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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.
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.
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.
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...
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".
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.
blowing up and frames not updating.
Now I still use them in a few places,
but very little.
FRAMES = TROUBLE
The same thing happened with FLASH,
at first my site became very flashy,
but then the novelty wore off.
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.
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.
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.
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.