Flash Development is Hard

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan on full-Flash websites. They’re not very usable, search engines don’t really like them, and permalinks are near impossible. (There are a select few Flash sites that are just so cool that I can’t help but liking though.) However, there are some cases where Flash is a good idea. Streaming video is a good example. Animated, talking banners ads that fly across your screen are too. Then you have casual web games, and other things I’m sure.

Recently I’ve been working on a project (too be announced, shhh…) that makes heavy use of Flash. Not just straight Flash either, ActionScript-heavy, talking to service-side PHP scripts-type flash. It’s going slowly, and there is a long way to go still. I’ve got the user authentication part down, but the meat of the project is still ahead.

It’s not easy. Sure, I’m fairly new to ActionScript, but it’s not just that. Flash is a very complex, finicky beast. Developing for Flash isn’t easy, especially when you have server-side work on top of it all. ActionScript is somewhat arcane, and though it’s syntax is fairly simple, it has some real oddities to it.

I’ve gained a lot of respect for Flash developers over the past couple weeks.

  • http://www.kastedstudios.com Dan Lee

    I agree with your stance regarding full Flash websites. There might be a role for them here and there, but that role is scarce. Good luck to you with ActionScript and your current project. It only gets easier, you know that.

  • http://stevenclark.com.au Steven Clark

    I’m no Flash fan either but I’ve done a little work in it, but not for several years. More just simple animation, not web development. My partner Lindy is a little more skilled on that score than I am, but definately not that well practiced lately. I can definately appreciate why Flash developers charge an arm and a leg for their services. But I’ve also worked on a public sector team where they didn’t get it (1 main contractor was a Flash specialist) and they actually are convinced their Arts Tasmania (http://www.arts.tas.gov.au/) website was “creative expression”. Seriously, it’s a government website and most artists are barely email literate (some very resistant to technology)… anyway, we’d all agree it’s all about using the right technology for the right job. As you’re someone who gets that I’ve got no doubt you’re working on something interesting Matt. You’ll have to keep us posted. BTW have you seen some of the new CS4 Flash features?

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    @Dan, thanks for the encouragement.

    @Steven, No I haven’t seen the CS4 features yet. I’m still working off Flash 8 software I got on the cheap anyway. :D As for the project I’m working on, I’m not ready to be telling the interwebs about it yet. It’s sort of a…game for a niche audience, I’ll leave it at that.

  • http://devjargon.com Alex

    Matt, good to hear that more people are getting in to Flash, although, I don’t fully agree with all of your points.Yes, the majority of full flash websites are useless, as are the ones that just put the main nav in Flash or something like that.  But all the junk out there is just from people who don’t know how to use Flash well, or are too lazy to do so.  Flash CAN be SEO’d with perma links.  You just need to know what you’re doing, and be willing to spend the time doing so.  Google around a bit for it and you’ll probably find some interesting things.I’d also reccomend checking out at least Flash CS3 if not 4, since Actionscript 3 is leaps and bounds better than AS2, although most people find it more difficult, because it’s less scripty and more like a real programming language.  It looks and feels a fair bit like C# or Java.As far as flash being a finickey beast…yeah, just wait till you see the really good bugs :)

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    @Alex, I suppose you could create a permalink setup with PHP and Flash, by passing the querystring to Flash when the pageloads and then working from there with Actionscript, right? Glad you agree that so many Flash sites aren’t so hot. There obviously are good applications for Flash, but It’s hard to think of them on the spot, save for games and web video. :)

    I’ll probably look and see what CS3 and CS4 are like soon, but I don’t think I’m ready to upgrade. That costs money you know. :)