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Graphics and Multimedia

Graphics, movies, and sound effects are always nice, but don't overdo it. Keep in mind that most people still connect to the Internet via dial-up, which means they get a maximum connection speed of 56 Kbps. Several times I have closed my browser after waiting literally minutes for a Web page to load completely.

Try to keep every page of your site smaller than 50–75 kilobytes. Be sure to "crunch" your GIF and JPG images before uploading them to reduce the file size. You can reduce your images up to 90% for free, without sacrificing quality, at the GIF Wizard Home Page. If you decide to use high-resolution images, music, or animations on your Web site, design a high-end version and a low-end version, so that visitors with a slow connection will still be able to see your site.

A very popular program called Flash © is often used by Web designers to design intro movies or even complete Web sites such as The good thing about Flash is that you can put animations and music in a relatively small file. To view Flash movies, you need a plug-in, which can be downloaded from the Macromedia Web site. Although more than 80% of Web users now have the Flash plug-in installed on their systems, and it comes with every new release of Internet Explorer and Netscape, this is still an issue you should consider. Don't add Flash animations to your Web site if it's not really necessary. Some visitors won't have the patience to wait for your movie to load—or even to download the Flash plug-in. Plain HTML programming is still the best option for most (commercial) Web sites.

Whatever you add to your Web site, you should always try to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Animated GIF images. They just keep going and going and going…and some people find that bunny annoying…

  • MIDI music. MIDI = poor quality.

  • Flash movies that are larger than 500KB. No matter the user's connection, this will take too long to load. Remember: Most people don't have the patience to wait for a big file to load, and will leave before the movie has finished loading.

You should always use these tricks:

  • Add preloaders to Flash movies. This allows the file to load in the background while you "entertain" the visitor with some text or simple images, or just a progress bar. This way the Flash movie will run smoothly and won't stop to buffer when it's played.

  • Crunch. Optimize your images as described earlier.

Music and sound will definitely add some life to your Web site, but as always, the rule is this: Don't overdo it. Beeps and buzzes on every click or mouse-over get very annoying and often give an unprofessional look to your Web site. If you decide to add some background music to your Web site, use streaming audio software such as Real Audio to play the file, or make a Flash file if you're planning to insert a sound loop. You can make Flash sound loops by importing WAV files into Flash, or get some royalty-free loops from several Web resources.

If you use sound in your Flash movies, always add a "mute"button, and a volume setting bar if you use action script to change the visitor's volume. It would be best not to change volume at all. The visitor can always adjust his/her sound volume manually if necessary.

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