary site navigational elements first by using the streaming capabilities of Macromedia Flash.
    · Support back button navigation. To do this using built-in browser forward and back navigation, separate Flash movies into logical chunks and place them on individual HTML pages. Alternatively, set up the movie to include a Flash-based Back Button that the user can use to return to a frame or scene that represents a logical previous page.

    5. Design for Consistency
    Consistency in user interface is the best way to improve your site's performance. Reusing architecture elements, design elements, and naming conventions frees the user's attention for your message while they navigate to their goal, and it also aids site maintenance. You can use Smart Clips to reuse interactive elements throughout the site, and have words and images from initial navigation links reappear on destination pages.

    6. Don't Overuse Animation
    Avoid unnecessary animations. The best animations reinforce the site's goals, tell a story, or aid in navigation. Repeated animations on text-heavy pages distract the eye from the message of the page.

    7. Use Sound Sparingly
    Sound should enhance your site but not be indispensable. For example, use sound to indicate that the user has just triggered an event. Always provide on, off, and volume control on screen, and remember that sound significantly increases file size. When you do use sound, Macromedia Flash will compress music into small MP3 files and even stream it.

    8. Target Low-Bandwidth Users
    The smaller the download, the better. The initial screen download should be no more than 40k, including all Macromedia Flash files, HTML, and images. To reduce download time, use smaller vector-based images (unless the image is a complex bitmap, in which case it's better left as a bitmap file), and use the Load Movie action only when the user specifically requests a file. If a wait is unavoidable, provide a load time sequence with a progress indicator, and have navigation load in the first 5 seconds whenever possible.

    9. Design for Accessibility
    Make your content available to all users, including those with disabilities. Highly descriptive Alternate Tags allow your content to be interpreted by assistive technology. The magnifying Smart Clip for zoom is another easy-to-use Macromedia Flash feature that allows more users to see your content. For an in-depth discussion about making Macromedia Flash content accessible, see the Macromedia Flash Accessibility site.

    10. Test for Usability
    Have someone with fresh eyes test drive your site to make sure it accomplishes both user goals and site goals. Even compact Macromedia Flash animations can delay users from reaching their goal, so use Macromedia Flash's built-in Bandwidth Profiler (located in the View menu in Test Movie mode)to analyze how well your site will perform over various bandwidths. Re-test the site each time you make even small changes. Make sure your site testers match the demographic of your site's anticipated audience—especially if the anticipated audience includes users at various levels of comfort with site navigation.

  2. #2
    <C²: web standards /> cybercodeur's Avatar
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    Now this is very interesting!

    Accessibility and usability issues seem to become more of a concern by the day now. This is wonderful news.

    Very instructive Nicky.

    Though most of these tips are pretty obvious, it's easy to forget them when one becomes so caught up in what they're creating.

    To be printed and posted on the wall, next to the puter!
    Denis Boudreau <C²/> - Web Standards & Accessibility
    [+] ICQ number: 115649885 || Email: denis@cybercodeur.net
    [+] Daily Weblog on Web standards and accessibility : CYBERcodeur.net

  3. #3
    Don't get too close, I bite! Nicky's Avatar
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    Sorry I forgot to say I didn't write those, they are from the Macromedia website.

  4. #4
    Gone!
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    Well thanks for bring them to the forums attention anyway.

    If every flash site or element designed was put through that checklist then there would be a lot more happy surfers out there.

    I especially like the Javascript cookie idea for only letting your visitor see the intro once. Never thought of that.

    Glen

  5. #5
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    I see Macromedia ran a competition on usability in Flash early last year showcasing a couple of good examples:

    www.macromedia.com/software/flash/special/designasite/

    Essential reading for all web designers, thanks Nicky

  6. #6
    <C²: web standards /> cybercodeur's Avatar
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    Originally posted by glenplake
    I especially like the Javascript cookie idea for only letting your visitor see the intro once. Never thought of that.
    I am not sure about the cookie thing though...

    Personnaly I don't like'em that much. it tends to piss me off because by the time you want to come back, you might wanna go different venues which could hardly be done if cookies store previous navigation choices and leave you optionless. Then to clear cookies out, you have to make a spring cleaning with cache, temp, history, cookies and all that stuff...

    Is this really what we call user friendliness and usability?
    Denis Boudreau <C²/> - Web Standards & Accessibility
    [+] ICQ number: 115649885 || Email: denis@cybercodeur.net
    [+] Daily Weblog on Web standards and accessibility : CYBERcodeur.net

  7. #7
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    Originally posted by cybercodeur

    I am not sure about the cookie thing though...

    Personnaly I don't like'em that much. it tends to piss me off because by the time you want to come back, you might wanna go different venues which could hardly be done if cookies store previous navigation choices and leave you optionless. Then to clear cookies out, you have to make a spring cleaning with cache, temp, history, cookies and all that stuff...

    Is this really what we call user friendliness and usability?
    The EU has just past a directive demanding euro based sites flag any cookies there setting on visitors systems (it's currently up for appeal... TF ;-)

    Flash intros are without doubt an anathema for 99% of visitors. I think it makes perfect sense to use em with the skip button provided you give people the option to view the intro / section again some where obvious on a site.

  8. #8
    Photoshop Ninja jonnya's Avatar
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    Arrow

    These are very valid points for guru's and newbies a-like (I am somewhere in-between!!). I have seen these before wuite a while ago, and it's nice to see them posted in this forum for everyone's perusal.

    Download then to your hard drive for future reference in a convenient text document here:

    http://www.jonnya.net/other/flashgoldenrules.txt

    Thanks Nicky for the great contribution you are making to this forum
    Jonnya Freelance Creative
    UK Freelance designer and web developer
    Website | Portfolio | Photoshop Tips


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