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Building the Front End of a Content Management System for Flash

Would you like to help your clients manage the Flash content of their websites without breaking what you've created, and without you having to do it for them? This article takes you through building a content management system that will save both you and your clients a lot of time and headaches.

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By: Jennifer Sullivan Cassidy
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 16
July 26, 2006
  1. · Building the Front End of a Content Management System for Flash
  2. · Getting Started
  3. · Dynamic Text in Flash
  4. · The ActionScript

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Building the Front End of a Content Management System for Flash
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As a part-time Flash designer, one of my biggest headaches in the world is to receive that emergency call on Friday of a four-day weekend from a client, in which they tell me that they are terribly sorry, but could I please fix the Flash website I built for them. Either one of two things have usually happened: one, they have outdated content that they need updated and cannot do themselves; or two, they have attempted to change the content themselves, but didn't know enough about Flash to do it right, and now it's a mess. It's only worse if they expect you to "fix" it for them at no charge.

It took a few of these calls for me to finally come to the conclusion that it would be so much easier for both my client and myself to have a simple way for them to update the Flash content themselves, without having to mess with Flash source files, variables in ActionScript, dynamic text, or dealing directly with the database files. (Ouch.) Usually the best way to update a dynamic site is to use some kind of a content management system, or CMS.

What is so fabulous about a CMS is that with it, anyone can build a dynamic website without having to know a lick of HTML, CSS, PHP, or any other kind of code; without any need to be familiar with FTP or, in many cases, how to upload files, such as images, to a web server; or any other tasks that might require knowledge of a web language. Content management systems usually incorporate a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, so the only real skills required would be similar to those needed to use any word processing software program. There are two elements to a CMS: a front end and a back end. The front end is what the website visitor sees and interacts with, while the back end is where the website author can update, add, delete, or otherwise alter content for the frontend.

I've read many tutorials here and there about dynamic content from external databases in Flash, and a few other tutorials about creating simple content management systems for a dynamic website. While I'm not saying there aren't any out there, I have not found many tutorials on the combination of the two.  Now, don't get me wrong; there are many commercial CMS for Flash solutions available to you. They can be rather pricey, however, and many are not entirely customizable. And I know you guys: why pay for software when you can create or hack it yourself? Besides, it's more fun that way.

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