email us, or call 01536 316100
Self Referencing Framesets
Frames offer added flexibilty to the Web designer, such as the ability to ensure that branding and navigation are always on screen. Frames are therefore often seen as a "good thing" in the Web design community. However, without careful forethought frames present several problems, chiefly in the Web marketing arena. Before proceeding to consider those problems, let's define a few frames-related terms:
- Frameset page (or "container") Page that contains the <FRAMESET>. The content of this page is not displayed by a frames-capable browser.
- Framed page (or "pane") Page referred to by a <FRAME> in a frameset page.
- Framed site Site (or subsite) whose home page is a frameset page.
- Self-referencing frameset Frameset page that contains a frame referring to itself. (This article describes why and how to create a self-referencing frameset)
- Index.htm Frameset page containing a three frame frameset: branding.htm, nav.htm and content.htm
- Branding.htm Framed page containing branding
- Nav.htm Framed page containing navigation - links to content.htm and sales.htm
- Content.htm Framed page containing body copy for the home page
- Sales.htm Framed page containing body copy to sell something
Functionally, index.htm (the home page of the site) initially displays like this:
|branding.htm - contains header graphic|
|nav.htm (Links to content.htm and sales.htm)||Body copy from content.htm|
Consider what happens when a visitor to this site clicks the "Sales" link in the Navigation frame. Their view will change to show this:
|branding.htm - contains header graphic|
|nav.htm (Links to content.htm and sales.htm)||Body copy from sales.htm|
Suppose that the visitor wants to create a link to the page they are now looking at (a mix of branding.htm, nav.htm and sales.htm). They can't, because the page does not exist. There are only five HTML files on this Web site, and none of them define the view that includes branding, navigation and sales. The problem with framed sites, therefore, is that you can only link to frameset pages on those sites, not framed pages. Linking to framed pages results in those pages being seen outside their container frameset, i.e. out of context - branding and navigation will be lost. Let's just spell out that problem explicitly by looking at three ways in which the problem manifests itself - the current URL, bookmarking and hyperlinking.
- Current URL: The browser's current URL indicator (variously called the Address, Location or URL by different browsers) will always give the URL of the frameset document. It gives no indication of which content pages the user is currently viewing. This can reduce viral marketing opportunities, as visitors cannot refer their friends directly to the content they like - they have to say something like "go to the home page and click on the sales button you see on the left hand side, wait for that page to load then click on the Windows 2000 option"
- Bookmarking: When the visitor sets a bookmark (or "Favorite") within a framed site it is the frameset page that is bookmarked, not the currently viewed set of framed pages. This (a) causes confusion to repeat visitors and (b) reduces bookmarking opportunities (only one bookmark per framed site), both of which can lower site traffic.
- Hyperlinking: In many ways the essence of the Web is that other users should find your pages interesting and include links to them from their own pages. This is effectively impossible within a framed site: only the frameset page can be linked to with any meaning. Thus, hyperlinking opportunities are reduced.
All online marketing can be distilled down to the simple process of creating links to your pages from locations that have traffic interested in your proposition. By making linking and bookmarking more difficult, frames can reduce the effectiveness of online marketing.
However, some visitors will create links to the framed pages within a framed site. Most notable of these visitors are search engine spiders.