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Designing a website

Step 2 - Designing your site

Java Applets

VBScript Developed by Microsoft, VBScript is similar to JavaScript and serves the same purpose: to let programmers easily manipulate the object in a browser window. But VBScript only works on Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, running in Microsoft Windows. This makes it a poor choice for most sites.


Server-side scripts These can accomplish many of the same things as JavaScript, but they rely on the site's server to get things done. They're primarily used to pass information between the user and a database or application.


Java Although they sound related, Java and JavaScript have little in common. Java is a full-featured, object-oriented programming language, similar to (though simpler than) C++. It was developed by Sun Microsystems as an agnostic language that works across all platforms. It's used (among other things) to develop small web-based applications ("applets") that download with a web page.

Understanding frames

Frames allow you to divide the browser window into several independent, scrollable areas, each of which displays a different, unique HTML document. So you're actually displaying several different web pages within one interface.


Frames allow more complex interactions to take place within the window of the browser, without completely reloading the page. One area of the page can remain static while another reloads, creating a more consistent visual environment. This same-page environment makes more complex interactions possible and helps prevent the disorientation so common on the web.


But frames have fallen out of favor over time. Their decline can be attributed partially to the evolution of other, more elegant methods of interactivity (involving JavaScript or Flash), and partially to their drawbacks: They require a lot of careful production work, in which it's easy to introduce errors. Also, the pages in a frames-based site lack unique web addresses, so users can't bookmark them, other sites can't link to them, and search engines can't always index them.

Llearning to use frames

The first thing to learn about frames is this: The HTML document for a frames-based page won't contain any actual content. It will merely describe the structure of the page (the frameset), and point to the web pages that should appear within each individual region (or frame).


A frames-based page can be divided into as many regions as you care to make. You can describe the page in terms of columns or rows, and size the frames based on a percentage of the overall browser window or a precise value—in pixels.


You'll find good tutorials on frames on the sites Webmonkey and A List Apart (see listings on this page) as well as most HTML reference books.


What you need to know about frames


What they are

Frames are a feature of HTML that let you subdivide the browser window into two or more independent, scrollable sections.


How they're used

Frames can increase interactivity and aid navigation by allowing one area of the web page to stay stationery while another reloads. This creates a consistent visual environment (one that doesn't entirely disappear as information refreshes).


Why they're loved

They rely wholly on HTML, can be created by non-programmers, and are supported by all major browsers in use today.


Why they're hated

Creation and troubleshooting can be a real production nightmare. It's easy to make mistakes that cause pages to load in the wrong area of the window. Also:

  • The pages in a frames-based site don't have unique web addresses, so other sites can't link to them and users can't bookmark them.

  • Because they lack unique web addresses, the pages also can't be searched by users or indexed by many search engines.


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