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Macromedia Flash is a tool for developing low-bandwidth, animated and interactive Web sites. Flash lets you combine text, audio, video, and images to create intriguing multimedia applications for your Web audience. However, Web pages made with Flash still need to conform to Cal Poly's minimum page requirements. The following guidelines will help ensure effective and usable designs for the Cal Poly audience.

Don't Hide Buttons and Content From Users

Always make the content, message, and navigation readily apparent to your users. Use text to identify the purpose of a graphic or button, and never hide content or navigation from your users. Hiding navigation element and content inside animated scenes and sounds makes finding information difficult and frustrating.

Don't Disguise the Purpose of Your Site

Using too much audio, graphics and animation disguises the purpose of your site, annoys users and dramatically increases download times. Only use these elements if they advance the purpose of your site and help users achieve their goals. Always give your users the option to turn off sound and skip animation.

Test Across Multiple Platforms

Always test the functionality and usability of your design on all the browsers and platforms of your user audience and offer a no-Flash version for incompatible systems.

Always Use Preloaders

Preloaders serve two functions. First, it allows your Web page to be downloaded incrementally so users don't have to wait for every scene or movie to load before playing. Second, it buffers animations and sounds so your Flash animations play seamlessly. Preloaders should always indicate the file size and percentage downloaded.

Splash Screens Give Users the Option

Not every Web user has the Flash plugin, a high-speed internet connection, or enjoy using flash sites. Use splash screens (HTML introduction pages) to give users the option of choosing an HTML version of your site, downloading the Flash plugin, or continuing with the Flash version of your site.

Use Small Intros or Don't Use Them At All

Intros are introductory Flash presentations that introduce a site before the homepage is presented. However, these are rarely effective and delay the user's access to the information they seek. Users come to your site to achieve a purpose, and unless the preloader fulfills that purpose they should not be used. If used, always provide a "skip intro" button. This gives users the option of deciding if the intro is worth the wait.