Whether frames should be used in Web pages is a highly debated question. There are both real advantages and real disadvantages to using frames. Before you can decide if using frames is the right choice, you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages.
There are a number of advantages to using frames in Web pages:
Mastheads, banners, ads, sidebars, and menus can remain visible at all times, while the main content is displayed in a separate scrollable window.
Content displayed in frames on multiple pages only requires that a single page be created and maintained. Similar content included in table-based page layouts, for example, has to be included in each page where it is displayed.
Differing foreground colors, background colors, and background images can be displayed in different frames, with a light-colored fore-ground against a dark-colored background in one frame and the reverse in another frame, for example.
Frames can make it easier for users to navigate a multi-page Web site, in that menus and tables of contents can remain visible at all times within their own frame, while content is switched in and out of a separate main content frame.
As I mentioned before, there are also significant disadvantages you should be aware of before deciding to use frames in Web pages:
Search engines and Web directories might rank pages created using frames lower in search query lists than they would if no frames were being used, because the root page that contains the frame codes lacks textual content that can be indexed.
Search engine robots also might not be able to follow frame links (links to pages displayed in the individual frame windows) and thus may not be able to index other pages included in a framed site.
Using search engines or other third-party links, visitors can directly access a page outside of the frame where the author intends it to be displayed. That can be confusing, because the page's content is viewed out of context. Such visitors may also have trouble finding their way to the rest of your site if the framed page lacks links that they can follow.
Users of older browsers that do not support frames may not be able to view your site. At least one newer browser, the Opera browser, allows users to disable the display of framed sites.
While some text-only browsers will display frame links, users may not be able to decipher the function or purpose of the listed links based on the content of the links alone.
Visitors cannot bookmark the individual framed pages within a framed site; they can only bookmark the initial page that contains the frame codes.
Only the title of the top-level page (containing the frame codes) is displayed in a browser's window. Titles created for framed pages are not displayed.
Although many browsers allow users to open a framed page in a separate window by right-clicking on the page and selecting an option, the most widely used browser, Internet Explorer, does not.
The use of frames in a site can make it difficult to print a particular page.
While there are workarounds for many of these drawbacks, extra consideration and care is required when designing a framed site. These will be discussed and exampled in detail later in this session in the "Overcoming the Disadvantages of Frames" section.
Marie Louise Richardson enjoys reading English poetry and has decided to create a Web site featuring some of her favorite poets. She has decided to experiment using frames, since they allow her to display a table of contents in one frame and the main content of her site in another frame.