Coding with Jesse

Flash is our friend

March 15th, 2006

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about Flash. My girlfriend wants to set up a web site. She wants it to act like a lot of her favourite web sites: Flash sites. At first, I wanted to explain to her why this is such an awful idea.. but I couldn't. I couldn't because I realised a Flash web site can be perfectly accessible if done properly.

Then, I saw the video player from YouTube and realised, it's perfect. It's perfect because users don't have to choose from Windows Media Player, Quicktime or Real. They just need Flash (and everybody has Flash). This made me rethink what Flash really offers. Here is a single plugin that opens up Video and Audio capabilities, even streaming and bi-directional. This alone is reason enough to welcome Flash with open arms.

If we use Unobtrusive Flash Objects (UFO), or some other JavaScript-based Flash deployment method, nobody can complain. We can deliver alternative content for those without Flash, the disabled and search engine spiders.

  • Decorative Flash can simply be replaced with an image
  • Flash navigation can be replaced with a list of links
  • For a whole Flash web site, we can replace it with the text, links and images in the Flash movie. It's better to split up a Flash site into pages anyway, or the swf file will get much too big.
  • For sound and video, we can possibly use a transcript, or links to the raw mp3 or avi files. Though, sometimes, it's just not possible to replace video. We can only try our best.

Flash can be a wonderful, powerful tool when used properly. It's important to treat flash the same way we do images. They can improve the experience for many of our visitors. For all others, including search engines and those with disabilities, we need to make an alternative available.

UTF-8 Encoded Dynamic Text in Flash MX

December 1st, 2005

If you are struggling to get UTF-8 characters to show up properly in dynamic text fields in Flash movies, even though you've embedded the fonts, make sure you aren't publishing as Flash 5!

This painful undocumented little thing took me forever to figure out. I followed all the documentation to a tee, and had no success. Then, I tried to implement one of the examples I read. The example wouldn't work with my current publish settings (Flash 5) so I switched to Flash 6. All of a sudden, the characters displayed perfectly. It seems that UTF-8 support wasn't built into Flash 5, so when you publish for Flash 5 compatibility, it just won't work.

If, however, you are publishing with Flash 6 or higher, and you are still having trouble, you will definitely want to check out Unicode in Macromedia Flash MX on Macromedia's website. That page has links to all the relevant documentation, plus links to other Unicode related sites.