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You could try Sharkysoft [sharkysoft.com] for an intoduction and tutorial.
Once you have sorted the basics have a dig through the forums for specific frames/SEO tips and advice. Keep a special eye out for Tedsters posts, he seems to know a lot about this type of thing.;)
My overall experience with frame sites leads me to one piece of advice: don't do it.
1) Search engine ranking will suffer. No matter what reason I ever thought I had for using frames, and no matter what kind of clever methods for getting ranked, everytime I dropped the frames the pages went up in rank. Yes, you can do OK -- even well some places with good SEO on other fronts. You do even better without frames. For instance, recent client site went from #9 (Google) on principal keyword to #3 after making the page flat. I think those extra nav pages drag down the overall site rating (just theorizing here.)
2) Site maintenance is a bear -- trying to maintain every edit in both your content pages and your frameset. Maintaining ways to bounce the visitor from the orphaned content into the full frameset. It can get very nuts very fast.
3) Visitor experience is NOT improved -- in fact the opposite seems to be true. Every measure I've taken showed a jump in pageviews per unique after frames were dropped.
It seems like frames "ought to be" a good idea, at least in some cases. However, in practice, I haven't seen the evidence, and I've suffered the downside. I was a frames fanatic, but now I'm starting a 12-step group.
"The fundamental design of the Web is based on having the page as the atomic unit of information, and the notion of the page permeates all aspects of the Web....Frames break the unified model of the Web ... With frames, the user's view of information on the screen is now determined by a sequence of navigation actions rather than a single navigation action"
Why Frames Suck (Most of the Time) [useit.com]
So what's the alternative way to create a complex navigational structure for an information rich site with *many* subsections and about 200 pages?
Bear with here as my experience up to now has been with frame-based sites. see [dwscientific.co.uk...] for an example.
Does one have to create endless copies of pages to get the same logical navigation that one would achieve using frames?
i.e If I have 20 sections called things like "about my dog", "where my dog lives", "what my dog eats" and each section has many links to yet more sections and each of *those* sections links to dozens of pages on specific topics it seems to my tiny brain that *not* using frames is going to make the creation of the navigation structure a potential nightmare. Not to mention updates and extensions to, or developments of, content in the future.
Sorry for the long post and basic questions.
All advice gratefully appreciated :-)
It does take good upfront planning to have an intuitive structure for visitors that also allows the site to "breathe" well into the future. "Information Architecture" is a huge topic. Creating a site map BEFORE you code the first page is one goal, and generating the documentation for WHY this structure is chosen is another.
The future you will thank the present you for this well-spent effort. If someone else takes over the site, it can be invaluable. I wish some of the sites I took over had done at least some of this work -- but if they had, the original developer might still have the client!
The concerns you raise also encompass "Usability". Together, these two topics are the content of many books, reports, and studies. In my first meetings with a prospective client I try to educate them about the importance of this work, the time it will take, etc. It's time and money well spent. In fact, I will not develop a site unless the client will allow conscious development and planning of the information architecture.
Here's a tutorial [hotwired.lycos.com] which provides a concise approach to the subject.
I've also found Jakob Neilsen [useit.com] to be worthy of continual attention on Usability issues. His point of view is probably more extreme or purist than most clients will allow, but the points he raises and the testing he has performed are worth knowing about if you want to maximize the usability, and profitability of a site.
>Does one have to create endless copies of pages to get the same logical navigation that one would achieve using frames?
In some ways, the answer is yes, but it doesn't have to be all that tedious. You create a basic "template" for your pages and then fill that basic template with varied content. Depending on the size of the site, this might be done dynamically, or all in static pages (lots of copy and paste.)
If all your pages will be static, good site management software which allows for global "Find and Replace" functionality throughout the site is required for sanity, in my experience.
The first screenful that appears on your new, unframed, pages may end up looking a lot like the framed version of the site did -- but the header and nav bar will scroll off the screen as the content is scrolled.
If you can use the "navigation" frames to create the template for the unframed site, the transition may be relatively painless -- but you will need to roll up your sleeves and take a close look at the issues ahead of time. Sound planning will prevent many hours of wasted work going down a dead end path (this I learned the hard way).
I've "flattened" a couple of previously framed sites. In both cases it was worth it. The big surprise to me was the increase in stickiness. Both non-framed sites now hold visitors for almost twice as many page views per unique as their framed predecessors did.
Another alternative to simplifying navigation when going from frames to flat pages is using server side includes. Code once, call multiple times - have to make a switch this week. I've actually been putting off updating a site, dreading changing all the navigation all throughout.
Question about the meta tags: If there is one frameset with 4 or 5 pages which will load into the right section, do any pages but the frameset need to have meta tags? The content is pretty well fixed with no room for change - so the only flexibility will be in the noframes.
I'd treat each as stand-alone pages because the ophan frames might end up in some SERPs. Tedster mentioned a js that would 'reassemble' the frameset if someone clicked on the orphan directly, so it seems like the best way to cover all the bases.