Posted on March 14, 2000
By Richard Igoe
When designing a new website, one of your first decisions is whether or not to use frames. Frames technology allows you to have more than one web page on your screen at the same time.
Typically a frames site will include a navigation menu down the side or across the top, with the main or contents page filling the rest of the screen, however you can use 3, 4, 5, or more frames if there is any advantage to your site from doing so.
ADVANTAGES OF FRAMES
1) Frames can make your site easier to navigate because you can have a constantly visible navigation menu - and as you should know, easy navigation is one of the most important aspects of website design.
2) Frames can make your site faster because you can include the site theme (images, logo, etc..), and the navigation menu, in frames that do not have to download each time a visitor looks at a new page. Only the contents page changes.
3) Using frames can make it easier to design and maintain your site, especially if you have a large site. If for example you want to add a new page that is linked from the other pages on your site, you simply add a link on your navigation menu; you do not have to add links on each and every page.
(However the top web design software allows you to create templates which can give similar results. You create a template and then create the pages for your site based on this template. Then whenever you make a change on the template, the web pages based on this template can be automatically updated. This is essential if you have a large site and don't use frames.)
4) Frames can make your site more interesting and can also allow you to have permanently visible advertising banners. Take a look at the Word magazine site www.word.com - well worth a visit and one of the most innovative sites we have found from a design point of view.
1) The original argument was that not all browsers support frames, but this must be a very small percentage now. You can get around this by including a <NOFRAMES></NOFRAMES> area below your frameset. In this noframes area you can include the normal <BODY></BODY> area and in this you can place information such as a simple navigation menu and a "Sorry your browser does not support frames" statement, - OR you can design a complete page for browsers that do not support frames.
2) Some search engines only index the home.htm or index.htm page without spidering the rest of the site, so unless you have good tags your site might not rank very well, especially since many search engines also take into account the contents of your pages and frames are treated as hyperlinks to other pages. You can however get around this by creating "doorway" pages which redirect visitors to your index.htm page.
To redirect a visitor from an optimized "doorway" page you simply put the following script in yoursection.
and replace index.htm with the page you want to redirect the visitor to.
The other aspect here is that for search engines which only index your home page, you would need to submit each of your site content pages separately. If one of these content pages is indexed and found in a search, the visitor will only see the contents page and will not see the rest of your site, something you definitely don't want to happen ! This brings us to the next and maybe the most important disadvantage of using frames.
3)Frames can make it difficult for you to direct people to a particular page on your site. This is especially so if you want to use email to send a visitor to a particular page that has details of an affiliate program for example. If you don't send them to your index.htm page they will not be able to see the rest of your site, only the contents of the page you have directed them to.
4)Frames within frames can be confusing, so you have to pay special attention to your hyperlinks when you are designing your pages. For example if one of the links in your main or contents frame redirects a visitor back to the index.htm page, the result will be a mess unless the hyperlink specifies the target frame as "top" (eg: <A HREF="http://www.yoursite.com/index.htm TARGET="_top">) to prevent the index page opening inside the contents page.
Learning how to use frames is easy once you have mastered the concept that a hyperlink can lead to a page in its own frame (TARGET="_self") the default option, or in another frame in the frameset eg:(TARGET="main").
All in all, whether you use frames or not is a personal
decision, but you need to aware of the advantages and
disadvantages before you design your site.
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