The edge of Flash

by Rob Ford

Based in London, Rob Ford founded the Favourite Website Awards (FWA) site in May 2000. Since then, the FWA has evolved into a massive global showcase of cutting-edge web experiences. In fact, the site entertains and inspires web designers and developers worldwide and receives more than 650,000 unique visitors each month. In this article, Ford takes the recently retired "Sites That Inspire" feature in the Edge newsletter to a whole new level. In fact, for the next several issues of the Edge, Ford will select several innovative and progressive Flash sites that he deems as required viewing for anyone involved with the world of Flash.

The video takeover

Video is all over the web like a rash. Sites like YouTube have taken Planet's Funniest Animals–style clips to a 24/7 audience. However, a wave of top-quality websites has recently pushed video to another level, and they continue to push the envelope of web design with apparent ease.

Let's look at five recent sites that are loaded with video to find out why they are stealing the show. Please note that you'll need a good broadband connection to view the following sites.

Suzuki SX4 — Wolfboys

Suzuki SX4 screenshot

Suzuki SX4 - Wolfboys

Site by Diesel Marketing

This viral site for Suzuki has an almost unnerving opening: A couple of friends are camping when they are suddenly ambushed by three wolfboys. The next thing you know, you are the main character and you're on a quest to find your friend, who is running for his life. Start the madness...

This site is literally an interactive video. As you watch each clip, you must choose from up to three options for what to do next. Make the wrong choice and suffer the consequences. The first-person perspective makes the experience more realistic—and, before you know it, you're completely focused on finding your friend.

To enjoy the full experience, I recommend making what would appear to be the wrong choices. This way, you'll enjoy all the different video footage and craziness that surrounds the plot.

If you succeed in finding your friend (and winning a fistfight with one of the wolfboys), a pleasant virtual surprise awaits you. Good luck!

Nike Air screenshot

Nike Air

Nike Air

Site by Big Spaceship

The Nike Air website offers a full video experience with a new twist: user-interactive motion graphics. Choose Run on Air (my favorite) or Ball on Air. Then use your keyboard to experiment with motion graphics by hitting random keys. You'll instantly see the results — a cornucopia of motion effects. While it might not be the most effective way to view Nike Air footwear, it's a great way to interact with motion graphics (and if you want to see close-ups of the latest Nike Air shoes, you're only a click away). This is a perfect example of how websites evolve — a simple idea with high-impact results.

Would You Like a Website?

Freedom screenshot

Would you like a website?

Site by Freedom Interactive Design

"Freedom Interactive Design is out here in the cold selling websites today," says a man on the street who's featured on this groundbreaking site. When I first saw this website, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I called one of my colleagues over to my desk, and we both viewed it in silence. "This is the first time in ages I have seen something so original and so well executed," I finally said. After a pause, my colleague looked up at me and said, "That's brilliant."

Freedom Interactive Design (FID) originally produced this self-promotional piece for the Adobe Design Center. What you'll see is members of the FID team roaming New York City wearing what appears to be a video-enhanced sandwich board and interacting with tourists and New Yorkers alike to drum up business. Each short clip is slick and clever, and Freedom's trademark music will be with you the rest of the day. Apparently there are also several outtakes that will be published soon.

MGM Grand screenshot

MGM Grand

MGM Grand

Site by Diesel Marketing

You may have noticed that this is the second site from Diesel Marketing, but both needed to be featured because they are extremely popular right now.

Enter Maximum Vegas, where you'll experience fast-streaming video with scene transitions of Las Vegas nightlife that you may not even notice the first time. This site is what I would call a Flash hybrid because it blends Flash and HTML. The main visual appeal of the site is the quality video, while the informational content is represented through solid HTML.

The video is awe-inspiring, and I am amazed at how fast a video of this size and quality streams without pausing.

In Synch screenshot

Travelers - In Synch Challenge

Travelers — In Synch Challenge

Site by Fallon & B-Reel

This is another gorgeous website that is packed with interactivity. Here we see 3D and video seamlessly combined and presented at the highest level.

Travelers is an insurance company, and this site enables you to test your safety IQ with three different scenarios: starter home, family house, and small business. For example, you can help prospective buyers secure the most vulnerable windows of their desired house by dragging and dropping window latches in a timed challenge. This site takes a boring subject like insurance and makes it fun to explore. In fact, you may want to explore each section to experience the quality and ease of use the site offers.

Vodafone screenshot

The Vodafone Journey

The Vodafone Journey

Site by North Kingdom

North Kingdom is internationally acclaimed for its work and its famous site, Vodafone Future Vision from 2004, which will always be seen as a pioneer of video interactivity on websites.

This is a corporate site with some excellent examples of quality video integration. If you design or develop corporate sites, then you'll likely find the video enhancements of the Vodafone Journey site inspiring.

Check out the guided tour. It has a great introduction and then tells a six-part story that flows seamlessly from one chapter to the next. The tour features numerous subtle video enhancements, such as snow effects and butterflies. Some are so subtle that you may not even notice them. Be sure to check out the Our Services section, too.

Unfortunately, not all areas of this site are enhanced by video; if you explore other sections, you will appreciate the impact video can have and realize how flat and stale some areas can look without it.

Why all the excitement?

We look at video on TV every day. So why are we so in awe when we see video on the web? Because we have spent years staring at flat websites that serve up too much text with static images. Now thanks to Flash designers and developers, we're finally starting to see websites come to life.

If you'd like to suggest a Flash experience or theme, you can reach Rob Ford through the FWA website.

Rob Ford founded the Favourite Website Awards in May 2000. FWA showcases websites that use cutting-edge technology. Check out the FWA Site of the Day.