Adobe Flex – Redefining Web 2.0

Yesterday, I had been to “Flex Boot Camp” – a seminar on Flex conducted by Adobe.

For people who don’t know what Flex is – it is a framework on the top of Flash which works provides an interface to create complete websites in Flash giving it more OO classes and functions, and HTML components with base coding in MXML (Macromedia XML) and ActionScript.

Initially through the seminar, I liked the idea of a whole website working just like AJAX-amplified. The demos that they showed and the ease in which you could implement everything was amazing. According to the claims, web apps created using Flex, save bandwidth using the HTTPService() call pretty similar to AJAX. Also, Flex adds a semantic accessibility to your web application that a normal HTML page lacks. Though AJAX proves to be a strong competition to Flex, the fact that its a ‘hack’ in JavaScript might just limit its capabilities in the future. (Web 3.0?) Anyhow, Flex proved to be an eye-candy. As I’m writing this, I’m downloading the Flex SDK 3.0. Though I’m not sure how to transcend from my native web programming language (PHP/XHTML/CSS) I’m hoping that this article might help.

Coming to the general idea of how the web will welcome Flex, it all seems a little sweet and salty right now. Any webmaster would want his website to conform to high standards of:

  • Functionality
  • Design
  • Reach

Functionality

As a webmaster, you’d look to make your website incorporating all the functions necessary for your users to get the best experience from the site and when they click the close button of their website, they leave with a satisfaction that their experience with the site was such that it would bring them back again. Having said that, the functionality may be the core navigability, a search feature, security functions or even the basic accessibility feature which lets the user choose the font size of the text that he reads on the website.

Doing all this not really an easy job. Especially if you don’t have a team of developers backing you with every module of the site. Comparing this in reference to Flex, Flex provides an exhaustible set of components and controls which makes the developer’s job much simpler. It combines aspects of component interaction with the end users as well as the interaction between the components themselves.

Design

If “Content is King”, “Presentation/Design is Queen”. The design of a website is very important; in terms of enhancing the aesthetic value and also providing readability to the users. Design also focusses on the content presentation, ease of navigability and color sense. Though most of these are decided by the webdesigner to suit his needs as per his wishes, the feasibility of design increases with the use of Flex. Flex also provides support for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for certain elements (mostly HTML elements, rightly so). Some of the designs that were shown in the seminar were really good, seamless and clear.

Reach

What is the use of a website which provides perfect functionality and has beautiful design if it does not reach out to its potential users? Yes, I am talking about promoting your website. There are three ways to do this:

  • Peer to peer – Website promotion relies on word-of-mouth, tell-a-friend ways. Though these ways are ineffective in terms of reaching out to large number of users, it will certainly build a loyal readership.
  • Advertising – Publish ads relating to your website, describing its features to woo new users.
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization is a hot topic in today’s web. Every webmaster’s goal is to have his site properly indexed by a search engine. It would not be wrong if I said a proper SEO optimized site does not need any more advertising. (Of course, this also depends on the site’s services and content)

The disadvantage of using Flash (to design a complete website) is very evident in Flex. SEO is something which hasn’t been thought about by the adobe team, perhaps. However, the community is trying hard to tweak the way the Flex coding appears in a browser to generate a SEO-friendly code on the backdrop of a Flex UI. Efforts such as this and this have certainly caught many a developer’s eyes.

Like I said, after deploying a website, a webmaster expects to reach out for a good slice of internet traffic to come his way. Flex does well is providing an innovative approach to design and develop an amazing web application. However, I really feel there is a lot to be done regarding a Flex site’s visibility on search engines. More research will be necessary into the usage of robots.txt, possibility of coming together with the search engine companies (It may already be underway) to help index SWF better.  Once, Flex is improved based on these lines, I’m sure webmasters will be able to create websites which keep users coming back to it.

To know more about Flex, visit these links:

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