Archive

How to Sell Your Flash Templates Without FlashDen

“Why don’t you use FlashDen to sell your Flash templates?” I’ve been asked that question several times since starting Warm Forest. In this post I’d like to explain why I choose to sell my products independently and show how easy it is for anyone to create their own site selling digital goods – whether it is Flash templates, WordPress themes, E-books, software, etc.

First off, I have nothing against FlashDen. I think the whole Envato collection of sites is wonderful for the creative community. I actually used to sell on FlashDen back in the day before eventually deciding to go off on my own with Warm Forest. For me it came down to having control over everything (pricing/marketing/support) and just the fact that it’s more fun for me to do things myself.

What I don’t like about FlashDen

FlashDen has 200,000+ users. That’s a huge market to pass up. But there are a couple of reasons why I choose not to sell through them…

They tend to focus on quantity over quality

Do you want to search through 1,172 Flash menus to find the right one to use in your project? Me neither. I think their logic is that the more options people have, the better. If there are 1,000+ options, then there has to be the perfect option for you, right? In reality I think people would rather see a small handful of really great options to choose from. Have a few options that are flexible and easy to customize and that’s all you need. Marketing studies have shown that having more choices of products makes consumer actually buy less. When presented with too many choices consumers feel overwhelmed and simply choose not to buy. For a great book that discusses these topics I recommend The Paradox of Choice.

It’s hard to market your files on their site

When you release a new file on FlashDen you get brief exposure on their homepage in their “Recent” section. After a few days though your file gets removed from the homepage and buried in the thousands of other files on the site to make room for the next new files. To have your highly polished, super-customizable template that you spent weeks and weeks planning and building being replaced on the homepage after a few days by an animated lobster SWF that someone threw together in 30 minutes would be frustrating. There are some very nice files on FlashDen but they tend to be mixed in with tons of products that aren’t very useful or very appealing from a design point of view.

They price their site templates too low and they take a large cut of the sale

I know, I know. The whole theory of stock sites is to sell lots of products at low prices. Having said that, getting a complete Flash website for $30 seems to me to be crazy below the market price. Any kind of professional who wants a website would probably have a budget of more than that I would hope. The max price they have for any template is $40 so no matter how nice of a template you design that is the most they will sell it for. I think customers would be willing to pay more for something that is really well designed and thought out. As far as their payment rates, you can earn from 25% up to 70% of each sale. They have expenses for running and promoting FlashDen and of course deserve to earn a profit and that’s fine. For me though, I would rather just price my products myself and get 100% of every sale.

Ok so I had a few gripes with FlashDen – how hard could it be to create my own site to sell my products?

How to sell your Flash templates or digital goods yourself

These days the barrier to entry is extremely low for any kind of web-based business. Hosting is cheap. Domains are cheap. There are all kinds of online services that will handle your shopping cart, process your payments, track your expenses, manage your advertising, etc. Everything is simple to setup and dirt cheap. There is no reason not to have an online business.

It ended up being surprisingly easy getting my own site, Warm Forest, up and running. I did a lot of research on the best way to set things up and the following is what I ended up using.

__

E-junkie

E-junkie for my shopping cart
www.e-junkie.com
Cost: $10/month

No need to code my own shopping cart system when there are tons of ready-made services that will handle everything for me. E-junkie hosts my file downloads securely, then sends a temporary email download link to the customer after they make payment. It was super simple to integrate their shopping cart into my site. I like them because they don’t take a cut of each sale and instead just charge you a flat monthly rate depending on the number of products you have for sale.

__

PayPal

PayPal & Google Checkout for my payment processing
www.paypal.com
Cost: Small percentage of each sale

E-junkie actually doesn’t process any payments – they just integrate with PayPal and Google Checkout. Lots of customers already have PayPal and everyone trusts Google so it makes everyone feel secure in the payment process to use something they are already familiar with.

__

BSA

BuySellAds.com for my advertising
www.buysellads.com
Cost: varies (but generally great prices)

BSA pretty much came out of nowhere to become the default ad system for tech/creative websites and blogs. It seems everyone uses it now to setup and manage their ads. The price of ads is cheap right now due to the recession and all so it’s a great time to be promoting your site through banner ads. You get a lot of bang for your buck and it’s easy to target the exact market you are looking for.

__

Basecamp

Media Temple for my hosting
www.mediatemple.net
Cost: $20/month

Media Temple can supposedly handle large spikes in site traffic with their grid service which is the main reason I went with them. Although I have had the occasional problems with site uptime, overall I think they are worth the money. There is cheaper hosting available but I’d rather pay a little extra to go with a well-known and respected name in the hosting business.

__

phpBB

phpBB for my customer support
www.phpbb.com
Cost: Free

No matter how well thought out a FAQ you have for your products, customers are still going to ask you a million questions. Even if the questions are in your FAQ they will still ask them. Instead of having people email me with questions, I installed a forum on my site for them to post their questions. I check it every so often and provide answers. That way instead of having to answer the same questions over and over again by email, customers will (hopefully) just search the forum and find the answer. phpBB is simple to setup and maintain.

__

Basecamp

Basecamp for my tasks/planning
www.basecamphq.com
Cost: Free

I actually use the free plan on Basecamp to manage my upcoming tasks. I know that sounds cheap but really I just use their To-Do list feature and have a bunch of to-do lists, one for each area of Warm Forest I’m working on. I wonder if I’m the only one who does this? Regardless, it seems to work really well.

__

Google Docs

Google Docs for my notes and spreadsheets
docs.google.com
Cost: Free

I’m a big fan of cloud computing – I like to work on different computers and in different locations. With Google Docs, my desktop, laptop, and iPhone can all access the same files from anywhere. I like to have docs for future ideas I want to implement like blog ideas, marketing ideas, ideas for new templates, etc.

__

Gmail

Gmail for my email
www.google.com/apps
Cost: Free

Like everyone else, I love Gmail. I use their Google Apps on my domain and couldn’t be happier.

__

Google Analytics

Google Analytics for my tracking
www.google.com/analytics
Cost: Free

It’s crucial to know where your website visitors are coming from and how they interact with your site. Professional analytics used to be crazy expensive but with Google it’s all free. Get this setup on your new site right away.

__

WordPress

WordPress for my blog
www.wordpress.org
Cost: Free

Getting the word out about your new site is by far the hardest thing so having a blog is a must. WordPress is pretty much the standard for blogging. There are also lots of great themes out there you can buy to get you up and running quickly.

__

So it’s really not that hard to do things yourself

In the end I’m pretty happy I decided to create my own site and not use FlashDen to sell my products. Admittedly, the difficult thing so far has been making people aware that my site is out there. That’s always the tough part but the site has been growing steadily. I encourage anyone considering making their own site selling digital goods to just go for it. It’s easy to start things on your own and there is no reason you have to take the established route these days. Ultimately it’s better for me if everyone created their own independent template selling site – that way people will know they can look elsewhere besides FlashDen. I think it’s good that consumers have choices. Hopefully using the above tips others will follow in my footsteps.

_

Accessible Flash Nav: Right-Click Links to Open in New Window Using AS3

For a recent project I needed to create a Flash navigation menu for use in a HTML site that functioned as close as possible to a normal HTML nav. In HTML you can right-click links to open them in a new window/tab but normally with Flash menus you can’t do this. Therefore I had to try to create that functionality from scratch with ActionScript.

You can see a working example of what I came up with above in my blog header nav.

Flash links inside of text fields (usually set with CDATA and XML) support right-clicking to open links in new windows by default but setting up a nav that way usually doesn’t make sense and you would lose a lot of functionality doing it that way. So the trick I found was to take advantage of the fact that you can add a custom right-click context menu not just to the Flash stage but also to each individual sprite itself.

Here is some sample code that you can add to each of your nav items to achieve this:

  1. var navItem:Sprite = new Sprite();
  2. var cm:ContextMenu = new ContextMenu();
  3. cm.hideBuiltInItems();
  4. var openNewWindow:ContextMenuItem = new ContextMenuItem("Open Link in New Window");
  5. openNewWindow.addEventListener(ContextMenuEvent.MENU_ITEM_SELECT, onOpenNewWindowSelect, false, 0, true);
  6. cm.customItems.push(openNewWindow);
  7. navItem.contextMenu = cm;

I also tried to mimic the browser functionality of command (control on a PC) clicking to open links in new tabs and shift-clicking to open them in new windows. Using keyboard listeners I was able to get this working in Safari but sadly it doesn’t seem to work at all in Firefox for some reason. In Opera, shift-clicking opens a new tab but command-clicking just triggers the normal right-click menu. I guess it just depends on how the browser wants to handle the keyboard events.

I also added the ability to copy the URL to the clipboard for copying and pasting. Here is a quick snippet of code that will copy text to the system clipboard:

  1. System.setClipboard("Your text to copy");

So why create a menu in Flash at all if HTML natively supports these features? The main reason would be nice typography – no more using the same system fonts over and over again. Plus you can create lots of neat dividers/selected state graphics/rollovers without having to open up Photoshop.

Here are three versions of the Flash right-click nav that you can download for free below.

TypeNav Font Option 1

» Download now (zip)

TypeNav Font Option 6

» Download now (zip)

TypeNav Font Option 8

» Download now (zip)

For more info, see the TypeNav™ page here.

Flash AS3 Contact Form Using PHP

To continue in the tradition of my AS3 scrollbar source code I released a few months back, I’m now giving away the source code for my AS3 contact form class I’ve been using in my other Flash templates, specifically the one from Cedar.

The contact form class is super-customizable and simple to use. I’ve used it in lots of projects and it’s easy to make it look different every time. Here is the basic usage:

  1. import com.warmforestflash.ContactForm;
  2. var contactForm:ContactForm = new ContactForm();
  3. addChild(contactForm);

And here is a preview:

Get Adobe Flash player

Pretty much everything can be easily customized including all the colors and text and validation copy. Here is how you would customize it:

  1. import com.warmforestflash.ContactForm;
  2. var contactForm:ContactForm = new ContactForm();
  3.  
  4. // Label settings
  5. contactForm.nameText = "Type your name here";
  6. contactForm.emailText = "Type your email here";
  7. contactForm.messageText = "Type your message here";
  8. contactForm.sendButtonText = "CONTACT ME";
  9. contactForm.sendingText = "Sending message…";
  10. contactForm.errorEmailText = "Your email is not valid.";
  11. contactForm.errorServerText = "Server problems.";
  12. contactForm.confirmationText = "Thanks for contacting me!";
  13.  
  14. // Color settings
  15. contactForm.textColor = 0xffffff;
  16. contactForm.borderColor = 0×222222;
  17. contactForm.backgroundColor = 0×000000;
  18. contactForm.selectedBorderColor = 0x05b59a;
  19. contactForm.selectedBackgroundColor = 0×000000;
  20. contactForm.selectedBlurAmount = 50;
  21. contactForm.sendButtonTextColor = 0xffffff;
  22. contactForm.sendButtonTextRollOverColor = 0xffffff;
  23. contactForm.sendButtonColor = 0x05b59a;
  24. contactForm.sendButtonRollOverColor = 0xff4400;
  25. contactForm.errorColor = 0xff4400;
  26. contactForm.confirmationColor = 0x05b59a;
  27.  
  28. // Layout settings
  29. contactForm.nameWidth = 400;
  30. contactForm.emailWidth = 400;
  31. contactForm.messageWidth = 550;
  32. contactForm.messageHeight = 200;
  33. contactForm.verticalSpacing = 10;
  34.  
  35. addChild(contactForm);

And here it is customized:

Get Adobe Flash player

I’m also including an XML-powered version for people who don’t own the Flash authoring software or who don’t know any ActionScript at all. You can just drop this into an HTML page and customize everything straight through the XML without having to open Flash or mess with any ActionScript. It’s a simple way to add a contact form to any website.

The script that actually sends the email is written in PHP so the web server you upload it to will need to support PHP in order for the email to send.

» Download the contact form class and XML version

Feel free to use this code in any way you want other than selling it.

Have fun!

__

Free AS3 Scrollbar: Fullscreen and Resizable

In coincidence with the launch of my new Aspen template, I’ve decided to release for free the source code for the scrollbar I’ve been using in my other Flash templates. The scrollbar is coded in AS3 and will automatically resize according to the amount of content, unlike a lot of other Flash scrollbars. You can set the track color, grabber color, grabber press color, grip color, track thickness, grabber thickness, ease amount and whether or not the grabber is “shiny”.

Update [6-21-2009]: Now supports mouse wheel scrolling on the Mac using SWFWheel.

Here is a demo of the scrollbar in use. You can click “Add Copy” to see how it resizes:

Get Adobe Flash player

You can also view a demo of it being used fullscreen in my Sycamore template.

Here is the usage for the scrollbar class:

// Arguments: Content to scroll, track color, grabber color, grabber press color, grip color, track thickness, grabber thickness, ease amount, whether grabber is “shiny”
  1. _scrollBar = new FullScreenScrollBar(_content, 0×222222, 0xff4400, 0x05b59a, 0xffffff, 15, 15, 4, true);
  2. addChild(_scrollBar);

ยป Download the demo and source code

Feel free to use this code in any way you want other than selling it.

Enjoy!

Simple Sanity-Saving Tip for All Timeline-Based Flash Projects

Here is a simple code snippet to use with any timeline-based Flash project that will save you from pulling your hair out. If you are like me you still occasionally find yourself doing Flash projects that are strictly timeline-based. No matter how much you love doing class-based AS projects, there are certain projects that just make sense to do with the timeline. Think banner ad animations and linear “Flash commercial” type projects, where it’s just two minutes straight of animation.

Continue reading ‘Simple Sanity-Saving Tip for All Timeline-Based Flash Projects’