Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Royal Review: The Official Site for the British Monarchy

In the past I've never made any secret of the fact that I love this site. As far as I'm concerned it's the best site out there.

Until February 12, 2009.

This was the date that the new design was unveiled. I was eagerly anticipating the change while wondering, how they could top perfection? As a matter of fact, they couldn't. Everything that made the site wonderful is gone. When you arrive at the site the most noticeable thing is the color change. It is no longer purple (the color most people would associate with royalty) but now has a white background. I have nothing against white backgrounds, they can be clean and classic but also boring. Most of the official sites have them: Sweden, Norway, Denmark (well, cream colored but close enough). The purple made it stand out. It was dynamic and original. The striking header is also gone, replaced by boring text.

The second thing I notice is, just under the new header, to the left is a drop down menu so that you can choose your Commonwealth Realm. In all honesty, I don't go to the site to find out about my realm (Canada). I want to find out about the British monarchy. Maybe others care about her role in Belize but I'm wagering a guess that this isn't the reason people come to the site either. In honesty, this information should not be so prominent. In it's place should be, at the very least, an FAQ drop down menu. The FAQ link is at the other side of the page. Small, hardly noticable unless you're looking for it. One thing I really liked about the original site was not having to scroll down the page. The old site had all the information links so that you didn't have to do that. Now if I want to find out about latest news and events I need to scroll to the bottom. Shouldn't this particular link be closer to the top?

One of the best features of the site was Insight magazine. This online magazine had a monthly focus on various subjects as well as a mailbox for asking questions. I loved reading the answers. Now it seems to be gone. Which is unfortunate because I think is was a very good and interesting resource.

Another really good feature was the history section. Where you could look up any monarch and get biographies for most of them. In its place is a dizzying timeline which doesn't stop on any particular monarch long enough to read about them. If I want to know when Charles I lost his head I now have to go to Wikipedia to find out! I liked the original site, divided by dynasties. Just above the dizzying timeline, there is a 'select a country' and 'select a dynasty' option. Which displays yet another dizzying timeline. If you want to find out about the individual monarchs, you can find this information on the right hand side called 'Also in this section'. Not prominent at all. Once you click on one of the choices, then you can read about the various monarchs.

There is still a memorial section to the site but it isn't easy to find. Once there, you can read about the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. There is a small photograph gallery for each person. However, while Diana's and the Queen Mother's profiles have exclusive photos. The profiles for Princess Margaret and Princess Alice are mixed up and combined.

Hopefully they'll work out the glitches. In all honesty, overtime I'll get used to the new site, but for now I hate it. Maybe I'm adverse to change, especially when it's not for the better.

© Marilyn Braun 2009


Anonymous said...

Oh, I didn't notice that the history section had been changed. That's a pity. I miss the purple, too. It was beautiful before and I'm surprised they made the new site look so ordinary.

I think the new FAQ section is a big improvement, however. In general I find the site easier to navigate now. I'm hoping they'll add more photos, especially photos that are free to use.

Marilyn Braun said...

Yes, it would be nice if they added more photos.

I like the fact that there's more information. I like the addition of videos although the way they're included isn't very elegant. Prince William and Prince Harry have extended biographies. In the bio for Prince and Princess Michael of Kent there's an explanation about their titles - which people probably wonder about. There are good changes to the site, more information, but I don't like having to dig in order to find them - such as the history section. The timeline is absolutely horrible. Overall I think they need to reposition things - like latest news - put it at the top instead of at the very bottom. That would be a good start.

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