I have a love/hate relationship with Flash. It gives you great freedom when designing, allowing you to use fonts, graphics and animation with carefree abandon. On the other hand, Flash sites are currently less likely to rank well with search engines than comparable HTML sites and the file sizes are generally larger increasing the wait for your site’s visitors.
So, sometimes an HTML/CSS site is best (blogs, forums and a whole host of other things) and sometimes Flash is the obvious answer (animation, games and, see below, galleries).
When doing a Flash gallery you may like to consider purchasing a template and customizing it. I’ve recently done this twice with two different templates and the two experiences couldn’t have been more different.
The Flashnifties positive experience
The first and most important thing to say about the Flashnifties template is that the support documentation is excellent. And if your questions about customization are not answered in the FAQs there is a forum with helpful moderators for each of their products.
The end product is viewable in Flash Player 6 so good for those that haven’t updated for a few years. It can be sized to fit any pixel dimensions. One disadvantage I would give is that the image thumbnails take a while to load as they are actually smaller versions of the main image rather than separate smaller thumbnail files.
All in all, I would say that any product from Flashnifties is probably worth the money. Don’t worry too much about a lack of Flash or ActionScript knowledge – most of the changes you’ll want to make will be to text files not the FLA.
The Flashmint negative experience
Unfortunately just about everything that was good about the Flashnifties experience was bad about the Flashmint experience. A massive $134.00 (how much?) will buy you a photo gallery template from one of the big boys, Flashmint.
Flashmint boast on their website “both professional web masters and beginners won’t find it difficult to modify the templates according to any requirements.” Actually reading that rings alarm bells!
Most of the changes needed to be made to the ActionScript 3.0 and it required Flash Player 9 to play it. ActionScripts can be structured in many different ways and without adequate instructions the scripts need to be deciphered first which takes time. The Flashmint template came with zero supporting documentation.
Flashmint did have a support department, here is a quote from them: “we unfortunately don’t provide assistance in editing Flash and ActionScript”. I have asked them what support they actually provide. I’m still waiting for an answer.
The one subject the support department were keen to explain was how to employ their customization services.
This particular Flashmint template allows for images to be displayed nice and big. But I would bet there’s a better one out there for the money.
What to look for in a Flash gallery template?
- What version of Flash Player is it? Adobe’s claim that 98% of computers have Flash Player 9 is, in my opinion, grossly exaggerated. You’re safe-ish with Flash Player 6.
- Does the site have a good FAQs section? Flashmint does have FAQs but you can tell at a glance that it’s basic and not useful.
- Does the site have a good forum? If you check out Flashnifties forums you can see that every question gets answered pretty well.
- How much is it? Prefer $40 to $134.