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  1. #1
    Senior Member Lynne's Avatar
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    Frame Problems.. Or Search Engine decisions?

    well, I certainly agree with your statements about the problems that frames cause.

    but I don't agree with the causes. In particular, this statement:

    The situation with search engines will not change for two reasons:
    1. The root of the problem is with frames themselves, not the search engines, so there is little hope that search engines will "get better" at dealing with frames.
    2. Frames are out of fashion, especially amongst the types of site the search engines are trying to target, so the problems associated with frames are not a priority for search engines.
    I think a decision was made in the earlier days by search engines(at least the ones I know about) to not chase urls in a frameset. The programming to chase these urls is easy, so maybe the early search engine programmers weren't familiar with framesets - perhaps initially, it was just overlooked?- or someone didn't like them.. or they just didn't want to bother with them.

    But look at the html for framesets. This is a simple frameset from the W3.ORG site:
    Code:
     <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Frameset//EN"
       "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/frameset.dtd">
    <HTML>
    <HEAD>
    <TITLE>A simple frameset document</TITLE>
    </HEAD>
    <FRAMESET cols="20%, 80%">
      <FRAMESET rows="100, 200">
          <FRAME src="contents_of_frame1.html">
          <FRAME src="contents_of_frame2.gif">
      </FRAMESET>
      <FRAME src="contents_of_frame3.html">
      <NOFRAMES>
          <P>This frameset document contains:
          <UL>
             <LI><A href="contents_of_frame1.html">Some neat contents</A>
             <LI><IMG src="contents_of_frame2.gif" alt="A neat image">
             <LI><A href="contents_of_frame3.html">Some other neat contents</A>
          </UL>
      </NOFRAMES>
    </FRAMESET>
    </HTML>
    all the search engine would have to do is find the
    Code:
    <frameset>
    html element, then look for "src=" to find the links, until it came across the
    Code:
    <NOFRAMES> or </FRAMESET>
    html element. Simple.

    but they don't.

    and the problem is, once that happened.. then there was the move by websites that wanted to be in the search engines, to move away from framesets... then the incentive for improvements in the way that browsers handle framesets wasn't there. Kind of a spiraling type of thing. One thing impacting another.

    Search engines handle images. Look at the html there:

    Code:
    <IMG SRC="tajmahal.gif" ALT="The Taj Mahal">
    they see the <IMG , look for SRC=, then pick up the link from there. So.. the programming capability is there.

    and look at the way browsers handle images. If you display an image.. the browser knows that this is an image from the record type. This could have been done with frames, set up a different record type for parts of a frame ... too late now, but that is one way the browser could have recognized the different parts of a frame and handled it correctly.

    and it is too bad, because it really does save bandwidth, and make the setting up of a website easier. But I don't think you will see innovations/fixes in the handling of frames by browsers, because of the decision by search engines made a long time ago not to handle framesets correctly.

    not the most popular opinion, but my 2 cents.
    Last edited by Lynne; 22nd Jan 2005 at 18:50. Reason: forgot a quote

  2. #2
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies Lynne. To clarify, I do realise that search engines are able to follow framed links if they want to. But that's the point - the reason they won't "get better" at dealing with frames is that they don't have a problem in the first place. Rather, they realise how problematic frames are and they don't want to index them.

    It's a tough call but I can understand why. Although it's easy enough for them to find and index frames, it would be a complete nightmare trying to figure out how the frameset should be presented in search results.

    Remember, the pages in the middle of a frameset will tend to be picked up for search results since they tend to be the pages with the relevant content. So the search engine then has to work backwards and figure out which frameset the page belongs to. Apart from the enormous server/database implications, there's not actually any way to be sure which frameset applies.

    For example, if a certain page is linked to from two different framesets, which frameset should be used for the results? Should the page even be inside a frameset - perhaps someone put it in a frameset temporarily for a particular purpose but now wants it to stand alone? Or perhaps they've moved it to a different frameset - how would the search engines know?

    And I stand by what I said about frames and fashion. Search engines are struggling to find ways to separate "good" sites from "average" sites. I know it must irk you to hear this sort of thing, but I do believe as a gross generalization that the best sites tend not to use frames. Of course that doesn't mean that sites which use frames can't be excellent, but I think the generalization is valid.

    And sadly, search engines work on generalizations. I don't like it but it's the way things are - if you're not in the general categories that search engines like, you're at a severe disadvantage.
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  3. #3
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    I've updated the frames article to try and explain what I mean a bit better. I still haven't explained it as well as I'd like - maybe I'll get back to it later. A few too many other thing to worry about at the moment!
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  4. #4
    Senior Member Lynne's Avatar
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    Quote
    Quote: Dave
    Thanks for the replies Lynne. To clarify, I do realise that search engines are able to follow framed links if they want to. But that's the point - the reason they won't "get better" at dealing with frames is that they don't have a problem in the first place. Rather, they realise how problematic frames are and they don't want to index them.

    It's a tough call but I can understand why. Although it's easy enough for them to find and index frames, it would be a complete nightmare trying to figure out how the frameset should be presented in search results.
    they could use much the same programming they use for images. If you do an image search, then click on an image, you will not just get the image displayed, but also the page which it came from. Like this - I did an image search for "taj mahal" and clicked on link to one of the images found:

    google link to taj mah image

    If you look at the top, you will see google shows the image, you have the option to display the image separately, and you have the page on which google found the image.

    In a sense, this is really how frames should be treated. As an "image of a partial page" that is brought in to form the total page.

    the IMG tag links to a separate file, but google recognizes it for indexing purposes as a part of the page that calls the image. It does not really treat it as a link.. because the browser brings it in as an image when you display the page. Just like the browser brings in the source from a frameset to form the page. Same idea, really...

    I bet images were not handled this well when search engines first started indexing pages. But I think they realized that images were a basic part of web design and they had better handle them correctly, and make retrieval of information as user friendly as possible. And they have done that. I think you will see more improvements on how images are handled by search engines in the future for this very reason.

    I'm surprised they haven't done something similar for audio files.. or maybe they have. not up on that.

    but the motivation to handle frames properly is not there.

    Quote
    Quote: Dave
    Remember, the pages in the middle of a frameset will tend to be picked up for search results since they tend to be the pages with the relevant content. So the search engine then has to work backwards and figure out which frameset the page belongs to. Apart from the enormous server/database implications, there's not actually any way to be sure which frameset applies.
    not sure what you mean by the pages in the middle.. you mean the src= statements? Actually, search engines don't even look at these. You have to put everything you want indexed in the noframes part.. but you already know that, I assume.

    if you mean the "<FRAME src=", search engines could keep track of what the page is that calls them just like it keeps track of the pages that call images. which they do just fine.

    Quote
    Quote: Dave
    For example, if a certain page is linked to from two different framesets, which frameset should be used for the results? Should the page even be inside a frameset - perhaps someone put it in a frameset temporarily for a particular purpose but now wants it to stand alone? Or perhaps they've moved it to a different frameset - how would the search engines know?
    if you use one image from 2 different pages, google will create an entry for each page it finds that image in. If you set up a search engine to handle frames like images, you would do the same thing. And when you move any page, a search engine figures out where it is next time it indexes that site. like it does for images.

    Quote
    Quote: Dave
    And I stand by what I said about frames and fashion. Search engines are struggling to find ways to separate "good" sites from "average" sites. I know it must irk you to hear this sort of thing, but I do believe as a gross generalization that the best sites tend not to use frames. Of course that doesn't mean that sites which use frames can't be excellent, but I think the generalization is valid.

    And sadly, search engines work on generalizations. I don't like it but it's the way things are - if you're not in the general categories that search engines like, you're at a severe disadvantage.
    I think the reason search engines give any preference to non-framed sits is:



    • no frames are easier to handle than frames for search engines.
    • frames are not a basic element of a web page, therefore the motivation to handle these is not there. Instead, they just follow the noframe part of the frameset. Easy way, again.
    • because they don't want to bother handling them... people are using them less and less. therefore the need to handle them is dwindling
    and I have converted websites from frames to no frames for this very reason. I am a realist. I just don't believe the hype that search engines don't follow frames because they are so complex. I think it is more of a "why should I if I don't have to" kind of thing.

    Now, what most people do (and I've done) is use a product like Dreamweaver. You put your navigation bar and other common elements in a "library" or a "template", then when you change an item in this common elemnteupI do is when I update a navigation bar/common element, you update the item in the "library" or "template", then run something that updates 20/30 pages.. whatever, then upload all those pages with the change. You are in essence, doing offline, what the browser used to do online with frames. Same concept. But now you are "compiling" it offline.

    but it works. and search engines can handle it. so.. I do it.

    However, I think that you will see different ways of being able to keep common elements online and calling in those elements only when you need them. Not forming that entire page every single time it is called if one part of it never changes. It is bandwidth drain, even if it isn't as visible because computers are getting faster/bigger. so is the internet...
    Last edited by Lynne; 23rd Jan 2005 at 01:54. Reason: post was waaaaaaay too wide!!!

  5. #5
    Senior Member Lynne's Avatar
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    Quote
    Quote: Dave
    I've updated the frames article to try and explain what I mean a bit better. I still haven't explained it as well as I'd like - maybe I'll get back to it later. A few too many other thing to worry about at the moment!
    ok.. I had already written my reply (then lost it.. ) and already written it again.. so, I put it in anyway. Will read your updated page.

    thanks!

  6. #6
    Administrator Dave's Avatar
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    Whew, this is quite an involved discussion!

    I take your point about images and how SEs could do something similar. I've never doubted that it was technically possible - the question is whether it is practical and economical. I still think it would be difficult and (more importantly) require a lot of server/database overheads to implement such a system, and there would still be all sorts of problems. Sure, they could tackle the problems one at a time, but in the end I don't believe the benefits would be worth it. And judging by the actions of the the main SEs, I think they are listening to me

    When I spoke about frames "in the middle", I meant (for example) the content pages in a frameset - as opposed to the nav menu, generic header, etc. One concern with your idea is that the same content page could be linked to from different framesets and the search engines wouldn't know which was the preferred one. And what happens if I decide to add multiple framesets to my site (eg for different resolutions)? If I'm not careful, or if I did it on purpose, one extra frameset would double the number of pages I take up in the index.

    Again, these problems could be tackled individually, but I honestly see a whole raft of issues with frames that makes them too unreliable and difficult to work with.

    Although there are some things we'll have to disagree on I actually think we agree on most things. In summary....
    • I like frames when they work. I just believe they stop working so much that they can't be trusted.
    • I think search engines could support frames better if they wanted to, but there is no incentive for them to do so. You could even argue that it suits the SEs to devalue framed sites, since from a purely statistical point of view, better sites tend to avoid frames.


    I really should try and redo that frames article but I need to get back to The Race Cafe
    Dave Owen
    MediaCollege.com

  7. #7
    Senior Member Lynne's Avatar
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    well, I agree there is no point in discussing how it could be done, since the SEs will never really handle frames properly anyway. Maybe I will apply for a job with Google...

    good luck with your Race Cafe. I am interested to see what it looks like when you are done.

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