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Flash Doesnt Always Add Shine to Web Efforts

The trend today to overuse animation in a website's opening pages only serves to confirm that style often overshadows substance. Sometimes a "flash" in the pan ? often courtesy of Macromedia Corp.'s web animation program ? is simply a flash in the pan.

These often-clever animations succeed in doing two things consistently: 1) wasting precious time getting the information to site visitors and 2) delaying delivery of the message that the company or organization wants visitors to see.

Effective web design relies on communicating information and the message in an attractive, efficient manner. The concept of "you only get one chance to make a good first impression" is jeopardized when a new visitor has to endure the "loading" message.

Often, the Flash opening has little to do with the reason the visitor typed in the URL or clicked the link in the first place. For example, one marketing firm's homepage opens with a Flash montage featuring a boy looking out over the ocean through a telescope, cats playing on a floor, a close-up of a man's lower face covered with powdered sugar and the interior of a cab festooned with mosaic tile. The relevance of all this to the firm's capabilities as far as meeting marketing communications needs escapes us.

But don't misunderstand. Using programs that add some spice to your site or your message is a smart use of current technology (see www.zyman.com, for example). Designers just have to make sure that your message ? "We can meet your business needs" ? are part of the Flash effort.

Also, make sure that the Flash introduction includes an opt-out link ("Click here to skip intro") and doesn't run for more than 15 seconds or so. The idea is to draw visitors into the site and engage them, not to overwhelm them with cool gimmicks or how much money you spent developing your site.

As non-engineers or non-designers put it, just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should just for the sake of doing so.

Chris Scott heads Hodge Media Group, the custom publishing arm of Hodge Communications, Inc. Hodge specializes in strategic public relations and marketing communications for businesses, entrepreneurs and professional associations.

Formerly an award-winning journalist, he brings over 20 years of experience to client engagements. Subscribe today to Communic@te! our free bimonthly e- newsletter and get a free special report: "Using Buzz To Create a Groundswell For Your Business."

Visit http://www.hodgecommunications.com

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