In the world of web design, there are two primary methods of building web pages and links that are utilized – tables and frames. With tables, the entire web page is a single HTML document that displays everything that will be seen by the visitor when they go to a web page. Frames, on the other hand, are a bit more complicated, carrying multiple components and tables on a single page, providing a complex viewing experience for the visitor.
At first glance, it may seem that frames are the better way to go – you can do more interesting things with framing in web pages, and you can offer static navigation and consistent spaces for banner advertisements and the like. However, there are many more problems that go along with framing, to the extent where it is preferable to stick with using tables. In this essay, we will examine the ways in which using tables is preferred to frames when setting up web pages.
In order to understand why tables are better than frames, we must know what they do. Tables “allow you to precisely align online layout elements into columns and rows,” provides structure to the web design (Arntson, 215) Tables “allow for greater control over page layout, allowing creating of more visually interesting pages.” They can “set apart sections of documents”, and are the basic way in which HTML documents are made (Jacobs, 2011). Due to the fact that they are incredibly comprehensive, they can often be more simple than frames to create, as more can go into a single HTML document.
Frames, on the other hand, are much more involved than creating one HTML document; there are multiple documents for each page, every one displaying a different element of the web page. (Engelfreit, 1996) Frames “enable parts of the page to remain stationary while other parts scroll,” making it a great option for navigating, or implementing banner ads in your website. (Robbins, 233) if you want to have a more sophisticated look to your website, it can be argued that frames will do the job for you.
However, there are many other problems to consider when creating frames for your web page. Frames are meant to form a better user interface, but there are too many usability problems to make it feasible. (Alt.html, 2007) In an ideal world, your web page would look exactly as you wish it to; however, not all visitors have the same browsers, computer equipment, etc. There is no backwards compatibility, making framed pages useless to browsers that cannot read frames. (Engelfreit, 1996)
Frames can “make site production more complicated because you need to produce and organize multiple files to fill one page.” (Robbins, 233) Therefore, the workload may not be worth the benefits, especially because framed pages are difficult to bookmark (they may “only return you to the master frameset instead of the specific page you intended to bookmark”). (“Tables vs. Frames”)
Broken framesets occur all the time; when a visitor goes to a framed website, broken framesets can occur for a number of reasons. Typos in the actual programming, temporary or systemic browser problems, or even oddly categorized search engine links can result in the page looking jumbled and disorganized, if not completely unreadable. (Owen, 1997) All of this leads to a viewing experience that turns into a “sequence of navigation” rather than a “single navigation action”; visitors have to take more steps to get where they want to go in your web page than they would with tables. (Nielsen, 2011)
When using frames, there are many more steps that you need to take to “ensure that URLs keep working,” especially when a framed URL is bookmarked or linked in search engines. New tags in links must be created (e.g. TARGET=”_top” added to the anchor tag) in order to return the visitor to the same content after bookmarking. (Nielsen, 2011)
In summary, frames have too many problems to make the benefits worth the time it takes to create them. The multiple documents in framing make viewing the web page dicey at best for a visitor, as it is very probable that it will not look the way you want. They will have trouble bookmarking it, and search engines will not be able to find it as easily in order to classify it.
Basically, despite the potential that goes along with the promise of frames, it is best to use tables alone to set up your web pages. It is far simpler, much more compatible with bookmarking, browsers, and search engines, and will have a much higher likelihood of showing up on the visitor’s screen exactly in the way you intended it. There will be fewer files to worry about, and you can bring together all of the elements you want in your web page much more efficiently with the help of tables.
Arntson, A. E. (1988). Graphic design basics . New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Engelfreit, A. (1997) Using frames and accessible Web sites. HTML Help by The Web Design Group. Retrieved March 21, 2011, from http://htmlhelp.com/design/frames/
Jacobs, J. Web Design -- Creating Tables. James Q. Jacobs, Anthropology, Archaeology, .... Retrieved March 21, 2011, from http://www.jqjacobs.net/web/tables.html
Nielsen, J. (1996) Frames Suck Most of the Time (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox December 1996). useit.com: Jakob Nielsen on Usability and Web Design. Retrieved March 21, 2011, from http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9612.html
Owen, D. The Pros and Cons of Frames in Web Pages. Media College - Video, Audio and Multimedia Resources. Retrieved March 21, 2011, from http://www.mediacollege.com/internet/html/frames/pros-cons.html
Robbins, J. (2006). Web design in a nutshell: a desktop quick reference (3rd ed.). Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly.
Tables vs. Frames. Boston University. Retrieved March 21, 2011, from http://www.bu.edu/tech/web/departments/non-wordpress/start/html-intermediate/supplementary/tables-vs-frames/
alt.html FAQ: [HTML Frames] Why are frames so evil?. (2007) alt.html FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved March 21, 2011, from http://www.html-faq.com/htmlframes/?framesareevil