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Web Design Guidelines: Using Frames Properly

Frames are a way of dividing an HTML page into different sections, each displaying different content. Frames can add great value, but they can also create a confusing, messy page. It is all in the design. The best uses of frames are relatively simple designs. Typically they have no more than three horizontal or vertical sub-frames.

Try to avoid the use of frames on all top-level pages or on all pages if possible.

Common trouble with frames include the following:

  1. You cannot bookmark an individual framed page. You can only bookmark the home page of a Web site that consists of frames.
  2. It is not possible to correctly link to a page within frames. If you do link to it, anybody following the link will miss out on the other frames such as navigation controls.
  3. Browsers can have problems with Back/Forward buttons.
  4. Framed sites are more difficult for text-based and speech browsers.
  5. Inexperienced designers can make numerous mistakes with frames.

One of the most common problems of using frames is to show the effect of rows and columns. You can achieve the same effect with tables. In fact, tables do this job better and cleaner.

Another common problem is jamming many little frames onto a page. More than two or three frames creates a very cluttered page. There is so much noise and so many things going on that your readers will often leave your page.

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