Advantages and Disadvantages of Frames
To use Frames or not to use Frames... That is the question...
I've kept away from using frames in any of my work where possible. As much as I
like some of the features that frames offer, such as a static header area and side menu
bar, there is still a number of negative aspects to their use.
The idea of changing a menu system on my sites by altering one page is a very
attractive prospect, especially now that I'm am carrying out a behind-the-scenes
revamp of Taming the Beast.net. The weeks I have spent changing the coding on a
couple of hundred pages could have been carried out in a couple of days, if I had used
frames. But there are other ways to achieve rapid site updates without using frames (a
subject of a future article) and those methods will be implemented in Taming the
Beast.net Version II, due for release in December 2001.
So what are these frames (framed sites) anyway?
A frames page itself contains no visible content, it contains instructions on which
pages to show simultaneously and how they will be displayed within the browser
window . Think of it as a clear overlay, much like a paneled window frame - except this
window frame allows you to look into different rooms of the house. A frames page can
contain references to many other pages, but usually they consist of references to pages
to be used as the header, the content, a left hand menu bar and a perhaps a footer bar.
When a hyperlink is clicked in one frame, say the left hand navigation window, it will
open a page in the content window, or the target frame.
This makes site-wide changes easy to implement (especially when used in
conjunction with Cascading Style Sheets) as you can change the items such as the
menu bar and logo for your site in one page, and that will update the entire site.
Using a frame for the header (top) area or navigation bar of your pages will also make it
static (fixed) so visitors can easily access menus etc... no more scrolling back up the page.
All this sounds great, but there are a number of points you need to consider before
implementing a framed site, especially when using WYSIWYG (What You See Is What
You Get) web page editors.
1) Many search engines cannot index framed sites. Because the home page is
merely a frame, with very little content or hyperlinks to follow, search engine spiders
may stop dead on the page and have 'nothing to report'. A way around this is the
proper implementation of Meta tags and use of the "noframes" tag. (See further
resources at the end of this article).
2) If a search engine does manage to spider your site, visitors from search engines
may land on the content pages, rather than the full-framed version, i.e. they may arrive
on your site and all they will see is the menu bar! For a work-around for this issue, see
further resources at the end of this article).
3) Non-frames capable browsers. Fortunately, only 1% of visitors browsers fall into
this category. Once again the use of the 'noframes' tag will assist, but to be used
effectively you basically need to create two sites, one framed, one not - the "time
saving" is suddenly gone.