A Low-Tech Alternative To Long Flash Load Times
Flash Boring You To Death? Try An Old-Skool Solution!
We've all been there. Click on a link and end up in Flash Hell: Some braindead corporate web-designer's idea of a righteously impressive welcome to the site is nothing more than a LOADING 5%... LOADING 10%... until you hit the BACK button in disgust.
Flash is a great technology, but not when it provides a 5 second load only if you have a 50MB/sec Fiber Optic connection. I'd hate to be a 56K dialup user and hit one of those behemoths! It might take three days to load!
It's very easy to overdo the Flash and lose sight of the real-world necessities. Web surfers are accustomed to instant gratification, not watching a dial sloooooooooooowly wipe across the screen.
Although most broadband users have access to a minimum of 2MB/sec download, that is a theoretical maximum that is almost never reached due to overheads and various traffic issues. Most people are extremely lucky to download at half that speed. Well, you say, that's still 1MB/sec, so it's not too bad if my Flash gobbles up 5 Megabytes. It will load in 5 seconds.
Try again. You're confusing Megabytes with Megabits. Internet connections are measured in the latter which is 1/8 of a Megabyte. Therefore your 5 Megabyte Flash will take 5 x 8 = 40 seconds to load, and that's if the connection is clear through the hops and coming down at optimum speed. More likely it will take twice that long, or 80 seconds. And that's just to darn long to wait just to see your company logo cruise across the screen and morph into a freakin' butterfly.
Time to reach into the dusty old bag of Web Tricks. Time to reawaken what was once the Web standard: Animated GIFs.
Animated GIFs are simply static GIF images that are loaded one after the other at a predetermined speed, giving the illusion of motion. With all the various GIF animation software and optimizers around today, it's very easy to create an effective GIF animation that looks just like Flash, but would take much less than half the time to download.
My personal favourite is the Selteco Bannershop GIF Animator. This small and inexpensive software has an impossibly easy interface. Just prepare your individual static GIFs in Photoshop, select them from Bannershop, key in how long each frame will linger and click ok. You're done! Don't like it? Do it again, or use any of the various editing features within the program.
Bannershop and most of the other GIF animation programs have a built-in image optimizer which drastically cuts down the size of the file without resorting to squelching the visible quality. The result is a simple, single file that is a snap to drop into any HTML as it's read just like a static GIF.
Don't be a nose-in-the-air designer and look down on an “antiquated” technology like Animated GIFs. Keep in mind that the best way to promote your site is to keep it user-friendly to real-world surfers, not just the rarefied inner-city penthouse dwellers blessed with FiOS. Try Animated GIFs in your next project. You'll be glad you did!