WebRef Update: Featured Article: Get Creative With Flash Preloaders
Get Creative With Flash Preloaders
You've experienced this before: you click on a URL for a hot new Flash Web site, the first page opens, and you are presented with some variety of blinking, throbbing text informing you that the Flash file is loading. Sometimes there is a percentage bar gradually filling, just like some old cartoon thermometer. This is fine if the Flash file loads within a minute or two. But if you have time to run next door for a sandwich while the file loads, you must seriously consider two things: either reduce the size of your Flash movie, or make your preload environment just as interesting and engaging as your "big" stuff.
Constantly, we are urged to keep image file sizes as small as possible because every second that your visitor waits for something to happen increases the likelihood of that visitor leaving your site. Therefore, the larger the Flash file, the more important your preload environment becomes. This article examines preload environments and ways of maximizing impact by discussing the two styles of preloader and the two most-used methods of implementing them.
The Two Styles of Preloader
There are two basic styles of preload environment: the "thematically integrated" style, and the "thematically independent" style.
Thematically Integrated Preloaders:
The thematically integrated approach is self-explanatory - the preloader is finely tuned to engage the visitor, bringing him/her smoothly into the main movie. This can be accomplished in any number of ways, limited only by your imagination. Consider these elements:
- COLOR - even if your preload material is different from the main content, similar color choices tie things together.
- FONT - while this may seem obvious, font choice itself can become an integral part of the preload sequence. Any character or word can become an animation.
- SOUND - if you use sound (and most Flash sites do), this can be one of the most critical integration tools. The trick here is that the preload sound files must be very small in order to keep things simple. One way of doing this is keeping preload sound quality low, saving higher quality for later. Use tiny files; convert stereo to mono; try greater ADPCM compression.
- CHARACTER - is your primary material meant for children or for Wall Street? Your preloader sets the stage for material that follows.
- DESIGN ELEMENTS FROM MAIN MOVIE - if your primary material uses a green hippo wearing wrap-around sunglasses, utilize a version of the sunglasses in your preloader. Maybe your text can be a reflection in the sunglasses. In other words, use your material creatively.
Thematically Independent Preloaders:
When I was a kid, going to the movies was a festival of visual events. There was a newsreel, local advertising, previews of coming attractions and, best of all, a cartoon. To me, that cartoon was almost more important than the feature. It didn't matter that Donald Duck's mishaps were totally unrelated to "The King And I."
The point here is that sometimes it can perfectly appropriate for the preloader to be different from the main material. Humor is one of the best ways to keep the attention of your visitor. If your visitor is amused, s/he will not only stay to see what happens, but will also be in a more receptive frame of mind for your Big Message. Besides - wouldn't it be a lot more interesting to watch that progress thermometer explode or break into little pieces that become navigation buttons?
Revised: May 9, 2000