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The controversy over frames
Your opinion on the matter

 6:23 pm on Nov 17, 2003 (gmt 0)


I am in an independent study class for website design and I am writing a paper on why anyone with half a brain wouldn’t use frames. I have a collection of information, but would like to hear the opinion of other web designers. Any and all comments are appreciated.



 6:51 pm on Nov 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

My friend


Many happy hours of reading for you, or you could use the search facility ;)



4eyes you made me cry again ;)

[edited by: richardb at 7:00 pm (utc) on Nov. 17, 2003]


 6:54 pm on Nov 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

why anyone with half a brain wouldn’t use frames

No reason at all - anyone with half a brain WOULD use frames.
In fact, they are the sort who use them most;)

Seriously, using frames presents a number of problems for search engines, but if you know what you are doing you can still make them work pretty well.

Would I base a new site design on frames, No.

For information on the problems caused by frames, you could use the Webmasterworld search option. We have covered this many times in far more detail than I could manage here.


 7:07 pm on Nov 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Frames are absolutely fine for an application on an intranet. probably the best way to build such a thing -- though be sure any disability aids used by staff are happy with the site.

For a website you want the world to find, use, and bookmark, they are a disaster. You'll find all the reasons why in your background reading.


 7:09 pm on Nov 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Frames are also good for paintings... Or family photos...



 7:31 pm on Nov 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Or making your boss think it was your co-worker instead of you that fried the system . . . :)


 7:32 pm on Nov 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Here is a good thread:

So why are you willing to remove a tool in your arsenal. I created frames on a site I just made last month. The application dictated something and frames fit the bill. I think you need to use what you need when you need it. You could say the same about Flash, RSS, and whatever technology you like. Use it when you need what frames do.


 9:14 pm on Nov 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Frames are okay if they are used in the right way... and by that I mean for navigational links. Generally, if a website uses frames, it means that the designer is an amature. I know a website where frames are used entirely for *decorational* purposes -- if anyone wants to know the url of the site I'm talking about, please StickyMail me -- believe me, it's actually quite shocking.


 4:39 am on Nov 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Frames Suck ... [webmasterworld.com]

It's the people who use frames in a way that screams Look at me I'm using FRAMES! that turns me off a lot of the time. Granted there are times and places where they can be used appropriately...it's the guys who don't get it who get under my skin...


 6:05 am on Nov 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Point #1 -- The stats speak loudly

Before the web was born, I was involved in direct marketing -- and for me, metrics will trump opinion every time.

I designed framed websites early in my web career. Yes, there's something about always having the navigation on screen that I liked back then, and I still do. I've also had clients bring me framed websites and ask for help building their business.

In every case where I de-framed a site, mine or a client's, the stickiness improved (using page-views per unique as a metric). In every case that involved a measurable conversion, total conversions increased.

Given this experience, I no longer consider designing an entire site in frames. There is a significant proportion of users who do not respond well to frames - and that is the deciding factor for me. Some people's minds just don't work that way, period.

However, I still have situations in PARTS of websites where frames are a good resolution to a design challenge. For just those pages, frames are an important tool.

#2 - Frames inhibit viral marketing

Many relatively savvy users know how to copy the URL from the location bar and email it to a friend. On a framed site, they can't share the page that way and you lose that marketing asset -- along with the ability to bookmark a page.

#3 - Frames inhibit natural linking

Many part-time, amateur (meaning they build a site for the "love" of their topic) webmasters will spontaneously link to your site if they like your content, without you requesting anything. On a framed site, they can't get the URL -- and you lose a link.

#4 - Frames are more like an application

Frames are more like a software GUI than a web page, and many users do not want to learn a new GUI for every website they visit. They just want to accomplish the task that brought them to your site. And hey, if you've got an online application (and not just a website) frames may be just the thing. As GUIs go, they're a pretty standard approach.

But when it comes to your basic web page, for information or for eCommerce, Jakob Nielsen said it a long time ago -- frames "break the metaphor of the web".


 6:32 am on Nov 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I stopped using frames about the time Broadband and DSL became common.

My only real use for frames was to keep the Header and Navigation always displayed, but really only so load times would be significantly reduced.

Now with faster connections, I dropped using frames in favor of more real estate for my layout.


 1:38 pm on Nov 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

The major disadvantages of using frames have already been pointed out. However, if you still want the pages to look like frames, you can always visually mimic a frame using a div with its overflow style sheet attribure set to scroll, it has worked for me!


 3:10 pm on Nov 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't use frames nowadays because of the accessibility issues they present. Now that we have widespread access to various forms of CGI, and relatively good CSS implementations (excepting IE, of course), there's really no need for them in most cases.

xicixiaoqi yhn

 4:25 pm on Nov 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I don not use frames now.


 6:25 pm on Nov 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

I used frames when they first came out,
but many visitors had problems "Old Browsers"
and then I found out that major search engines
had problems with frames.

Also, I had problems with Javascript
blowing up and frames not updating.

Now I still use them in a few places,
but very little.


The same thing happened with FLASH,
at first my site became very flashy,
but then the novelty wore off.


 10:03 pm on Nov 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thank you for all of your help. This is what I have discovered too. But now I have another question. I have heard that SE can now crawl frames without a problem. So if that is not a factor then why not use them. (besides the fact it makes you look like an amateur)


 10:30 pm on Nov 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Didn't tedster answer your question in great detail above? There's no "controversy over frames" at this point. They may make sense very occasionally within a web site to present certain types of information, but as presentation method for an entire web site ... nope.


 4:36 am on Nov 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

SE can now crawl frames without a problem. So if that is not a factor then why not use them.

You are playing Devil's Advocate very well -- and you're correct, search engines have now been spidering framed pages for several years. Then they send traffic directly to that internal page, which is now an "orphan" because it was designed to be presented inside a parent frameset and not as a stand alone page.

Now the site developers need to cope with putting that search engine traffic back into the site's main navigation by some means. And such means DO exist through either server side or client side scripting.

But this one more complication in an already very complex affair, one more factor to worry about during site maintenance, one more place for something to break.


 5:22 am on Nov 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>But this one more complication in an already very complex affair, one more factor to worry about during site maintenance, one more place for something to break.<<

Yes, inherently, the more complex something is, the higher the probability for an error. It is a numbers game.


 5:52 am on Nov 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

In fact, just in and of themselves, frames can prove to be a maintenance challenge. Frames can sprout logical dependencies in a nearly exponential fashion. Just keeping track of the proper target attributes alone can be a nightmare.

One of the framed pages I maintain is a calendar page of international events that we license for framing by a few different websites -- and each site gets to surround it with their own navigational frameset. The calendar itslef includes paid advertising, each of which may link to an informational pop-up or a completely different website.

Keeping it all straight -- what needs a "_self", or a "_blank" or a "_top" -- or maybe a javascript call -- makes me really crazy. To work on the page, I need to reverse the javascript test that puts the orphaned page into its frameset. If I forget to turn that test back when I update the page on the server, we've got chaos -- this hall of mirrors effect with recursively looped versions of the frameset being framed by itself. It happens about 4 times a year.

If I get the target attribute wrong, people who click on ads end up visiting other pages or sites that are inappropriately trapped inside the frameset, and their layout breaks or they develop side scrolling.

Now multiply that by an entire website and you can have a mind melt-down trying to ensure that every end user scenario is accounted for properly.


 1:47 pm on Nov 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

tedster, yes good point I forgot about that problem with SE. I recently was looking at a site i found that had fames so I did the usual, site:http*//www.somesite.com "http*//www.somesite.com" and came up with the results of the indexed pages. Since google indexes everypage it gave me a big orange page with 5 links in the middle of it. Very unprofessional, and if i was a surfer i would deffinetly be hitting the back button.

troels nybo nielsen

 7:20 pm on Nov 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

The question of frames is really very simple:

If you have to ask, then the answer is: DON'T.

Frames should only be used by people who know exactly where and how to use them. Sadly they are mostly used by webmasters who seem to be completely unaware of the problems.

A year ago I asked a web designer to create a new design for my websites. Something easily maintainable. She wanted to use frames! That suggestion was sufficient motivation for me to decide to learn the necessary minimum of CSS.

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