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Tips to Get the Right Structure Before You Build Flash Websites

written by: Lucinda Watrous•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/31/2009

If you want to build flash websites, you're going to need to take a bit of extra time in the planning stages to ensure you get everything off to the right start. This article will help you understand how to make use of the flash features to make building the website easier.

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    Before you start to build flash websites, you'll need to get a good grasp on how to control the play head so your site structure is setup prior to starting the design and more time consuming elements of the website construction. Taking time to set up a good flash website structure at the beginning of the game helps to speed load time which improves useability and makes it easier to go back and edit the flash site for updates later.

    It is suggested to avoid scenes when building flash websites because the use of scenes may cause erratic and unexpected results from the play head.

    This tutorial assumes you have knowledge of ActionScript to make the Flash website. If you need help with coding the actionscript on each of the frames we talk about below, please reference this tutorial from Sitepoint.

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    Building Flash Websites: Use Layers

    One of the most important things to remember is that like Adobe Photoshop. Adobe Flash also gives users the ability to add layers to their projects. Using layers to control individual elements will make it easier to build and edit the website later.

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    Frame by Frame

    Generally, each layer shouldn't have to be more than four frames long. Without going into long, complicated code samples to show what we mean, here's a look at what each frame should include.

    Frame One: Here is where you need to set all global variables. This is important so these can load right when the movie starts. Don't set the playhead to return to frame one. Everything's taken care of from here on and out and there's no reason for it to return.

    Tips: Use a "MovieClipLoader" to help you get status information on all the elements in the Flash file as they are loaded. Use the StyleSheet class to allow control over text elements and other styling issues. If you're using Flash version 8 or higher, you can also use Filters to apply different text appearances such as a drop shadow to your text while still keeping it dynamic. Using Photoshop to create a text image with this effect will take the dynamic element away.

    ***Do not load elements created outside of Flash for the site into the Library for use in Flash. This will make updating the website much easier later, and will be very helpful to someone without any knowledge of Flash who may end up updating the website if you're surrendering control to a client after the design is done.***

    Frame Two: This frame will call for external files used to create the website, using XML. This will load the navigation buttons.

    Frame Three: This frame will load the CSS file used to control the style of the website.

    Frame Four: This is the frame where the Flash website will start, and the playhead will remain here for the length of the site visit, because the previous three frames built and called everything we need to load the website.