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Why frame-set pages are a big 'no no no'

Remember the legendary slot machines? People throwing in nickel after nickel, pulling the lever almost by reflex. Mesmerized by the three-reels spinning behind the little frames, they continued until they hit the jackpot... eventually... maybe. These slots were called 'one arm bandits' with reason.

We're wiser now. Well, at least most of us. How could people possibly succeed where even the spiders fail?


It looked like magic

Now we know these slots are programmed to display the fruits in a planned sequence. Back in the nineties, web site programmers and designers started to apply the same principle to compose web pages. They prepared separate frames each containing a part of web page.


It works like a charm for visitors

Whenever web visitors 'pull' a frame-set page, they see the complete page composed 'on demand' with the separate frames neatly displayed in a single window.


Spiders struggle

Each time they need to index such a page they can't combine the frames that easily. They have a hard time to understand how the frame sets are interlinked because they can't interpret the links programmed to do so.

Result: to the spiders recomposing frame-set pages is a real nightmare. In the end they drop the page altogether.


The web is about 'visibility' first

One of the major goals of a gallery's site is to get in contact with new audiences. But if the content of your web site can't even be indexed, how could new people possibly discover pages via a search? These pages simply don't exist in the eyes of the engine's spiders.


Contemporary art galleries relying on pre-historic web design?

A bit provocative, I admit. But a quick survey in the use of frames by European contemporary art galleries reveals an intriguing outcome. The percentage varies from country to country, but on average an astonishing 10% of gallery sites still rely on frames.

Don't think only about galleries who built their site ten or fifteen years ago. Apparently frames are still used by start-ups. And I continue to discover frame-set gallery's sites from time to time. Even sites of 'established' galleries. If this is the case with your gallery's site...


Time to get pragmatic

If you are not certain if your gallery's site is built with frame-set pages, you should check the source code of your site.

If your pages are built in frames marketing wise it is more than just a small disaster, especially if you project to expand your presence on the web.

So, you better look quickly for a valid alternative.


There are workarounds

You can duplicate all the uses of frames through some other method. But even with workarounds you still run into other major problems. Goodbye link building for example. If someone wants to link to a given page on your site, he's just unable to locate the URL of the page. This way you miss out on one of the most crucial factors to build up visibility and credibility for your gallery and your artists.


Is it a losing battle then?

To be honest, yes. Even if you have a frame-set site that functions apparently well for the visitor, relying on frames is a pure illusion of efficient web site management. A decade ago frames might have been considered 'state-of-the-art' just like well... Windows 95 or MacOS 7.5.5..

But the web is in constant move, everybody goes after superior results. Frame-set pages are definitely part of prehistory.


Start all over again? “No, thank you.”

I fully understand. Building your site cost you a little fortune in time and money. Not to mention all the hassle to get your images ready, your texts edited, the efforts to put your site online. But wait.


Look closer at what you have ready

To select and prepare pictures, illustrations and graphics for the web is time consuming. Writing can be a real curse. But you have your pictures, illustrations and graphics ready. Your texts are all done. All you need to do is to copy/paste all these items into the new structure you set up with an up-to-date web design program.


A last hurdle

If your website designer insists on using frames, there's nothing you can do but stop your collaboration and look for someone who understands the importance of being indexed correctly. Being found on the web by new visitors is paramount if you want to broaden your audience.


Yes yes yes

You can be sure that when your new site is online, you'll shout a “ye-es ye-es ye-es” when you see that you have managed to attract more people than you ever expected. So, dare to say goodbye to your pre-historic site. Pull that lever one last time and opt for a complete rebuild.

It's the best investment you can make if you're serious about the future of your gallery's site.



Take me there


  • To look up the source code of your gallery's site (for the most popular browsers):


    Window users
    Firefox = control key + u
    Opera = control key + u
    Internet Explorer = right-click the back ground or text. Click "View Source".


    Mac users
    Safari = alt key + apple + u
    Firefox = apple + u


  • To check if your gallery's site is coded in frame-set pages


    Look up the source code as explained above.


    In the very first line of code, you will discover 'DOCTYPE hmtl PUBLIC-//W3C//DTD XHMTL 1.0 Frameset//EN', 'DTD HTML 4.01 Frameset' or similar depending on the HTML version used for programming.


    If you look up the code of other pages, you will notice that the lines are 100% identical and thus useless to the spiders.



Next step: read more articles. Optimize your gallery's site using similar real make-overs.



If you haven't done so already:



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Article written by Luuk Christiaens