Practical Ecommerce

Thirteen Great Flash-based Ecommerce Sites

The Adobe Flash platform is bringing stunning new examples of rich media to ecommerce sites.

New site design techniques make Flash, Flex, and ActionScript, all from Adobe, very viable choices for adding video, audio, or just plain aesthetic awesomeness to any website’s design. In this article, I highlight 13 examples of terrific Flash usage on ecommerce sites.

Crumpler

The folks at Crumpler have used Flash to create a virtual vending machine (the Crumpomatic 3000) that lets shoppers search or browse for products while enjoying what might be one of the most unique ecommerce shopping experiences on the Internet. This site goes beyond just rich media and makes reaching the bar for ecommerce site aesthetics a pole vault. Be sure to check out the various curiosities that surround the main product navigation, but be warned you might hear some strange sounds. If you get lost, use the “menu” in the upper left.

The Affair

The Affair has put its back into ecommerce site design. This Flash site loads with a collection of t-shirt models standing with their backs to the shopper. Hover over one of the model images and the Flash spins it. Click and the image increases in size while the balance of the product detail page appears. Shoppers can also spin the models 360 degrees. This is very cool product navigation.

Americana Manhasset screen capture

Americana Manhasset

Fashion retailer Americana Manhasset makes fantastic use of rich media on its stunning ecommerce site. I particularly like the professional videos that quickly load when you arrive at the site’s main page, and the completely Flash-based product detail pages that represent a major, site-wide commitment to rich media. The site runs on Create The Group’s CTS/Sell platform.

Moofe

You might pronounce Moofe like “movie,” which would be just fine considering that this store sells downloadable backdrops for filmmakers working with computer generated imagery, also known as CGI. This Flash site typifies why Flash is so popular with web designers, giving users big, beautiful imagery and great navigation. When you’re done checking out the Flash, see if you recognize any of the backdrops from commercials or videos you’ve seen.

Converse

If the Converse website is any indicator, the maker of denim high-top shoes has come a long way in hip fashion. This site is almost completely Flash from the home page merchandising to the embedded video to the amazing product detail pages. Its design is attractive, impressive, and very functional. The Converse site is yet another example of how great Flash design can support a company’s overall brand strategy.

Loworks Store

With a cartoon images and animal sounds, Loworks Store makes extensive use of Flash to build a shopping environment that reflects the Japanese design company’s pop culture brand. The site is not as dramatic as some other Flash-based websites, but I believe it is a good example of Flash’s flexibility.

UNIQLO

The UNIQLO site features a very cool Flash-based product explorer that allows customers to filter, save, and resize a product display, accompanied by a collection of motions and sounds, that makes the site fun to interact with. UNIQLO also uses Flash video to promote featured products on the home page. This is a great ecommerce site.

Kobalt Design Shop

The Kobalt Design Shop displays many of its products right on the home page, augmenting the images with Flash-generated sound and motion. The site’s product pages fly in with ease. And all of the navigation reacts to the visitor’s mouse. To me, the site was indicative of the Japanese culture it comes from.

Qbic

Qbic takes a relatively long time to load and requires a demonstration movie to explain the complex navigation—indicating that in some ways the Qbic Flash website is ahead of its time. But if you want to see what ecommerce can be like when bandwidth and human-machine interfaces catch up to Flash development, Qbic is just the site to visit.

Storyville Coffee Company

Many of the Flash sites I’ve described in this article push the proverbial envelop in terms of navigation and style. But Storyville Coffee, which has had a mostly Flash site since 2006, embraces more mainstream site layout, but enhances what could be a common layout with exceptional imagery and interaction. The site uses Flash to accent the familiar with superb images and rich sounds. This ecommerce site is a class act. I could almost smell the coffee—maybe that’s why this is one of my favorite ecommerce sites.

Creative Advertising USA

Utah-based Creative Advertising USA has a cool, Flex application called Creative Canvas on its site that allows customers to create custom shirt designs. Customers can upload their own images or use the Creative Canvas’ clip art, lettering, and shapes. The drag and drop interactivity found in Creative Canvas is possible with other technologies (most notably AJAX), but where those technologies and techniques are now, Flex really does it best.

Tower9

Flash powers Tower9 Inc.’s home page, category pages, and product detail pages for a top-to-bottom rich-media ecommerce experience. The site uses Flash and ActionScript 3.0 on Level Four Storefront’s platform. In many ways, the site layout is not too different from other similar ecommerce stores, but the Flash gives the site an edge in professionalism and interactivity.

Björn Borg

Björn Borg has been using Flash on its ecommerce sites since 2007, perhaps making the company a pioneer in combining a completely rich media website and ecommerce. Products appear in a grid and the home page merchandising uses embedded Flash, to achieve more motion than your average ecommerce site.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

Bio   •   RSS Feed


email-news-env

Sign up for our email newsletter

Comments ( 16 )

  1. Noel Wiggins July 15, 2009 Reply

    We are on the verge of something really great.
    Using flash as a chosen tool to create ecommerce sites is going to give birth to a whole new shopping experience online. By using flash in this way shoppers might actually prefer to visit these stores online rather than the actual brick and mortar store.

    These are some outstanding examples of how ecommerce sites that can cater to those looking for a unique shopping experience rather than simply hunting bargains.

  2. sgrubbs July 15, 2009 Reply

    If you want to see one of the coolest Flash based eCommerce tools, go to http://www.NonSek.com and try out their Nonsek machine. It’s a great tshirt design tool that brings together national artists. Love it.

  3. The Collectors Hub July 21, 2009 Reply

    As a shopper, I didn’t like any of these sites (with possible the exception of Creative advertising USA). When I shop, I want to know immediately what a site offers and how to navigate the site. These sites were slow to load and their navigation structure left me guessing not only what to click on but what their products actually were.

  4. Jim O'Neill July 21, 2009 Reply

    Could you please comment on the relative SEO for these sites.

  5. theaffair July 21, 2009 Reply

    @The Collectors Hub – i’m not sure which sites you are referring to, but from the-affair’s perspective, we don’t have an offline brand. we don’t have traditional bricks’n’mortar retail outlets. so our online shopping experience needs to be a brand experience first and a shopping experience second.

    sure we’re in the business of selling t-shirts, but we’re not competing on price – so we have to seduce people first. And for us, Flash was the only way to do this…

    we began with the simple insight that changing rooms have full length mirrors for a reason, so we should replicate the experience online as faithfully as possible.

    and we created intrigue by having the models turn away from you at the start – forcing the user to explore and then discover more deeply the designs in an engaging way that they can control.

  6. tenchi July 22, 2009 Reply

    I totally agree with Jim O’Neilike. You cant talk about great ecommerce sites and keep silent about SEO. What kind of seo solutions those sites have implemented? because i’m shure they have. no ?

  7. Armando Roggio July 22, 2009 Reply

    @Jim O’Neill and @tenchi,
    Certainly any rich Internet application, like the Flash platform, can cause some SEO challenges, but thanks to projects like Ichabod (Adobe’s headless Flash player) and Google’s recent work indexing SWF files that call external XML, HTML or even text, Flash is not the barrier for search engines that it once was.

    After your comments, I realized that there were still a lot of misconceptions about rich Internet applications and SEO, so I am working on an article for next week about the topic. I hope you will read it and comment. Thank you.

  8. Armando Roggio July 22, 2009 Reply

    @theaffair, love your comment, and I agree, your site provides a customer experience that is exceptional and would be impossible without a rich Internet application, i.e., Flash.

  9. eoschlotz July 22, 2009 Reply

    I read your articles with interest and enjoy many of them, but in this case I have to ask: What were you thinking??!!!

    I have actually been to the Crumpler site as a customer and abandoned it. I was shopping, not playing a video game. The navigation was painful. I tried several others from the article with mixed results. The one that "wins", though, is Americana Manhasset. It’s beautiful, but I spent 10 minutes having to repair my Firefox browser after viewing it. I would never under any circumstance go there again. It wasn’t just a poor customer experience, I left feeling actively hostile toward them.

    Some of the featured sites are good and achieve a good business purpose, but some seem to be designed mostly to impress art directors and other design peers in the industry. In my opinion, these kinds of sites give Flash a bad reputation again, like the old blinking ads of early Flash days.

    And come on, a 10 second download to look at small pictures of underwear?

  10. tenchi July 23, 2009 Reply

    @Armando Roggio: Thank you, looking forward to read your article about SEO and RIA ! That sounds yummy yummy to me !

  11. tenchi July 23, 2009 Reply

    @eoschlotz :
    "And come on, a 10 second download to look at small pictures of underwear?"

    Why not ? it reminds me my own sweet 16.

  12. Sheldon Nesdale (Marketing Consultant, NZ) July 23, 2009 Reply

    If you want most of your potential customers to leave without buying, then by all means confuse them with unconventional navigation and layout using Flash.

    If you want to reduce the potential number of visitors you get to your website, then by all means, use Flash so it gets little or no search engine traffic.

    Here are 2 crazy ideas:
    1) Better, would be to make it easy as possible for potential customers to find you (by using text and images that search engines can easily understand)
    2) And make your interface standard (because rather than learning how to operate your website, most buyers would rather leave)

    Flash is largely invisible to search engines, and you won’t have any budget left to spend on seo because your designer will burn through it making it look cool.

  13. Armando Roggio July 24, 2009 Reply

    @eoschlotz, have you considered upgrading to broadband? :-)

  14. Armando Roggio July 24, 2009 Reply

    @Sheldon Nesdale,
    Check out, [http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/google-learns-to-crawl-flash.html](http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/google-learns-to-crawl-flash.html) and [http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/06/flash-indexing-with-external-resource.html](http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/06/flash-indexing-with-external-resource.html).

  15. eoschlotz July 25, 2009 Reply

    Actually, Armando, I have 7MBit broadband. I find that OK for most things, although I will eagerly upgrade to 20MBit when it is available. That is not the issue. I like Flash and I hope it "wins" (vs. Silverlight). I know a little bit about both, since I’m a software architect and a user experience designer and a developer and a visual designer and a photographer. I am a big proponent of RIA, both personally and professionally. I am a bigger proponent of user experience, though. In my opinion, a site does not create a good user experience just because it uses Flash and a lot of interactive images and video. It has to use them appropriately to meet the needs of the user and the client/owner.

  16. shakeel arumugam July 27, 2016 Reply

    hi guys really nice list, im actually intesrested increating a e commerce site that people can edit or customize products, is this all done in flash with action scripting, is there anything other stuff i should know of, or any links for me to read up on? basically what do i need to know to create the Nike.com customization options?

    Thanks shakeel