Is it me, or has there been an increase in the number of websites using frames? Gmail does it. The new Netscape launches outbound links into a framed page that makes it easy to go back to perusing articles at Netscape (you can close it, too). About does the same thing, and so does every image search tool on the web. Today I checked out Omni Plan, a project management application for Mac OSX, and not only are they using frames, theyâ€™re using them in the â€œold-fashionedâ€ way! And of course what would a mention of frames be if we didnâ€™t bring up ugly old Bloglines.
So whatâ€™s up with frames striking back? Is everything old new again? Serif fonts have made a comeback. Normal-sized type has made a comeback. So why frames? If you think back a few years to the mid 90s, web page formatting was at a crossroads. Tables were used to lay out blocks of content and heavy use of graphics was needed to create anything that wasnâ€™t, well, blocky looking. Frames were hard to control and looked ugly. Early browsers couldnâ€™t work well with frames, messing up the back button and bookmarks. Many sites just didnâ€™t use frames well. They looked ugly and clunky and so yesterday. Frames just werenâ€™t cool anymore.
Probably more than anything else, however, the demise of frames was due to the advent of scripting such as PHP. Server-side includes had been around for a while, but as more people began using PHP and databases to store web content, people just made single dynamic pages instead of putting them in frames. The page itself was modular, so frames didnâ€™t seem to offer much, anymore.
The navigation and bookmarking problems are long gone. CSS has now reached a point where we can combine it with frames, scripting, and databases to create web applications that look great. One advantage of frames is thereâ€™s less data to download: the navigation, header, and footer frames are still there, so only the content frame is loading a new page, which, combined with CSS, speeds things up considerably. Frames really help with navigation, too. Think about how many times you have to scroll back up to the top of a page to regain the navigation area (regardless of whether your mouse has a scroll wheel or whether you use the Home key). Think about how annoying it is when you go to a site that has a dynamic menu that follows you as you scroll up or downâ€”youâ€™re constantly distracted by this thing bouncing up and down as it follows you. With frames, your navigation frame simply stays put.
Of course, itâ€™s still possible to do frames in the wrongest, ugliest possible way, but donâ€™t let that stop you.