If you support your company’s marketing department and have to crank out jazzy Flash presentations quickly, you may want to check out the latest product release by Red Frame International, Inc. Red Frame has introduced a new offering for rapid Flash Web site development. Particularly geared toward marketing efforts, RedFrameKit allows you to quickly generate Flash commercials, Web sites (including a version for handhelds), and presentations. Using the RedFrameKit editing interface, you can distribute your creations via e-mail, through publication to your Web server, or by CD or floppy. Red Frame International’s product is fun to play with and creates a nice final product. Although I had a few minor gripes, this application is perfect for economically presenting information with an impressive, professional look. Table A offers product details.

Table A
Product RedFrameKit
Vendor Red Frame International, Inc.
Highs Quickly produces Flash sites
Lows Available only as subscription service; no IDE
Pricing $750 per year

Kit and caboodle
RedFrameKit and its resulting presentations can run on any platform that supports Flash, and Macromedia’s Flash product itself is not required. Integrated with Red Frame International’s online distribution service, templates and music files are accessible from within the application interface for easy download and automatic installation.

RedFrameKit’s WYSIWYG interface (Figure A) enables you to navigate around marketing presentation templates and enter text in the fields provided. You can change each site’s images, background color, music, and metainformation, but otherwise, the templates lack customization capabilities. For example, the number of menu items, displayed keywords, and slides are fixed on all templates.

Figure A
RedFrameKit Editor

Using the My Account menu item, you can easily download new templates for each type of product the application creates. Over the course of evaluating RedFrameKit, I found that several new templates were added in the Web site category. The selection is still somewhat limited, but the product has been available for only a short time in the United States. I took the additions as an indication that further development was forthcoming.

If the provided templates aren’t sufficient for your needs, you may want to contact a sales representative via the company’s Web site and find out about its custom template development services. Unfortunately, there are no plans to release a development kit for the product, which makes it a strictly subscription-service solution. So you can’t tweak your own template.

Easy enough for novices to use
One of the best things about RedFrameKit is that you don’t have to be an ActionScript guru to create a dynamic final product. Changes made to a project don’t even need to be saved or exported—any information entered is automatically updated into the final product. Complete help and tutorial information is available with the product, which I found to be accurate and user-friendly.

The tricky part for a nontechnical user lies in uploading sites to a remote Web server. E-mail distribution capabilities (Figure B) and CD creation is almost dangerously easy to use; however, the FTP interface seemed kludgey to me, and I found it easier to use a separate application to move the files to my server. In all fairness, though, most sites probably won’t go live straight from the marketing department, so uploading creations to the user’s login directory on the server may be sufficient for all intents and purposes.

Figure B
E-mail distribution interface

To test the efficiency of producing marketing collateral with RedFrameKit, I posted a few of my endeavors. As I mentioned above, the application is fun to play with. First, I created a Web site for my cat, Marla. It did take some doing to come up with exactly eight pages of content, but other than that, the entire process took me about 20 minutes, most of which was spent cropping photos and coming up with text. Additionally, I created a slideshow presentation in about 10 minutes, and an e-mail commercial (including distribution list) in less than five.

Pros and cons
From a product standpoint, I have worked for companies that use Flash presentations and commercials distributed via e-mail for marketing use, and I can honestly say RedFrameKit creates presentations equally as impressive as custom solutions costing several thousand dollars.

My main concern was with the limited variety of templates. Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was create my own templates, and not being able to do that did turn me off a little. But if you need to save yourself some time and your company some cash, RedFrameKit may be the way to go for zapping out commercial-grade Flash sites.