My group had to sort through some issues relating to Flash and html, and the best way to design a site. This brought me back a year or three to a Flash course I took which taught me the ins and outs of designing an entire site in Flash. Even with the best Flash sites, the index page is still an html page which acts as a shell to hold the Flash panels. My partner was worried about such things as searchability by Google, meta tags and descriptions and creating a scaffold or structure in which to place the site (please go to the link included above to see an example of how Flash can be contained in an html page but yet still have the best of both worlds).
As a reminder to myself, what are the differences between Flash and html? Also, what are the benefits of using Flash? To me, html is a shell that holds things such as information (text), designs and media (images, sounds) and other such things. It is restricted by lines, line spacing, a left to right, top to bottom order which is a holdover from books and picky browsers that just refuse to cooperate and display pages exactly the way they appear on the designer's computer. Flash, on the other hand, is what is held by html. It is the best place to display images and sound; it is the best place to place text either for scrolling or to fade away when it is not wanted or needed anymore, and you can do whatever you want with it. Flash makes designs where the main item is not at the top on the left.
The benefits of Flash? I ignore, perhaps at my peril, design rules which state that we should follow linear, simple constructs of information and directions. In my latest design, I have put the main link to the right of center under other text. However, I think it is still clearly the main link. I can make far more complex links and heirarchies of pages in Flash and display their relationships far more easily than could ever be reasonably achieved in html. Flash also allows us to have information appear and disappear just the way we want it to and when we want it to. We can put text and images together in any way or position we want, which is simply not possible in html. I have read many articles and opinions that keep saying that the medium is not the message and the we should just concentrate on the content. Well, the medium may not be the message, but the medium certainly can make the message a lot clearer. If we are to focus on constructivist techniques, and try to present information in a way that allows students to more readily relate it to previous knowledge, then we need to start designing new ways of presenting text. We need a departure from linear, left to right, top to bottom representations of knowledge. Spiro (1995) talks about "ill-structured domains", which are not linear and which cannot be represented in linear or traditional fashions. He goes on to discuss the problem of how traditional representations of knowledge try to take information and simplify it (reductive bias), isolate related bits from each other (compartmentalization bias), and separate inseparable items (discreteness bias) from each other. All of this biases detract from and obfuscate the knowledge contained within the information. Well, I think the design capabilities of Flash are such that many of these issues can be considered and an attempt made to compensate for them, even if we can never fully disperse their effects.
Reference Spiro, R. J. (1993). Cognitive Flexibility, Constructivism, and Hypertext: Random Access Instruction for Advanced Knowledge Acquisition in Ill-Structured Domains. Institute for Learning Technologies. http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/ilt/papers/Spiro.html