Web Design Goodies Critique #21

By Joe Burns

Web Design Goodies Critique #21

Published February 8, 2001 By Joe Burns, Ph.D.

Greetings, Fellow Designers...

Lets talk frames.

I am often asked why I choose one site over another. Usually its because I see a topic forming within the site. I only point out five elements of a site in each newsletter so I like those elements to be cohesive. Many of you have written and asked why I didnt say anything about this or that. The reason is usually because it didnt fit into the overall point I was trying to make.

Todays site jumped out at me as an example of frames and why I am not a great fan of them. Im not saying one shouldnt use frames. I have just found that it is the rare designer that incorporates frames that can use them to a true advantage.

Now the obligatory release clause statement...

>>>>The critique below represents the opinions of Joe Burns, Ph.D. Feel free to disagree, argue, forget, or accept anything he writes. The purpose of the critique is to offer examples that you may use, repair, or forget when it comes to your own Web site. As always, remember that there are simply no hard or fast rules to Web design. Any choice is the correct choice as long as that choice aids the user and adds to the sites purpose for being.<<<<

Title: Benzpage
Author: Ben St.Aubin
http://www.1freespace.com/art/benzpage/index.html Load Time: 15 Seconds, 57kps modem, cleared cache, 01/03/01 8:31AM.
- Actually the page never loaded fully. A counter held it up.
My Screen Size: 1024X768
Browsers Used: Internet Explorer 5.5 and Netscape Navigator 4.5

Concept: This is Benzpage. The site is a personal site and as such is a grouping of all things that interest Ben. As I have said before, I love personal pages. They often dont have one cohesive objective, but thats OK. No human being has one objective in life either. There is a list a mile long down the left frame that offers links to a mountain of data. I think it could be grouped together a little better, but thats not the point of todays newsletter.

Praise: Ben didnt go overboard with his color and this looks like a page where that would be pretty easy to do. He kept his text black and large. His background is a cream color and shows that text well. That site is easy to read and fairly easy to navigate. Im also a fan of his content. Ben states right up front that this is his page and he hopes you like it. If not, then thats OK too. Believe me, when you put a site on the Web, every Tom, Dick, and Harry feel it is their duty to give it a critique whether you asked for it or not. Thats why I ask for permission up front. The author knows Im stopping by.

But I came here not to praise Ben, but to discuss his frames!

I have been teaching Web design for five years now and Ive found that the main reason an element goes on a new designers page is that the designer thinks it looks cool. Frames are often incorporated for this same reason. Yes, there are times when a frameset is successful, but, as I have always said, unless you have a darn good reason to use frames, dont. They are always more taxing on the server, theres a big chance at your design being jumbled on smaller screen settings, book- marking is a problem, and in all honesty, a basic two- frame set up can be achieved using one page set up like a table.

Bens (or should I write Benz) page is a panoply of all these frame concerns.

Concern 1: Scroll bars, scroll bars, scroll bars. Ben, you have three scroll bars on this page. Two are vertical and one is horizontal. This is a big problem with using frames. You must insure all elements fit so that scroll bars are disallowed in all screen sizes. People expect a scroll down the far right, but they dislike that vertical scroll on the left frame. They HATE the horizontal scroll.

Suggestion: Youll lose the horizontal scroll simply by getting off the free server. That scroll is being produced by the banner ad at the top. Id say to lose it, but Ill bet you cant. If youre going to use frames, you must, must, must, do whatever you can to lose any horizontal and vertical scroll, except maybe the scroll on the far right of the browser screen. Thats is accomplished by making darn sure the elements in the left frame window are not wider than the space you allotted in the frame window. That is very hard to do because your settings mean different things in different screen settings. Smaller screen settings will mess up a frameset real quick.





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