Once you've had some fun exploring Flash projects and have an idea of the possibilities, it's time to conduct a more in-depth examination. What makes great projects effective? Why are some projects more engaging than others?
Many of the features you look for when evaluating websites and multimedia projects can also be found in Flash projects. Although you may wish to create your own criteria, consider using the questions below to help in your evaluation process.
Some items may not apply to the project you're exploring. Rather than viewing this page as a checklist, use it as a guide as you develop your own professional review.
Before you jump into evaluation, be sure to record background information about the evaluation environment:
- Name of Flash Project
- Summarize the audience, purpose, and contents if they can be established
- URL (Web Address) or Access Point (CD, DVD)
- Operating System and Web Browser Version for Testing (i.e., MacOSX Internet Explorer 8.1)
- Version of Flash plugin recommended and used
- Date of Evaluation
- Overall Impressions
- Is this project a good use of Flash?
- Would an animated gif be just as effect?
- Would a movie be as effective?
- Would a still graphic be as effective?
- Would a text page with graphics be as effective?
- Is the overall project appealing and inviting?
- Is the project an effective model for other developers?
- Does this project offer content or an approach not available elsewhere?
- Is the project purpose and sponsorship immediately clear?
- Is the "look and feel" of the project appropriate for the audience and purpose?
- Does the project address the demographics of the primary audience?
- Does the project address the needs or interests of the users?
- Is the project flexible enough to accommodate varied learning styles?
- Are the materials developmentally appropriate for the primary audience?
- Are informational, persuasive, and/or teaching strategies applied effectively?
- Does the project contain accurate, high quality content (i.e., interesting, useful resources)?
- Is the authority of the project clear?
- Is the content objective, opinions identified, and perspectives balanced?
- Are authentic resources used (i.e., quality graphics, established sources, primary materials)?
- Is the content timely and current?
- Is the content relevant, useful, and meaningful to the intended audience?
- Is the content presented in an efficient and effective manner?
- Is the breadth of the content effective (i.e., goes beyond basic facts and data)?
- Does the depth of content match the varied audience needs (i.e., text explanations, audio, choices for more depth)?
- Does the project provide resources that go beyond the ordinary (i.e., unique, local, special)?
- Does the project contain a mix of content formats (i.e., text, graphics, photographs, video, audio) to address specific needs?
- Is the content logically organized?
- Does the project contain current, timely information?
- Is the project free from spelling, grammatical, and other typographical errors?
- Is any writing clear and appropriate for the developmental and reading level of the audience?
- Is the content presented in a variety of ways to meet individual differences (i.e., text, graphics, photographs, diagrams, audio, video)?
- Is there quality content beyond links?
- Does the project contain a clear introduction and organized elements?
- Are events presented in a logical sequence?
- Is the project visually appealing?
- Do audio elements contribute in a positive way?
- Do the colors attract rather than distract?
- Is adequate contrast provided between elements in foreground and background?
- Is the project creative and imaginative?
- Does the project maintain audience attention?
- Does the project have an effective introduction?
- Does the site make appropriate use of fonts (i.e., font type, style, size, color, ease of reading)?
- Were fonts effective and easy to read?
- Were font colors appropriate for ease of reading?
- Does the project make effective use of foreground colors, background colors, and/or images?
- Is the visual layout effective and visually appealing?
- Does the graphic design reflect the purpose of the site (i.e., serious, whimsical, visually interesting)?
- Is the design attractive for the intended audience?
- Is there a consistent theme or layout throughout the project?
- Does the graphic design add to (not distract from) the site?
- Is the visual layout consistent, well-organized and free from clutter?
- Are directions or help provided for use of icons, navigation, or interactive elements?
- Is effective navigation (i.e., menu, buttons, limited options) provided as needed?
- Are helpful information retrieval tools (i.e., site map, index, search engine) provided?
- Is the navigation appropriate for the audience?
- Does it load quickly and provide information about loading time?
- Does it flow smoothly from start to finish?
- Do all graphics, animations, text, and other page elements appear in their proper places?
- Are directions provided for running or using the project?
- Are directions provided for downloading the Flash plug-in?
- Are transitions smooth, consistent, and not distracting?
- Technical - Animation
- Does the animation contribute to the effectiveness of the project?
- Does animation attract rather than distract users?
- Is animation used in meaningful ways?
- Technical - Interaction
- Does the interaction contribute to the effectiveness of the project?
- Do interactive elements function effectively?
- Do interactive elements contribute to understanding rather than confusion?
- Is feedback or the result of interaction clear and effective?
- Technical - Multimedia
- Does the multimedia contribute to the effectiveness of the project?
- Are media attributes used effectively without being distracting?
- Do the media elements address alternative learning styles?
- Were media elements clear and easy to understand and/or interpret?
- Do the materials meet the requirements of special needs users in the primary audience?
- Do the materials meet the Section 508 accessibility standards?
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Keys to Usability
As you evaluate websites remember that key is usability. Does the Flash resource really meet the needs of the end user?
A quality project should focus on addressing the interests and needs of the user. A common problem with Flash is "overdoing" it. In other words, avoid unnecessary, lengthy introductions and splash pages. Use animation and sound for specific purposes rather than as fill or glitz. The best Flash projects provide logical navigation, meaningful interactivity, and consistent elements that increase ease-of-use. Finally, remember to consider those users with low-bandwidths and special needs.
Read the article Using the SECTIONS Framework to Evaluate Flash Media by Jim Boyes, Sandra Dowie, and Ismael Rumzan at Innovate. The SECTIONS framework is based on an acronym representing the criteria that should be considered when selecting instructional technologies: Students, Ease of use, Cost structure, Teaching and learning, Interactivity, Organizational issues, Novelty, and Speed. You'll need to register for a free subscription to access this article.