The British Royals on the Internet

Books & Media Various Books & Media

A modern royal family, even many non-reigning ones, can hardly do without an official website anymore. And many royal houses also use social media. A royal family is important for the identity of a country, and therefore should present itself well online. What does make a website a good one? It should be pleasant to look at and reflect the way you want to present yourself. Over all you should ensure that the website is user-friendly and that people are finding what they are looking for quickly and easily. And they should be well viewable not only on a desktop, but also on a tablet and mobile. But even when you’re doing well, there are always things that could be better.

The first royal presence online I want to have a look on is the British one. The Queen already launched the first version of the website of the family in 1997, in the early days of the Internet. They were the first royal family, or at least one of the first, that saw the importance of the Internet and having an own web space. They also have seen the advantages of social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Even I was hardly used to the Internet when they started. The design was refreshed in 2001, 2009 and last in 2016.

The British royals nowadays don’t have one, but even three official royal websites. The general website is nowadays called “The home of the Royal Family“. Furthermore the Prince of Wales has his own website. And also the Duke of York has his own space online. Personally I think it is a bit too much, but I do understand that sometimes the official website not always highlights the work of individual royals enough, and certainly for a long time heir that might be important. Apart from that there are even more than three official Twitter accounts, and several other members can be found on Twitter, less unofficially.

The Royal Family

The website of the British royal family has a URL that couldn’t be shorter. It is very easy to remember, and in 2016 changed from royal.gov.uk into a simple royal.uk. The website has a design that I think has been rather popular for websites and especially blogs in the past few years. The photo at the front is very nicely coloured. My preference would have been a photo of the Queen alone, centered, and I think it could use a change from time to time too, but overall it looks quite good.

Pretending I don’t know anything about royals, my first question looking at the text “The home of the Royal Family” would be: which royal family? There are tens in the world and apart from the picture and the coat of arms, and the .uk in the URL there is no indication of the country itself. But as I expect visitors know what they are looking for, they should at least recognise Queen Elizabeth II. I however prefer the old website name of British Monarchy. Luckily when I search for British royal family in Google the website is the second hit I get, after Wikipedia that is …

Before entering the website you have to press “explore” at the bottom, which is quite obvious, at least to me. What comes then is a bit of a mess to me. Shown are boxes in various sizes with information. On top is of course the Queen, followed by a few boxes with what is also regarded as important. Further down it seems to me you see more or less the latest additions to the website, like events (like at the moment the 1953 coronation) and photos. But if you scroll on, this goes on endlesly and more and more boxes open.

Luckily in the right corner on top you will find a search box and oh yes, a menu. I must admit it took a while the first time I visited the website to find it. I was too much distracted by all these boxes. The menu opens on top of the regular site and can be closed too if you want. At the bottom you find links to social media used by the family. And furthermore there are a few other topics like contact, privacy, the site, and versions in Cymraeg and Gàidhlig (Welsh and Gaelic). Nice to know that they think about people in the Kingdom using another language than English. There is also the “media centre” where next to media information (unfortunately no emailaddress) you can find the royal diary, court circular, speeches and articles, press releases and financial reports and other media packs. I signed up to the media centre (below the blue boxes), but even being a serious royalty-journalist reporting on British royals I still haven’t heard back or received anything.

What elese is in the menu? Her Majesty The Queen happily starts without boxes, and instead there is text and even a biography that easily navigates. The boxes appear again under the text, not about the Queen only as you would expect. Next topic: The Royal Family. Again only lots and lots of boxes. But at least you can click on the various members of the family to get more information about them. The Commonwealth looks like the part about the Queen, no boxes at first and instead easy navigatable good information. Next on the list are Residences, Art and History, where you can find everything about these topics. Again boxes. Next you are being introduced to an intrigueing project: The Georgian Papers Programme. Needless to say: again boxes. Finally it ends with Working for us, telling you everything (yes with lots of boxes) how it is to work for the royal family.

Overall the website looks great, the information given is great and extensively. However the navigation, after almost two years, still is pretty difficult and often you need to use the search function to find the information easier. And I am a rather regular user, not a first time guest. I would say the website is unfortunately much less user-friendly and accessible than it used to be under the previous design.

Other issues that need some attention

Almost two years after the release of the newest website design the Court Circular and the Royal Diary still don’t work in Firefox. Which is most irritating for Firefox users like me, as they have to use another browser to see it. It is about the only website I need another browser on my computer for.

The calendar could do with some better updating. Often engagements of the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry of Wales don’t seem to be added. The ones of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall do usually appear on their own website, but that doesn’t count (anymore) for the three others.

Half of the time the return to the previous page button on my computer doesn’t work either, so I have to open and open the site once again. If you don’t want to, you need to think of using the menu button all the time, which is quite unhandy.

Social media

The British royal family I must admit make very good use of the various social media available nowadays and update quite regularly. Also here I would suggest to mention British either in the title or at least in the description to make clear which royal family we look at. Clearly at Facebook they were not allowed to change their username anymore, as that still says TheBritishMonarchy, as does the never used anymore Flickr account. They dropped that website name however already in 2016.

Not surprising they regularly retweet the Kensington Palace tweets. Probably unnecessary, as I would say fans following the British royal family, also are likely to follow the accounts of Clarence House and Kensington Palace. But over all the social media accounts have interesting posts, videos, etc.

The Prince of Wales

More boxes at the website of The Prince of Wales and of course The Duchess of Cornwall. Does anyone else find it odd, that the websites of Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge still haven’t disappeared on top of the site, despite of being transferred to the royal family website already in 2016?

On the right on top there are links for FAQs, Contact us (unfortunately only the address of Clarence House), the fact that the website is also in Gàidhlig (Gaelic) and a link to a page with more information for the media. This is where you can find press releases, speeches and other documents. Has anyone ever manage to make use of that envelope totally on the right? I do have an account but have never received anything from them. And how to update your profile or where to log in? Good that they also have a search box.

I do like the look of the boxes much better than on the royal family website. There are only a few, and they come in a much more regular pattern/design, simply showing the latest news. I do like the slider of big pictures/articles also. The topics you can’t enter via the menu on top of the page: Realms and Commonwealth, The Prince’s Charities, Speeches and Articles and Diary are stuck on the right side of the slider.

It is good to see that if you open the menu on top of the slider, you’re not necessarily being bombed with more boxes, apart from under News and Diary, where you can find simple green and purple boxes (the colours of the Prince of Wales) mentioning the latest engagements, speeches etc. I find the menu a bit surprising and I myself would really change the order of topics in it. To my opinion The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall should really be the first ones to be mentioned in it, as they are the people the website is all about.

Then you have Life in Pictures, that is updated a few times a year it seems and shows pictures of for example tours. But as it seems to be updated rather irregular lately, I wonder what the purpose of this part of the website is. Features shows the topics that the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are especially interested in. Really nice to look at, but when you go on to The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in the menu itself you find some of these things being mentioned again. More than enough information about both royals at least. A lovely addition is the For Children page that is aimed at children visiting the website, with quizzes, photos, news and video and gardening … clearly The Prince of Wales wants to stimulate children doing their own gardening. Not sure if I would have been impressed as a child, but it is a good try.

At the bottom of the page there are a few small links, partly the same as right on top. But you can also find information about recruitment, terms & conditions, an accessibility statement, privacy and cookies. And they even have a nice site map and RSS feed.

Although I don’t quite get the double mentioning of several topics under different main menu items, I do love the website’s more simple look way better than the one of the royal family itself.

Social media

Apart from their own website Clarence House has its own social media accounts. Twitter and Instagram are regularly updated and normally have rather interesting posts, videos, etc. I am just not quite sure why Google+ and Storify are still listed on the website, as they haven’t been updated since 2015.

The Duke of York

And finally there is also The Duke of York. Since he left his position as United Kingdom’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, his main interest seems to be Pitch@Palace, which he founded in 2014, at the same time his website started. This project/company gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet the people who can help make their business dreams become a reality. But it is not his only interest.

The website of the Duke is looking very good and doesn’t give too much information. There is a slider with the latest posts. And below it you are being directed to education and skills, entrepreneurship, as well as science, tech and engineering. These are the topics of the initiatives he supports.

The main menu gives links to information about the Duke himself, supporting the queen, supporting British prosperity, news and his initiatives. A pity some of the features under news like In the News, photos and videos haven’t been updated for quite a while. Right on top are links to the biographies of his daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

Although the Duke’s activities are listed in the royal diary on the website of the royal family, the activities of his daughters are not. I would find it a great asset to this website if it would give some more information about what they are doing, and I am certain that would do something for their image also. I know they both have a job, but once in a while they have an engagement and unfortunately it is hard to find anything about it previously to or even after the event itself.

Social media

Kensington Palace on social media

I suppose the popularity of The Duke and The Duchess of Cambridge, as well as Prince Harry of Wales, and now also Meghan Markle, has led to the Kensington Palace having its own accounts on a few social media. I am a fan of their rather well kept Twitter account with almost daily posts and quick updates about coming engagements and the ones just finished. I am not much of an Instagram user, but also this looks very nice, with very regular updates and nice pictures, videos and texts. At Kensington Palace they clearly know how to deal with the newest social media.

2 thoughts on “The British Royals on the Internet

  1. Ik vind de website beter dan de vorige versie. Misschien ook omdat ik hem via Google Chrome bekijk.
    Maar de berichtgeving voor de pers/sites loopt wat achter. Daarin is Kensington Palace via Twitter top actueel!

    1. Zo heeft toch iedereen weer zijn eigen voorkeuren wat websites en design betreft. Zelf gebruik ik Firefox. De kalender werkt wel in Chrome en Microsoft Edge.
      Wat de berichtgeving voor pers e.d. geef ik je helemaal gelijk. Er is wel heel veel op de website te vinden, maar het is helaas allemaal wel lastig vindbaar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.