• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL

Chapter 8. Navigation > Navigating to External Documents

Navigating to External Documents

Navigation in Flash may involve navigating to external sites or to different HTML pages within a single site. Depending on the nature of the site you're building, external navigation can be preferable over using a single Flash page and loading different movie clips and text files. Alternatively, external navigation can be used to open an external page while keeping the current document on the page. Whatever the case, calling external URLs is one of the fundamental options you need to understand.

Choosing Between Internal and External Navigation Elements

If you load a large file containing all the images, code, and text in a multiple-frame Flash document in a single load, the user only has to wait through a preloader show once. All navigation after this initial load is “internal”—that is, the user-selected changes are from one keyframe to another, with no new material loaded. The plus side of this kind of navigation system is that once the document is in memory in the user's computer, all navigation is almost instantaneous.

The other navigation strategy is something like simple HTML page navigation using links. Everything is on a separate page, and navigation is a matter of loading one page after another. Heavy pages will take a long time to load, and light pages will be pretty quick on the initial go-round. After the initial viewing, the pages are cached, and the navigation is very quick. With Flash, instead of loading new pages, you can load different movie clips (SWF files), text files, graphics, and video files (FLV files) onto the same page as the user makes selections. However, the process of loading one item at a time also involves having the user wait a moment for each initial viewing.

The best navigation and loading strategy depends on the nature of the files being loaded. If you have a lot of text files the user must navigate among, you should definitely load those separately. If a lot of text is placed in a Flash document, it becomes very sluggish. External text loads very quickly, and as soon as a user clicks a navigation element that will show text, the text comes up almost immediately. If you have a single large graphic that a user may or may not choose to view, it, too, should be external. Unnecessarily loading any optional graphics makes little sense.

Any graphics and text that make up the navigation system or repeated background elements should be loaded when the initial movie loads. For large sites, you may find that a navigation system can be built around a central “mother ship” document used to load and unload movie clips. Using dynamic navigation labels with UI buttons or other UI components, you can maintain a robust site with only the labels in the navigation system changing depending on the user's selections.

For truly professional efforts, sites need to be tested on the different bandwidths likely to be used by the target audience. Testing only on phone modem connections may be fine for some of your audience, but this can lead to a navigational nightmare for users with broadband connections. Testing your navigation only on broadband connections when your audience is a mix of phone modem and broadband users is equally hazardous. Fortunately, Flash provides the flexibility to allow for several different combinations of internal and external navigation options, and you need to test (not just consider) which best fits your audience's needs.



Not a subscriber?

Start A Free Trial

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint