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Shock, the Wave of the Future
By Maggi Norris -- August 2, 1999
I think shock is literally the "wave" of the future. Pun intended. You can get so much out in what seems such a short time if Flash is used at its best. If used properly the programming can give presentations that are as smooth and realistic as TV viewing. If not, it is a painful excursion into the early days of Max Headroom.

Maggi Norris

"Loading" Speed

There are a lot of new Shockwave/Flash sites to be found right now. I have found few that actually draw me back repeatedly. The sites that draw me back have raised visual activity to a new level. Some sites include loaders in their programming. They serve a purpose in some cases. I will always look at the files that use loaders at least once. I won't go back just to let my eyes play with those files however. Loaders should never be a part of the first page of a site unless there is something for the user to do while the page is "loading".

When done well, Shockwave/Flash files can be huge but will still appear to load very quickly. The sites that take the time to program the files with the user in mind will make sure there is no apparent wait for the site to load. This takes extra work and thought on the part of the programmer. If they care enough for their site to be among the best they will make sure that the time spent waiting for something to load is filled with things for the user to see and/or do. I go often to sites that fill every second with active programming just to sit and watch in awe.

If the site does not seem to care about time and if they program loaders into their files they lose points from me. For me, the wait spoils the surprise. I am usually quite frustrated by the time a loader is finished. This tends to make me more critical of the end result. If it takes too long, I won't wait at all.

Faster Than Possible

Sites with loading times that appear to have finished quickly start out slow with shape and color. This allows the files to start playing before they are completely loaded and gives the appearance of faster loading speeds. I think color is the key to their "faster than possible" loading and movement across our screens.

This has to do with the fact that some sites use color well and have realized a basic human failing. The human eye is an incredible instrument. It also has many shortcomings when it comes to viewing motion on a screen. You can overwhelm the eye with too much detail that comes too fast by using intricate designs or images too quickly...or you can hypnotize with simple shapes by using color to capture its attention.

The best Shockwave/Flash designs so far are those that start simply using color and shape to dazzle and attract. Once the eye has acclimated to this, it is easier to add more intricate images, sound and motion, and more life to the presentation. Doing this also serves another purpose. It gives the rest of the presentation time to load while the eye becomes used to its new "living" environment.

Sights & Sounds

Sound is another failing of many Shockwave/Flash sites. It should move smoothly with the motion of all images. If it does not, the whole effect is dragged down. The sound should not overwhelm what is seen.

The eye is not the only instrument that is slowed down when care is not used in programming. Computers tend to bog down and the motion can drag if attention is not paid to detail. Presentations become jerky. The motion is just like Max Headroom. It is all I can think of when I see them. The stops and starts usually distract me to the point that interest is lost in the initial wonder of the presentation itself.


So, for me, a Shockwave/Flash page needs to be nonstop action with sound that flows with the motion of its objects. It doesn't overwhelm me with too much visual information too fast. It moves smoothly as if it were alive. It is filled with hypnotic colors and shapes. It doesn't jump around on the screen unnaturally or stop in the middle of a graceful arc. Most important of all ... it doesn't make me wait to start being entertained.

Copyright © 1999
All Rights Reserved
Maggi Norris

About the Author
Maggi Norris is the webmistress of 7 award winning sites, including her own Ask Nem5 – Nemesis World Index, where you can find original literature displayed with original graphics and photography, web awards and more. Free resources for the new and advanced webmaster include: email accounts, web and desktop graphics for personal sites, several short tutorials, email greeting cards and an HTML help forum with a web design software review.

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