Frames a positive tool with the right designer

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2000, 12:00am

In your column on March 7 titled 'Quality and marketing are key to boosting page views', you discussed briefly the use of frames on Web sites and how they could be used to manipulate page views. I have often wondered about the frames issue and would like to know if there is more to the discussion than the usual 'I love them' or 'I hate them' statements. Do they have any positive impacts on a Web site other than to boost page views? Are there any compelling reasons not to use them? MICHAEL STEVENS Clearwater Bay The debate about frames has raged since they first came on the Web scene in the mid-90s.

Frames are supposed to slow download and display speeds. They are used to ensure that advertisements, for instance, take up permanent screen space, thus reducing screen real estate that could be used for 'real' browsing. They come with ugly control bars that are necessary to allow users to scroll within frames. All too often, Web sites are designed with too many frames, and for various reasons frame refresh rates are set at high levels so that you may be halfway through browsing a frame when it refreshes itself and takes you to the beginning of the document . . . or to a new one. They don't work with some browsers. Often, the links among frames are broken or wrong. They are non-intuitive, and thus confusing.

On the other hand, there are plenty of pluses for frames, which can be used to enhance the browsing experience, and even speed up the process.

I consider all the negatives to be more a problem with how frames are implemented by Web designers than with the technology itself. Sure, some old browsers don't support frames, but those using them are in the minority.

If frames are implemented properly they should take less than a second more than a non-frames page to load. This is because browsers look for instructions in the code of a page that tell it how to display the page. In the instance of frames, the tags in question are called FRAMESET tags, and the browser following the instructions in these tags takes up the extra second in display time. If display takes longer, it is often because the Web designers have used too many graphics, for example. This would delay display times even in non-frames pages.

Whether frames are used too much on a Web site, or whether their links don't work properly, or whether they are just plain ugly all depends on how the site is designed.

At the end of the day, there is no reason not to use frames on a Web site, provided they are used to enhance the site design and not used for the sake of using the technology.

Larry Campbell is publisher of The opinions expressed in this column are his own. E-mail comments and questions to . Questions to Tech Talk will not be answered personally. Technology Post reserves the right to edit letters.