[thelist] Frames vs Divs

Ian Anderson ian at zstudio.co.uk
Fri Jun 30 11:44:10 CDT 2006

Christian Heilmann wrote:

> The perceived speed of frame pages may be quicker, but the annoyance
> of not bein able to bookmark, hard to navigate with assistive
> technology or not being able to view source weigh heavily on the
> downside.

Just to add my usual anal retentive footnote; frames are actually good 
for accessibility a surprising amount of the time. For many users with 
disabilities there is no difference one way or the other. For screen 
reader users, the usability of a site is sometimes enhanced by using 
frames, as it permits much easier navigation from chunk to chunk; screen 
readers offer specific and convenient keyboard shortcuts for flipping 
through the frames in sequence. This assumes the frames are titled 
appropriately, of course, and that the user is familiar with the 
shortcuts. In our user testing, many more users knew the shortcuts for 
frames navigation than knew how to read the headers of a properly 
formatted data table, oddly enough.

The other great benefit is that in a single document in a framed site, 
there will normally be vastly fewer links than in a normal, non-framed 
page, and unlike in a normal page, all the links will be relevant to the 
content or task to hand, greatly easing the mental burden of figuring 
out what is going on if you can't see the screen.

Frames have a bad press for accessibility, but it isn't one of their 
real weaknesses IMO. They do suck properly for other reasons, which 
Christian also mentioned.

zStudio - Web development and accessibility
- http://zStudio.co.uk
Snippetz.net - Your personal, private code library
- http://snippetz.net

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