Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Frames Stink — Yeah, Yeah!

With apologies to the J.Geils band’s 1980 hit album and title song, “Love Stinks,” I offer up this chorus to anyone thinking of using frames with their church web site:

(Frames Stink)
Frames Stink, Yeah, Yeah
(Frames Stink)
Frames Stink, Yeah, Yeah
(Frames Stink)
Frames Stink, Yeah, Yeah
(Frames Stink)
Frames Stink, Yeah, Yeah

Framed don’t kill web sites, programmers with frames kill web sites. At least that’s the impression usability expert Jakob Nielsen, who in his article “Why Frames Suck (Most of the Time)” qualifies the parenthetical portion of the title with the following statement:

With respect to the use of frames by highly skilled Web designers, I have changed my opinion somewhat: people who really know what they are doing can sometimes use frames to good effect, though even experienced designers are advised to use frames as sparingly as possible.

Translation, frames in and of themselves aren’t evil, rather, it is how they’re used — or perhaps more accurately, abused. Meaning, aside from looking cheap and old-school, one of the big reasons I would suggest avoiding frames have to do with how frames break the user model.

That is, no matter what sub page you’re on, all bookmarks lead back to the home page. Frames are also notoriously unfriendly when it comes to people with visual disabilities for the same reasons that framed pages don’t treat novice users too well when it comes to printing the page. But of greater concern is that framed pages don’t work and play well with most search engines. And church web sites thrive on search engine traffic.

Tim Powell of WorldTimZone also chimes in with an article entitled “Even with CSS, frames suck” where he says:

It troubled me that at least with old framesets, if you didn’t do anything special, the default was to get scrollbars automatically if they were necessary. With the CSS replacement, you now need to add both position: fixed and overflow: auto to get the same behavior.

Now I understand how back in the day, frames saved one the bandwidth of having to repost your header and your menus, but with 56kb dialups being the minimum, I think we can safely say that unless you’re going crazy with poorly optimized images, a frameless implementation of one’s church web site is probably a better way to go.

At least that is what I would advise to the Christ Way CommUNITY Church of Denver Colorado. Well, that and I’d jettison the Jesus Junk along with the cheap and poorly aliased clip art. But first I’d lose the frames. Here are some more reasons and resources as to why:


  1. Not that I’m a huge fan of frames, but I think some of the arguments against them are weak at times. Jakob always mentions this “users page model for the web”, but then doesn’t show research that web users hold that model. Other software (MS Outlook, PowerPoint, etc) appears “Framed”, so I’m convinced that somehow because frames appear in a browser they confuse people. The distiction between a web site and a desktop application is lost on non-techhies – it’s all stuff in a window on their computer.

    My hobby (Jeep) pages http://www.boyink.com/Jeep ended up being framed kinda by accident. I used Trellix to create them, and it interpreted my layout into frames. By the time I realized it, I didn’t want to re-create the site.

    It’s been ok, though because Trellix creates a new frameset for each page – so bookmarks work. It also must help the search engine visibility, because I get a decent amount of traffic to those pages from multiple search engines (actually have #1 ranking on Google for a couple search terms, with no effort on my part).

    So again, I’m not a die-hard frames advocate, but think they can work in some situations if done right. Just like MS FrontPage, no tool is inherently “evil” any more than a hammer in your toolchest is evil, and no one blames the hammer for a shoddy bulding.

    Oh and BTW Dean, your copyright is out of date..;)

  2. Dean–Did you get excited when you saw the word and the scripture for the day? Looks manually updated, though :-)