To use Frames or not to use Frames...
That is question...
I've kept away from using frames in any of my work where possible. As much as I like some of 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 Beast.net . The weeks I have spent changing 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 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 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 house. A frames page can contain references to many other pages, but usually they consist of references to pages to be used as header, content, a left hand menu bar and a perhaps a footer bar. When a hyperlink is clicked in one frame, say left hand navigation window, it will open a page in content window, or target frame.
This makes site-wide changes easy to implement (especially when used in conjunction with Cascading Style Sheets) as you can change items such as menu bar and logo for your site in one page, and that will update entire site.
Using a frame for 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 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 home page is merely a frame, with very little content or hyperlinks to follow, search engine spiders may stop dead on page and have 'nothing to report'. A way around this is proper implementation of Meta tags and use of "noframes" tag. (See further resources at end of this article)
2) If a search engine does manage to spider your site, visitors from search engines may land on content pages, rather than full-framed version, i.e. they may arrive on your site and all they will see is menu bar! For a work-around for this issue, see further resources at end of this article)
3) Non-frames capable browsers. Fortunately, only 1% of visitors browsers fall into this category. Once again use of 'noframes' tag will assist, but to be used effectively you basically need to create two sites, one framed, one not - "time saving" is suddenly gone.
4) Bookmarking. A visitor cannot bookmark a specific page in your site without requiring additional customised scripting for each page. Even then there is a risk of visitors landing on content frame, with no navigation frames to view.