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Chapter 15. Creating Web Sites with Frames > Design Tips: Using Frames

Design Tips: Using Frames

Frames-based sites enjoyed a wave of popularity when the technology was new. Designers were intrigued with the idea of displaying several pages at a time to visitors. Showing all the navigational links for a site in one scrollable, unblinking list seemed like a great idea. More recently the use of frames has declined. Below is a list of some problems associated with the use of frames. Keep these issues in mind when deciding how and when to use frames:

  • Reduced viewable screen area Keeping the contents of certain pages displayed at all times, such as menu pages in a navigation frame, reduces the main content area. This gives the visitor less screen space to see the page information. For most visitors, going to a Web site is about getting information, and not about staring at navigation buttons.

  • Misleading expectations When visitors click a navigation button within a frame, for example, new content is generally displayed within a new frame, and the navigation frame remains. When a visitor clicks a hyperlink located within a content frame, typically the content area changes. These two different results are potentially confusing to visitors, as their expectations of “What happens when I click a link?” varies from frame to frame.

  • Inability to bookmark a page When a visitor displays a frames page, two or more Web pages appear in the browser at the same time, but only one URL appears in the Address bar of the visitor’s browser. If visitors travel through a frames site and come across a page that they’d like to bookmark, they can mark only the frames page URL, and not the specific page of content they’re interested in.

  • Difficulty printing a frames page If a frames site includes a navigation frame, chances are excellent that visitors will click only that frame. Any frame the visitor clicks becomes the active frame and by default, this is the only page that the browser’s Print command prints. As a result, most visitors end up printing just the navigation buttons.

    The Print dialog box in most recent browser has an option whereby visitors case specify which frame to print, but this only works if visitors notice the option and make the proper selections. Unfortunately, no such option is available when visitors select the Print button on the browser’s menu bar.

  • Slower download speed When creating a frames site, a designer must obviously create frames pages that tell browsers how to display the target pages. This means that the browser must display one more than the total number of visible pages. This, in turn, means that displaying the pages correctly requires one more trip back to the Web server. Of course, each additional trip to the Web server takes time, potentially slowing down the display of the pages.

  • Limited search engine indexing Most designers would like the sites they create to be found and indexed by Web search engines. Unfortunately, many search engines have trouble finding the pages of frames-based sites.

    Most search engines go to the index.htm, or home page, of a Web site and read its contents. When the search engine comes across a hyperlink, it follows that link and begins to read that Web page, looking for the page’s hyperlinks. If a site uses frames, the search engine will go to the frames page looking for the links to the rest of the site, but those links are on a different page, not within the frames page. This type of setup can cause some search engines to look no further than the frames page, thus missing the full extent of the site.

  • Web visitor preference Many usability studies show that visitors simply don’t like having to interact with frames. When it comes to successful Web site design, meeting the visitor’s needs and expectations should always be a designer’s highest priority.



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