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Web Design Tutorials - Intermediate Design Considerations

To Frame or Not to Frame, That Is the Question

The use of frames is one of the most controversial web design topics. It tends to be a love or hate relationship, based on convenience or poor usage. Here are some of the pertinent facts:

  • Frames allow you to use a single navigation section that does not have to be reloaded with each new page. This can make pages load significantly faster.
  • Frames give a clean impression, as only the original URL shows up in the location bar, as opposed to seeing the file names like you would with a non-framed site.
  • Poorly arranged frames do not show all of their content and may not allow scrolling; proper use of space is very important.
  • Many people do not set external links to launch in a new window, leading toward a frustrating "trapped" page within the frame.
  • Too many frames can lead to slow load times, especially on older browsers.
  • Some browsers do not support frames, and some people disable them due to personal preference.
  • Many search engines cannot interpret the content of framed sites and your search engine listing will most likely suffer considerably.
  • If someone enters your site through an individual page instead of the frame index entrance, they will not see your navigation structure in the other frames (this can generally be accounted for with some JavaScript to send them to the framed page in that case).
  • Makes it very difficult for someone to link directly to one of your pages (on their site). They either have to link to your main page and provide directions to the page they want to point people to, or they must bypass your frame arrangement (and all of your navigation and logos in the process) to point to the page hidden within. The result is less links to your site or broken navigation -- not a good thing.

As you can see, the cons certainly outnumber the pros in terms of quantity. It is up to you to weigh the importance of these issues with your own site objectives in mind.

Below is a common frame layout, purely for informational purposes:

Left Frame Top Frame


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