We’ve been building a lot of eLearning Flash templates lately and I started to think what I’ve learned that I might be able to share. Lots of people like to use templates to start a project. It speeds up development time and can help new users build some great content without having to know how to build it from scratch. However there are a few things that, if done properly, help the templates to be more user-friendly.
Here are my 6 tips to build Flash eLearning templates that are more user-friendly:
1. Frame Labels – Use Them
Frame labels are an easy way to ensure that the flash movie always goes to the section that it should. For example if you want a button to go to your 1st section when clicked, then add a frame label to the 1st keyframe of that section. Call the frame label something easy like 1st section for example.
Instead if you were to just tell the button to gotoFrame (3) that would work assuming that your 1st section starts on frame 3 but what happens if someone adds a frame? All of a sudden your section’s start frame has moved. It’s cleaner to just use frame labels.
2. Guide Layers – Insert Them
You need to ensure that the user knows how to properly edit your file and what you expect them to edit. Guide layers are a great way to give instructions.
To insert a guide layer select Insert / Timeline / Layer. Then right-click on the layer title and choose guide. Notice that the layer icon changes to a hammer.
Guide layers allow you to put instructional text that won’t appear in the published swf file. Include your instructions on what to edit and you can also include boxes that show a user how large a text box or image can be.
3. Lock Layers
When you’re done creating the template, lock all of the layers that don’t need to be edited. This keeps the user from accidentally selecting an incorrect layer/frame. This can be especially confusing if your content is layered and the user needs to select a content behind another asset.
4. Put Actionscript on its Own Layer
Don’t make it hard for a user to find your action script. In other words, don’t put it on individual symbols if you can help it. Go ahead and create a separate layer and call it actions.
5. Create Folders in the Library
The library can get crowded very quickly. Create folder in the library to help separate the assets. If your flash template has multiple sections then create multiple folders. You could also name the layers so that it gives a clue to the user if they should edit assets or not.
For example, you could put an x in front of a folder’s name if it should not be touched.
6. Build Assets in Flash
Build as many of the assets within Flash. Since Flash is vector based that means anything you create can be easily resizes without worrying about making it look bad. Don’t import bitmaps. If you create your layouts in Flash your users can then resize things as they see fit and it will still look good.
I hope this gives you some ideas to make interactive Flash templates a bit more user-friendly.