10.0686 WWW stylistics: frames &c.

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Tue, 11 Feb 1997 14:00:19 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 686.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: omar <drummojg@jmu.edu> (23)
Subject: Re: 10.0676 capturing text? frames?

[2] From: "P.B.Cox -Peter Cox" <P.B.Cox@open.ac.uk> (17)
Subject: RE: 10.0676 frames?

[3] From: Gary Shawver <gshawver@chass.utoronto.ca> (21)
Subject: Re: 10.0679 Web style and courtesy: frames &c.

Date: Mon, 10 Feb 1997 22:35:50 -0500 (EST)
From: omar <drummojg@jmu.edu>
Subject: Re: 10.0676 capturing text? frames?

On Fri, 7 Feb 1997, WILLARD MCCARTY wrote:

>I need to know if it is now considered prudent to design a set of web
>pages that use frames but do not offer a "noframes" option. For
>design of web pages, it is an interesting question in general when
>one avoids the most advanced features in consideration of those whose
>browsers are not capable of them. Any wisdom about these matters
>would be most welcome.

At this point in the history of the Web, I'd have to say no. The rate
of progress in the computing market has led to an inevitable variety of
computers out there; people browsing the Web are using everything from
the newest release of Netscape 4.0/Communicator to Lynx (text only).

I don't even think we're at the point where it's OK to have images
without an ALT text supplied. I often use a text-only browser for speed.
And if you use frames, please set the sizes -- nothing in the world
annoys me like having to scroll from side to side. But then, that's
off topic. (And yes, lynx /does/ have frames support now, but it's
a real pain.)

-John Drummond
James Madison University
English Department GA -- computing assistance x7074
ILR Computing Support HelpDesk consultant x3555

Date: 10 February 1997 11:39
From: "P.B.Cox -Peter Cox" <P.B.Cox@open.ac.uk>
Subject: frames

[The following was passed on to Humanist by Peter Cox, but the header was
rather badly munched by my digesting software, so details of its origin
have been lost. --WM]

Thank you to everyone who replied to the brief survey I conducted on the
LIS-LINK and LIS-UKOLUG discussions lists on the use of frames on a Web
page. Please find here the summarised results from the 26 responses.

[Please note: the opinions expressed in the survey results are not
necessarily those of the compiler William Hann]

1) What browser do you use and what version is it? (e.g. Netscape 2.02)

Netscape 1.x = 0 percent

Netscape 2.x = 35 percent

Netscape 3.x = 45 percent

MIE 3.x = 15 percent

Other = 5 percent

One person uses Mosaic 2.7b at work and Lynx(80x24 screen) at home.
Another uses Fresco version 1.32 for Acorn Risc PC. A number of
respondents said that the machines on their campus run Netscape 2 or
even Netscape 1.x. Some also run Lynx on public workstations as well,
and use it for accessing text-based databases (BIDS, FirstSearch etc.).
One person uses a non-frames browser (Netscape 1.12) because they are
evaluating sites (and want to see if that site offers a no-frames
alternative), and also because it takes up less memory when various
applications are running on their computer.

2) At what resolution does your screen run?(e.g. VGA, 640 x 480, 16

65 percent have SVGA (higher than 640 x 480), whilst 35 percent have VGA
(640 x 480). 17 percent use the 16 colour setting, and 83 percent use
256 colours or more.

[Please note: If the respondent said "I do not know, but its high" then
I put SVGA and 256 colours. If they replied just "VGA" then I put down
16 colours. One person is running SVGA at 16 colours.]

The libraries that people work in have a wide variation from monochrome
through to SVGA 640 x 480 or more.

3) What do you think the majority of users of business information on
the Internet are running?

Five people said that they thought that users would have at least
Netscape 2.0, or Internet Explorer 3.0. One person said that they
thought that users would have Netscape 2.x at best.

Another said that it depends on how influential the "techies" are in
their organisation! An organisation may also have a policy to use an
old version of a browser, and have severe penalties if people download
software (such as the latest version of a browser) from the Net. Also,
small business users may stick with the version that came when they
signed up with an Internet Service Provider as they are daunted by the
thought of upgrading (or too busy).

Someone pointed out that it would be better to ask a sample of business
users, but they hoped that they mainly use 486 machines or above.
Another person mentioned that many business users are unaware that they
have the
capability of running higher resolutions. This may be because PCs are
quite difficult to set up for a novice, or some people think 640x480 is
easier on the eye. Also, a number of users use the Web "on the move"
using monochrome notebook / laptop with Netscape 1.2 and low resolution

A few people thought that business users would have quite a
sophisticated set up, and that users in the academic world would be
"dragged" up to the current level ultimately, but soon left behind

Four others said that they did not know, or do not consider themselves
qualified to answer the question.

A couple of sites were mentioned which are helpful for statistics and
for what features each browser has available:


4) Do you have any other thoughts or suggestions on the matter?

There was a lot of negative feeling about frames. A number of people
said categorically "Do not use frames" and "They are a waste of time and
space". They say that they have yet to see a site where they added
anything useful, and that it may alienate possible clients. An
institution has moved away from frames because employees disliked the
time taken to load them, and that they clutter the screen.

On the issue of text only browsers (like Lynx), there was a lot of
concern about newer browsers making "a large portion of people
'disabled' just so 'power' users can have bells and whistles". A lot of
respondents highlighted concern about "people with visual impairment,
who use text for preference, and people with limited hand movement,
where a mouse pointing at a small icon can be almost impossible to

Lots of respondents have had difficulties with frames. They find frames
difficult to use as the Print and Back buttons in the browser don't
always do what they expect. They find frames are slower to access and
frustrating if not really necessary. A couple of people commented that
sites with frames have crashed their PC a number of times.

One person was in favour of frames and said that "you can include
pointers for download sites for MS Internet Explorer (which is free, but
exists only for MS windows) and downloads for Netscape (this is
available for all platforms, but requires a license - except for
schools, universities). This can be done using the <NOFRAMES> tag.".
Another said that you could probably get away with a frames-only
environment aimed at a purely professional market.

On the subject of screen resolution, one response pointed out that it is
dangerous to assume users have a particular resolution, and you should
test you pages at all resolutions: "you'd be amazed by the differences
that are possible".

Other points

Someone advised against using activeX as it only works with MS browsers,
and that although you can use Java, Javascript and Quicktime movies,
these should be tested on multiple platforms with multiple browsers to
ensure compatibility. Users with Windows 3.11 will not see Java.

Someone said that you can only get educational licenses up to Netscape
2.0 at the moment. Another warned against the over-use of CGI and query-
URLs. These "defeat web caches, and good cache performance is essential
otherwise people just give up and read someone else's pages that load

One person said that often the messages at frames-only sites are
"insulting, or at best curt - The least people can do is sound
apologetic if they don't want to do business with you.". They mentioned
that these messages also assume that the users know what frames are. A
lot of users do not really understand what browsers actually "do"
(without having to know the differences between them). They say that
there should at least be something accessible and that there must be
some of the frame content could be re-used in a non-frames environment.

The quality and speed of the connection can have a large impact on the
usability of a site.


The following is a summary of some of the respondents "ideals":

If you are going to have frames, have a non-frames alternative.

Two people mentioned that you would not need two sets of pages as long
as each page has a couple of navigational facilities (e.g. BACK, and
HOME). You would also use the <NOFRAMES> tag on the first page, and in
this way only have to maintain one set of pages.

For more information on good (and bad) Web page design, a respondent
recommends a look at http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/

William Hann
Willco - consultancy and training in online information and the Internet
Tel / Fax: +44 (0)171 681 1653
Email: enquiries@willco.demon.co.uk
WWW: http://www.willco.demon.co.uk/

Date: 9 Feb 97 11:50:10 -0500
From: Gary Shawver <gshawver@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: Re: 10.0679 Web style and courtesy: frames &c.

On Sun, Feb 9, 1997 4:13a, Francois wrote:

>Frames in my opinion is a
>freedom limiting aspect of browser applications. Furthermore, consider
>scale. A frames intensive site tends require totally screen space to
>look acceptable.

Perhaps, and I think we are all agreed that every site should have a
frames-Java-graphics-free alternative, but there are plenty of sites where
frames are properly implemented to overcome the limitations of browsers.
As a navigational aid, frames are hard to beat. Unfortunately, many use
them simply because they are there, or to ensure that their annoying ads
never leave our sight.

Gary W. Shawver
E-Mail <gshawver@chass.utoronto.ca>
W3 <http://www.chass.utoronto.ca:8080/~gshawver/>
Sed nescio quo modo nihil tam absurde dici potest quod non dicatur ab
philosophorum (Cicero _De divinatione_)