Future Media Standards & Guidelines

Multimedia Plug-in Standard (Flash, Shockwave etc.) v1.2

1. When should plug-in content be used?

1.1 Multimedia plug-in content MUST only be used to extend the user experience of sites on bbc.co.uk, to raise their overall appeal, or to promote the brand.

1.2 If a user does not have the correct plug-in installed or cannot access the content using assistive technologies this MUST NOT prevent the user accessing the core content of the website.

1.3 If you can achieve the same functionality in native browser technologies such as CSS, animated gifs and JavaScript you SHOULD NOT use a plug-in.

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2. Approved plug-in formats

2.1 You MUST only use the following formats:

  • Flash (including Air)
  • Shockwave
  • Silverlight
  • Java
  • PDF

See the Audio Video Standard and the EMP website for more information on approved AV formats.

2.2 If you need to use any other plug-in formats, you MUST contact your product lead with a business case for the use of that format to gain an exemption.

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3. How to choose the format

3.1 You SHOULD choose the format to achieve the best audience reach while providing all the features needed.

3.2 You MUST NOT publish content using any plug-in that remains in Alpha or Beta release status. If you need to do this you MUST contact your product lead with a business case in order to gain an exemption.

3.3 You MUST comply with the Multimedia Accessibility Standard.

3.4 You MUST choose the plug-in version according to a balance of:

  • functionality
  • cost of production
  • penetration rate (will users really bother to download and install a plug-in to reach your content or might they just continue browsing?)

Penetration rate can be assessed from the Rich Internet Applications website.

3.5 If developing PDF content, you MUST comply with the PDF Accessibility Standard.

3.6 If developing Shockwave content in Director, you MUST take full advantage of accessibility features where available. For more on Director accessibility, see the Adobe website.

3.7 When developing Java-based content this SHOULD be carefully assessed with respect to the Total Cost of Ownership and usability issues. It has behaved inconsistently within browsers in the past (especially in pre-OS X Mac browsers), and can present security pop-ups to certain users.

3.8 When using Silverlight you MUST take full advantage of accessibility features where available. For more on Sliverligth Accessibility see the Microsoft msdn website.

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4. Provide an alternative to plug-in content

4.1 Alternatives to multimedia content SHOULD convey equivalent content or learning outcomes as far as is viable.

4.2 Alternative content may include:

  • a similar looking, but less-dynamic flat HTML presentation, using static or animated GIFs and/or JavaScript content, for those without Flash
  • a worksheet or quiz to convey the same content or learning outcome in a text form, for screen reader users (see, for example, the quizzes in the BBC Schools Scienceclips site.

4.3 For core content where alternative content is available there MUST be a HTML link to allow the user to switch between the versions.

4.4 Alternative Sites

4.4.1 Where a site uses plug-in content to deliver the core content of the site and alternative content cannot be adequately provided by detection scripts, an HTML version of the site SHOULD be created.

4.4.2 The HTML version of the site MUST be maintained in synchronisation with the multimedia-enhanced site.A1B1

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5. Embedding plug-in content into pages

5.1 If you are embedding Flash, Shockwave or AV content into a page you MUST use the BBC Tools available to you (e.g. Glow and the EMP site).

5.2 PDF content MUST be linked to with an indication that the link is to an Adobe Acrobat document and not a standard web page, so not to confuse users if/when the Acrobat application menu appears within the browser window.

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6. Tell the user how to get the plug-in player

6.1 All pages using plug-in content MUST display a link to the plug-in's BBC WebWise page, where one is available, to provide instructions and links on how to download the free player. You MUST NOT link directly to the plug-in download.

6.2 Pages whose target audience is children or their parents, MUST use the WebWise pages which have been specially created to be understood by children at: childrens guides.

6.3 Pages written in a language other than English SHOULD display a link to the plug-in help page written in that language.

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7. Download size, optimising and pre-loaders

7.1 Web pages which include embedded plug-in content MUST comply with the requirements of the Download Standards.

7.2 All plug-in content MUST be optimised for download speed to ensure a good user experience.

7.3 You MUST provide feedback to users showing how much content a user has yet to download or what percentage of the total content has been loaded, to indicate how long they might expect to wait for the content to complete loading.

7.4 You SHOULD use prgoressive downloads where possible.

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8. Security

8.1 All plug-in content MUST be secure as well as functional.

8.2 You MUST NOT pull in any text or any other data from sites external to the BBC unless authorised by your product lead and the BBC Information Security Officer.

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Appendix A: Why

  • A1. This improves both accessibility and SEO.

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Appendix B: How

  • B1. A common way of doing this is to keep the content of the site in XML and produce Flash and non-Flash versions from this content whenever it is updated.

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