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Skip Intro - Macromedia Flash Usability and Interface Design

Combining Usability Ideas with the Ultra-Cool Look and Feel of Flash By Adam Bell
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Skip Intro -Macromedia Flash Usability and Interface Design Michelangelo Capraro & Duncan McAlester New Riders $45.99 US/$69.99 CAN 252 pages click on image to buy
About two years ago, while many Flash developers were creating ultra-cool motion graphic intros, entire sites in one .swf movie (and yes, I'm guilty of this) and not giving a damn about file size and user feedback, along came usability expert Jakob Nielsen and his infamous, "Flash is 99% Bad" comments.

That woke a lot of people up.

Why is this pudgy nerd with the ultra-serious demeanor questioning our work? The answer was really simple. Nielsen didn't care about how a site LOOKED but rather how a site PERFORMED. How users interacted with it, how fast it loaded and whether or not users didn't leave their shopping carts on the floor, never finishing their order, on scores of e-commerce sites.

That may explain why the majority of Nielsen's favorite sites are also some of the plainest and most boring sites going. Hey, may be easy to use, but nobody ever talks about how super-cool it looks.

What needs to be done is combining Nielsen's usability ideas with the ultra-cool look and feel of Flash. This could always be accomplished, but most designers simply chose not to do it.

So now we have a new series of Flash Usability books, starting out with the long-awaited book Skip Intro (as well as Osborne's release, Flash is 99% Good.). Written by two Flash usability experts whose names seem to come more from the Medieval era than today's Gen X or Y era, these two authors have started a 'renaissance' with this new release showing people not just how to create usable content in Flash 5 but also the new Flash MX. And, it one of the first releases covering Flash MX, although you definitely do not need to upgrade to read this book.

The book's overall design and layout is one of the best I've ever seen in a web design book. It is super clean and simple, There are plenty of screenshots and boxes for notes and scripts that make this book a very easy read at just over 250 pages.

The book deconstructs three different website concepts based upon developing each site for its' core user. Examples are provided of a typical user with his or her likes and dislikes as well as other pet peeves about what each user expects on a particular site.

Usable examples to include in your Flash movies include Hierarchal Menus, Tool Tips, Tabbed Windows and Search Engines are all demoed. While many of these features are well-explained in the book, other like Breadcrumbs are basically glossed over and I think this should have been much better explained in the book.

The book includes a CD-ROM which contains Flash MX Components (formerly Smart Clips) which allow you to easily add these new features to your site immediately. A companion site also features more tips and tools.

While some features should have been better explained, this is still a well-done book overall and a good start to get Flash Designers to stop including all those bloated graphics and sounds just because they can.

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Adam Bell is the Design Director, CEO, Videographer and sometimes janitor with ( amazingly not getting plastered in the French Quarter of New Orleans, LA.
Related Keywords:Adam Bell, Macromedia, Flash, Skip Intro, New Riders, Michelangelo Capraro, McAlester

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