Provide an alternative to frames

Some browsers do not support frames. Some users opt to disable frames in their browser preferences. When users without access to frames encounter a frames-based page, the content is unavailable. Fortunately, HTML offers a fallback option, the NOFRAMES tag, which allows designers to use frames while providing alternative access to site content. Content contained within the NOFRAMES tag displays when frames are not accessible (Figure 7.2).

Figure 7.2: Computer User High-tech Dictionary—standard and without frames

Figure 7.2: The Computer User High-Tech Dictionary uses a frames-based interface to provide access to content, but also provides equivalent access via a NOFRAMES version for users who do not access frames.

As mentioned above, frames are meta-documents made up of several HTML documents. The frames might call up the documents "banner.html", "navbar.html", and "content.html", and display these three documents using the frameset document "index.html". Users without access to frames cannot access the banner, navigation, or content because the frameset calls for these documents to be displayed simultaneously. However, using the NOFRAMES tag, we can add accessible content that will display when the page is viewed without frames.

The NOFRAMES tag accepts any HTML code, so theoretically we could duplicate all the framed content—banner, navigation, and content—within the NOFRAMES tag. However, this approach is impractical. It requires duplicate content, results in large files, and, after all, why design framed pages if we can present all the information without frames? The best use of the NOFRAMES tag is to provide access to the site content, and the best way to achieve this is to provide access to the site navigation. Including site navigation links in the NOFRAMES tag allows users to gain access to the content pages.

When content pages are accessed outside the context of frames, users may be disoriented or dead-ended if the pages do not contain identifying information or links to other pages in the site. This can occur when users access content pages via a NOFRAMES link, or when users gain access directly to a content page URL via a bookmark, or as the result of a search query. Content pages that are intended to be part of a frameset are often orphaned without the surrounding frames that identify the page origins and navigation options, leaving users with no idea where they are and nowhere to go. For this reason, always include a link to the home page on content pages that are part of a frameset so users who access these pages directly can orient themselves and access additional content.