Frames A History and How-To

Frames, in web design terms, were once used to display more than one HTML document at the same time. They can be implemented in a number of ways, but the most popular way was first introduced by Netscape Navigator 2.0. This seems nice, but the fact that the implementation was not backwards compatible meant that those who were using earlier browsers saw nothing at all. Using frames in web design put a serious damper on usability of a website. Quickly, the use of frames became frowned upon by the W3C, and they are not widely used today.

Despite the fact that frames have caused usability issues and the aim of a website is to be able to be used by everyone regardless of computer platform or browser, there are ways to implement frames into a web design while still ensuring that everyone who wants to can still use the website.

In order to use frames on a website, it is important to know the three HTML frame related elementsFRAMESET , FRAME and NOFRAME . FRAMESET is the element that defines the rows or columns in a frameset. FRAME is the element that tells the website to display in frames. NOFRAMES is used to tell the website to display even when the browser is unable to show everything in frames.

The FRAME elements have the following attributes to control their display:


This attribute will remove the visible border between frames.

Border Color

This attribute will add a color to the visible border between frames. It follows the same syntax as the BODY attribute.

Removing or Disabling the Scrollbar

This will remove the visible scrollbar to move through frames, or stop the user from being able to use it.


MARGINWIDTH and MARGINHEIGTH can be used to control the margins between the frames at the top and side.


This takes away the user’s ability to resize the frames.

It is possible to target frames with the TARGET attribute. This attribute is used when designers want a page that displays in one frame to update in another frame. The following lists the syntax of the TARGET attribute.


If the TARGET attribute is attached to the A element used for hyperlinking, the document will display in that named frame.


In order to show the results of a form submission in another frame different from the one that hosts the form, the TARGET element should be attached to the form element that creates it.


Area is used for image maps. An image map is one large image that has different areas made to click and open other documents, depending on which area of the image is clicked. Using the TARGET element on area will make sure that different parts of the image map open in another frame.


If you have set a large number of links to update in another frame other than their own, the BASE attribute is the one to use to assign values to ensure that they all update properly in the correct location.

The use of frames and their attributes greatly hinder user control and even though they have seen improvements over the years, there are still many more effective ways to design a website with great usability without using frames. Despite the fact that there are still many websites that use frames and use them well, many web designers have completely stopped using frames, because style sheets have taken over as the design standard.