A website unfit for a queen

Warning This article was written over six months ago, and may contain outdated information.

To great fan­fare, The Queen, in the com­pa­ny of Sir Tim Bern­ers-Lee, unveiled the new British Monar­chy web­site today. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, what they unveiled was a real dog’s dinner.

Royal.gov.uk high­lights the worst ele­ments of the prac­tice of web devel­op­ment; on only the sec­ond page I vis­it­ed it became obvi­ous that the site has­n’t been test­ed on any brows­er oth­er than Inter­net Explor­er, and a peek at the source code left me shocked.

The test­ing is the most obvi­ous fault; the com­par­i­son shots below (IE7 is first, FF3 sec­ond) imme­di­ate­ly betray the lack of cross-brows­er cod­ing. Click each image to show a full-page screenshot.

Screenshot detailScreenshot detail

And the cod­ing… oh my word. The markup is just plain ter­ri­ble; com­plete­ly non-seman­tic, it uses the div ele­ment to wrap every­thing. Every­thing. No joke. Page head­ers, text para­graphs, lists… every­thing. And I found clos­ing body and html ele­ments halfway through the doc­u­ment! See for your­self.

It just shows a fun¬≠da¬≠men¬≠tal lack of care.

Inline styles and JavaScript are used lib¬≠er¬≠al¬≠ly through¬≠out the site, includ¬≠ing that per¬≠sis¬≠tent offend¬≠er, the inline JS menu hover:

<div style="margin-left:0px;" 
<a href="/TheRoyalHousehold/WorkingfortheRoyalHousehold/Whoarewe.aspx">Working for the Royal Household</a>

The home page fails HTML val­i­da­tion with 10 very basic errors, includ­ing <script language="javascript"> instead of <script type="text/javascript">; an inter­nal page tak­en at ran­dom fails with a whop­ping 82 errors.

I know that lega¬≠cy sys¬≠tems can some¬≠times be restric¬≠tive and lead to invalid HTML, but I find it hard to believe that any devel¬≠op¬≠er worth their salt would con¬≠tin¬≠ue to use a CMS which could pro¬≠duce so many egre¬≠gious con¬≠tra¬≠ven¬≠tions of stan¬≠dards. If inline JS & CSS and mas¬≠sive¬≠ly nest¬≠ed divs are the best a sys¬≠tem can man¬≠age, bet¬≠ter to imple¬≠ment a new one.

The under¬≠ly¬≠ing struc¬≠ture of this site is bad¬≠ly dat¬≠ed; we stopped writ¬≠ing code like that ten years ago. It‚Äôs a poor flag¬≠ship site from peo¬≠ple who can afford bet¬≠ter, and an embar¬≠rass¬≠ment to Sir Tim to be asso¬≠ci¬≠at¬≠ed with it.

9 comments on
“A website unfit for a queen”

  1. I know that lega­cy sys­tems can some­times be restric­tive and lead to invalid HTML

    Now, it‚Äôs not as if the client was short of a bob or two ;)

  2. That is deeply, deeply bad. Any idea who’s behind it?

  3. Looks like a hasLay¬≠out bug to me. Noth¬≠ing a good ol‚Äô over¬≠flow: auto; can‚Äôt fix on the con¬≠tain¬≠er. Either way I must admit Whitehouse.gov is win¬≠ning the bat¬≠tle of the sites.

  4. Maybe she got one of her grand¬≠chil¬≠dren to do it on the cheap?

  5. @Ade: Try­ing to find the name of the respon­si­ble par­ty so I can see their oth­er work; no-one’s tak­en cred­it as far as I can see, however.

    @Neal G: Whitehouse.gov & Number10.gov.uk are miles ahead on this. Per¬≠haps an alle¬≠go¬≠ry for democ¬≠ra¬≠cy vs monarchy ;)

  6. That site actu¬≠al¬≠ly reminds me of what sites were like when con¬≠tent man¬≠age¬≠ment sys¬≠tems first became pop¬≠u¬≠lar ‚ÄĒ very boxy and impersonal.

    Run a quick TAW check on their acces¬≠si¬≠bil¬≠i¬≠ty page!

    Browser­cam is your friend.

  7. Just spot­ted this in the Telegraph:

    Despite being set up with the help of Sir Tim Bern­ers-Lee, dubbed the father of the World Wide Web, each roy­al engage­ment pub­lished on the British Monar­chy Web­site is list­ed on the wrong day, 24 hours behind.

    The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Corn­wall could face a lone­ly recep­tion in York this Thurs­day where they are due to launch a new steam loco­mo­tive, since avid roy­al watch­ers are cur­rent­ly informed by the site that they will still be in London.

  8. Oops! I don’t sup­pose you have a link to that arti­cle do you, Heather?

  9. Hi Peter ‚ÄĒ here.