Monday, March 20, 2017


Much like Gertrude Stein’s painter, web designers have hopes for their framed web designs but are very often disappointed. This is because framed websites do not fit the conceptual model of the web where every page corresponds to a single URL. Consequently designers must use a variety of tricks to overcome the disadvantages and if you miss a trick there can be unpleasant results.

Designers’ intent on using frames may use the NOFRAMES element which can be used to provide alternative content. However not the useless alternative content provided by so many designers such as “This site requires the use of frames” or “Your browser does not support Frames” which is a great way to prevent your website being found on a search engine. The correct use of NOFRAMES is described in the W3C document Frames in HTML documents.

Apart from having to provide alternative content the other major problem is what happens if a search engine query matches an individual frame on a page? The search engine simply returns the URL for that frame and if a user clicks the link then the page will not be displayed in a frame because there will be no frame set corresponding to that URL. Designers get round this by detecting when a content page is trying to display outside its frameset and redirecting to either the home page or to a framed page that loads the orphan into an alternative frameset. If you really want to know how to do this you can read a description of the technique using JavaScript in Give orphan pages a home.

Also framed sites have a problem with obtaining inbound links because it is not easy for someone to link to one of the content pages. Either they must link to the home page and give directions to the page they want to point to or they must bypass the frame arrangement. If it’s not easy to link then only the very determined will be prepared to go to the trouble of doing so.

If you want the framed look but don’t want the problems you can achieve it through cascading style sheets. Stu Nicholls has an excellent example on his website CSS Play (and there are lots of other interesting experiments with cascading style sheets on Stu’s site).

The bottom line is this, if your web designer uses Frames seek a better and more experienced designer and if you find Framed sites attractive in spite of the problems ask yourself why your competitors do not use them.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017


Triumph and dismay are two feelings Flash designers know well. The triumph comes with mastering a rich diversity of features in a difficult technology and producing a visually appealing result. The dismay comes when the SEO wants to remove the Flash components from the website they have just designed!

Initially a simple tool for delivering low bandwidth animations over the Web Flash has evolved into a platform for delivering complex applications and rich media content. Now Flash is able to deliver far more than animations or short video clips.

Flash has become the delivery mechanism of choice for educational and complex business applications. Universities use Flash to great effect for delivering entire lectures with quizzes and assessments in real-time. In commerce Flash is used for everything from cattle auctions to virtual laboratory experiments.

However its use on websites has declined and there are two reasons for this. Firstly every usability study ever done shows that web surfers dislike Flash intensely, particularly Flash intros. Secondly Flash is a visual experience and search engine robots are blind, which means the SEO of Flash sites is problematical. Sites designed around Flash or with Flash intros and Flash navigation are often developed at the request of clients who do not know any better and the developers have not sought to educate them.

Take for example the following site that is completely built in Flash. Although there are several pages of information, because the navigation and the content are all in Flash the search engines are only aware of one page. Here it is in a reduced size window.

This site cannot even be found for the organization’s name and might just as well not exist. Flash enthusiasts might claim that this is just a poor implementation and that it is possible to optimize Flash sites. It is true that there are a variety of methods used to optimize Flash sites and these include placing the Flash inside invisible framesets or using invisible layers in Cascading CSS to present content to the search engines. Macromedia even have Search Engine SDK but in reality none of these methods is entirely effective. Sometimes you will even see a Flash site duplicated with an HTML version for the search engines but the bottom line is, why bother with the Flash site at all if users don’t like them.

However although this may be (or maybe not) effective as a product demo it does nothing for the search engines. If used it should be placed on a normally optimized page and not considered as a replacement for text. Even then whether something like this is worth spending time and money on is a mute point.

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