Not Just Bells And Whistles

Tony Trapp
In my conversations with other web designers, we talk a lot about different technologies that can be used on the web, and of course, Flash always comes up. The comments can be anywhere from "I think Flash is good to use if you want a professional look," to "It's great to give your site bells and whistles."

But based on this, I think people have missed what you can really do with Flash, and how powerful it really is.

Let's say for instance that you have a database full of escorts, and wanted to showcase them where the user does not have to scroll through the whole page, but just through the Flash application on the page instead. This allows you to save space and make the experience better for those with smaller screen resolutions.

Wait, I just said "a database full of escorts" – that could mean 2000 of them. Does this mean I have to make 2000 Flash movies to be loaded into my application?

Not at all! You simply create one page, and one Flash application movie to embed into that page, and that's it. If you want to load other elements into the main Flash movie, such as menus or sounds, etc., you could.

Now as far as the escort listings go, you would create dynamic text fields to load in the text and use the loadmovie function to load in pictures – and depending on how many escorts you want to show, you would use the duplicate movie function to show as many escorts as you like, just like using a dynamic server-side page in a repeat region.

The Flash movie application has what I call an 'adapter,' which serves as the middle man between the Flash movie and your database. This middle man could be a ColdFusion page or a ColdFusion component or a Java Bean or an .aspx page with the use of Flash remoting.

Flash connects to the server using this adapter, and then retrieves the info from the database, and then sends the results to the Flash movie application.

You might ask why go through all this when I could just use a server side page to do the same?

Here are some of the benefits of using Flash:

  • Flash front end and database backend decreases bandwidth which can save you money. Regular server side pages do a round trip to and from the server every time information is requested. A Flash front end does not.
  • Flash can do far more then plain old HTML could ever do, and increases the user experience which helps to keep people coming back and telling other people about your site, thus increasing traffic.
  • Flash is cross-browser and platform verses clunky Java applets or JavaScript that may not work on all browsers, and if you don't have the right version of a browser, then forget about iFrames.
  • Flash can run on any connection speed.
  • Millions of web surfers worldwide have the Flash player.
  • All servers can support Flash remoting.

As a web designer and/or developer these are some of the things to think about when using Macromedia Flash, and a new way to look at what you can do with this powerful design tool.

You can see this application in action at, and some other uses for Flash at

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