Using Flash for E-Commerce:
Flash for the Real World
By Bob Boeri
By Steve Street. Published by Sams Publishing. $49.99 US, softbound, 290 pages with companion CD-ROM. ISBN #0-672-32079-7. Reader level: intermediate to advanced.
Flash is Macromedia's proprietary solution for delivering low-bandwidth animations, presentations, and Web sites. For the advanced user, Flash offers scripting capabilities and server-side connectivity to create appealing applications, Web interfaces, and training courses. Currently in its fifth revision, Flash lists for $399. Have you ever wondered how to go beyond the mere use of Flash as eye candy on a Web site and use Flash to promote e-commerce? Flash for the Real World shows how Steve Street has done this.
This book presents sophisticated Flash solutions but always remains a pleasure to read. Street says at the beginning that this book is not a tutorial and that you are expected to understand the basics of Flash. Street presents six case studies that show how he has developed commercial applications for his clients, including (the now defunct) Furniture.com. Case studies are categorized for beginning, intermediate, advanced, and professional Flash developers.
In keeping with his e-commerce purpose, Street explains how he defined each of his client's problems and determined ways that Flash could be part of the solution. Each case study is actually an engaging story about the behind-the-scenes analysis and challenges during Street's analysis phase, then the technical discoveries he made to implement client solutions. Refreshing too are the post-mortems that Street provides for each study, explaining how he could have improved the solution that he delivered, particularly now that newer technologies are available. The book has a companion CD-ROM that contains all the Flash source files for each case study.
Putting my independent journalist's hat on, I wonder just how extensively Flash can be used as part of an enterprise e-commerce solution. When it was a going concern, I was among those who tried Furniture.com's room planner. It was slick, but I never bought a piece of furniture there. I wanted to see the furniture from various angles, view it with available fabrics, and know how long it would take to deliver my custom selection. Moreover, solutions similar to Flash but based on an XML standard called Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) are becoming available, so corporations can avoid being locked into one vendor. SMIL-based products can display 3D Web renditions of objects and can integrate them with back-end databases to provide a full-service solution for applications like Furniture.com. Still, this brave new XML world will take time. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand e-commerce solutions that use Flash technology.
Bob Boeri is an independent journalist who writes columns and software reviews about enterprise content management for EMedia Magazine and EContent. You can contact Bob directly at or visit http://world.std.com/~bboeri for back issues of articles and reviews.