POINT/COUNTERPOINT: The Great Flash Debate, Part I

(Video credited to Milk and Cookies)

This post is part of a series of point/counterpoint arguments proposed by different members of the Pixels & Pills staff. Were strong believers that healthy arguments can yield the best solutions, and we hope that you enjoy our series. Feel free to add your own arguments in the comments section below!

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

In the beginning, Al Gore created the Internet, and it was good.

Well, sort of.

I mean, it was sort of good.

The World Wide Web in the mid-90s wasnt exactly visually engaging. It was a black screen with a blinking prompt.

One of the biggest changes that the Internet has seen in its less than two decades of existence has been a significant departure from these origins. While a good online destination is still – and always will be – determined by the quality and usefulness of the content that it provides to its audience, the experience of interacting with that content is entirely different than it was 15 years ago.

Page elements that show off for the sake of it were annoying from the moment that a person first added blinking GIF files to a Prodigy website. Those furbelows didnt last, because they didnt do their job: they didnt improve the interaction the user was having with the content. Just the opposite: They detracted from it, distracting the eye with the equivalent of neon signs written in gibberish.

It breaks my heart that the Flash animation platform gets a bad rap these days. Before it became Adobe Flash, it was Macromedia Flash, and it was the canvas that I used to give my online art portfolio in high school an edge over the competition. I foundly remember my first Flash animation: a static picture of the Beatles – which I for some reason believed summed up my entire aesthetic – gliding onto a splash page and spinning out of it, to the tune of “Here Comes The Sun.” True story.

Despite fond memories, I do understand why there are opponents to one of the first web enrichment tools ever created. Most designers, coders, content writers – and Flash developers – would probably agree that Flash isnt (at least not always) the right platform on which to build a website. It isnt necessarily meant to be. It was designed to create moving, interactive spaces within a website. But what Flash can do – and do brilliantly – is provide the useful type of dazzling capability, not just the annoying blinky kind, to truly amplify a users information experience. Making the words in an introduction move, explaining something by taking the viewer on a journey, or, best yet, making information into a game – making learning into an activity that involves choice and motion.

Also, Flash is a plugin. I know what you’re thinking, “user friction” and all that jazz, but hear me out: A few months back, I was writing up some marketing collateral on a Flash-based game that my company built. To get an accurate feel for the game, I was playing it on the host site. That afternoon, I was on an NJ Transit train hoping to finish my write-up, but realized that I forgot to bring my wi-fi hotspot. Fortunately, I was still able to demo the game, which was loaded onto my work laptop. That’s because Flash can run independently from a web browser; I don’t need to have a web connection to have a rich multimedia experience. What’s more, many of our commonly used applications run on Flash (Tweetdeck, for instance).

For great examples of these, check out this collection of 65 Excellent Flash Designs. You wont see pharma examples. But you will see phenomenally interesting ideas. To just use one as an example, heres an “about us capabilities tour, laid out as an actual virtual tour of the office.

Consider the applications for pharma. How about a disease website made to look like a specialists office? Or an Investor Relations site that mimics the layout of the actual company headquarters?

Your project this weekend is to think about this: How are you using the capabilities that Flash manipulation can provide in your online offerings?

Check out other installments from this series:

POINT: Is Social Media Better than Face-to-Face Interaction?
COUNTERPOINT: Is Social Media Better than Face-to-Face Interaction?
POINT: Social Media Helps Patients Make Better Health Decisions
COUNTERPOINT: Social Media Hurts Patients Health Decisions



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