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The appeal of Macromedia Flash comes not from its slick names, but from its astounding ability to generate compact graphics and animations for delivery over the internet. This multimedia platform for high-level interactivity is rapidly changing the look and feel of cyberspace.

Flash veterans and usability experts believe that the design of a visually appealing website depends upon certain key elements, such as vector art, interface architecture, navigation system, raster graphics, color scheme, typography, text effects, sound, ActionScripting, etc. In part 1 of this series of articles on Flash, the following key elements are discussed with respect to the latest trends in professional Flash web design:

Interface Architecture:
3D Interfaces
Many web designers are now going for a 3D look. With a fine selection of swatches installed in Flash, designers are creating attractive 3D interfaces. In addition, the PhotoShop loyalists are also coming up with stunning 3D interfaces for Flash sites by using the right kind of bevel, extrusion and drop shadow effects.

Interfaces with Borders
Designing web interfaces with a self-colored, illustrated, or an animated border in en vogue these days. In the two approaches for designing boarders, "cinemascope" and "island", the color of the border is either kept same as that of the interface's background or is different. Flash designers, who view on experimentation, cleverly incorporate illustrations and/or movie clips in the border area for a high-tech or an avant-grade look.

Simple and Small Interfaces
Minimalist Flash websites, characterized by a tiny interface, have flooded the cyberspace. Nooflat has recently been redesigned and now has an elegant yet minimalist interface that shrinks and expands smoothly to accommodate the content. The minimalist of multi-disciplinary work and has a tiny interface area.

Navigation Systems:

Now a days, navigation systems composed of links floating up and down or eight and left on the surface of the interface have somehow lost their appeal. The same is true for those composed of links moving left or right in a horizontal strip. Although there is nothing exciting about horizontal or vertical drop-down menus, most designers still prefer to use them today.

Tiny Text Links
Developing a navigation system with tiny text links is quite the craze in Flash design lately. This system actually frees up space for sizzling content to take center stage. The navigation system of the website TVM does just the same.

Graphic Buttons
With even more vigor and panache, flash designers are creating the following styles of graphic buttons these days:

  • An image button displaying other images, animations or information about the link on the mouse-over and mouse-down positions.

  • A button displaying a sequence of images in a loop, a video clip or an animated gif.

  • A text link displaying images, text or animations on mouse the mouse-over and mouse-down positions.

  • An image button displaying the same image but with some variations in size, color or opacity on the mouse-over and mouse-down positions.

  • A static vector object displaying some sort of animation on the mouse-over and mouse-down positions.

  • An image button expanding and shifting other buttons in the navigation bar either towards the right or the left on the mouse-over position.

Adding sound effects to these mouse-over and mouse-down positions is still a common practice.

Vector Scenarios
Many vector artists, previously content with animating geometrical shapes, now design navigation systems that are full-fledged vector environments. The most commonly used environments is that of a room. The characters and items (paintings, books, furniture, windows etc.) in the room are links to other sections in the websites.

Panoramic Views
A fairly new trend in navigation design consists of the 360-degree panoramic view. This usually takes the shape of a landscape of a wide variety of indoor settings: museums, castles, ancient monuments, etc. To accurately portray an actual location, the panoramic view is constructed with the help of  photographs. A fantasy or imaginary panoramic view is normally developed using Bryce 3D, World Builder, 3D Studio Max, Vue D'Esprit, etc.

Raster Art:

The use of raster images within Flash animations is also rising. Compressed images imported in software add a whole new dimension to an animation, especially when these images are theme-based or the artist's original creations. Animations generated from a sequence of theme-based images not only create an element of intrigue, but also aptly demonstrate the artist's power of expression.

There are many ways of developing animations with raster images. Apart from the usual tweening techniques, one simple and innovative technique is described as follows:

  1. Soften the edges of your images (in Adobe Photoshop of Ulead Photo Impact) to perfectly merge with the background color of your animation before importing them in Flash. Make a movie clip to contain the following:

  2. Place your first image (Graphics1) on the first and second keyframes and leave the third and fourth keyframes blank.

  3. Place Graphic1 on the fifth and sixth keyframes (but this time alter its size, placement, Alpha and RGB percentages in the Advanced Effects) and leave the seventh and eighth keyframes blank.

  4. Place Graphic1 on the ninth and tenth keyframes (again, play around with the Advanced Effects and make Graphic1 look different from the one on the fifth and sixth keyframes) and leave the eleventh and twelfth keyframes blank.

  5. Repeat steps 2,3 and 4 for other images (Graphic2, Graphic3, etc.). For continuity, the second image (Graphic2) must start from the thirteenth keyframe.

The brilliant use of raster images in Flash can be seen in Trance Grafix website. The grast copy, attention to detail and passion for design add zest to this site.


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