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E.M. Forster, great Victorian-born champion of the internet, sorry, humanism, once wrote this:
"Letters have to pass two tests before they can be classed as good: they must express the personality both of the writer and of the recipient".
The Royal Mail's revamped website is the latest in a string of big organisations meeting new and improved standards in customer experience.
The aesthetic of the site accounts largely for its improvements, and the site as it stands can be seen, excuse me Edward, to express more of the Royal Mail's personality as well as those of its various audiences.
First, I'll look at some interesting little here's and there's from around the site before panning out.
Great copy given top billing
Here's a snapshot of the old site, focusing on services and advice available to personal users receiving mail. There's some good copy hidden here.
e.g. 'Going on holiday? If you're going away, find out about ways to manage mail in your absence'
But on the whole there's a weird mix of links, font colours and tones of voice.
Compare a corresponding screenshot from the new site, below. Although this shot shows details about only a couple of services, it demonstates aptly how:
- Strong propositions work well - 'Planning a holiday?'..
- ..backed up by informal summations of a service - 'Let us look after your mail'..
- ..with matching pictures..
- ..clear font..
- ..and fewer, demarcated links.
Below is the best example of copy I've seen around delivery options. Taking delivery options, their product names and descriptions, and doing the human job for us of summing up what this means in 'real life'.
Brand-enhancing online shop
The online shop is now definitely for consumer use. There's still the option to shop for business, but the Royal Mail has taken the sensible decision to emphasis their heritage with the shop, and point business-users to an equally efficient microsite.
Evidence of this increased pride in the history of the service can be felt across the site I think.
Information, don't give me too much of it, or I'll BOUNCE
And the new site decidedly doesn't give too many ocular stimuli at once. Here's a comparison
First, see the old site's attempt of offering up tools. I cut this snapshot off, there were many more options below. Although the three column headings, and each tool/link name and their descriptions are clear taken in isolation, the effect of lumping them together is a bit much.
The new solution is much more elegant, with an interactive panel. What were the three column headings are now expandable categories, which tidy unsightly links away 'behind' the panel.
And on the right hand side is a nice help tool with option to chat, search or select 'top topics'. The call-to-action 'Get answer' is heroic.
Little widgets for everyone
Ish...In that some of these aren't exactly widgets, or some aren't strictly tools, but they look like widgets and invite the user in, and hide away more navigational ugliness (as above).
Here's an old one above, and a new one below. Royal Mail has always had the right idea here, but now they've carried it through with aplomb, and without the weird 'Ask Sarah a question' box.
Say goodbye to 'Popular Links'
I think there's no better example of changing web design than the difference between parts of the old and new Royal Mail homepage.
Here's the old one, with the outdated 'Popular Links' section that offers a sort of admission of guilt on the part of site architecture of years gone by. 'We'll try to give you an easy and intuitive path across the site, but more often than not you can just focus on this collection of links'.
Then there's the new homepage which again gives us a pseudo-widget, as well as a top pane for navigation, and greases the whole thing up.
As far as I could see from surfing the web archive, the old Royal Mail site lacked a help section. The new one, screenshot below, is supreme, and guides the user gradually through tons of information to a node of assistance.
Touch me, feel me, love me
A great little example of good design. Below I've clicked on marketing services, and a pop-up (more of a slide-down) asks me if I'm a newb or a professional. This is the kind of stuff that used to be done with two choices on site, adding to the bewilderment of choices on page.
Not any more. I feel like the invisible hand of the Royal Mail has gently pushed me in the right direction.
Finally, take a look at the old homepage sat above the new. The old one does have pop-outs from each red box, which aren't shown here, but the new site offers more ways to efficiently find what you want.
This is due to:
- More effective contrast of colours across type, background, and menus.
- More effective use of different font sizes and symbols.
- Larger homepage, allowing scrolling and encouraging review of options on page, before clicking away.
- A top navigation pane with large and easy to use dropdowns.
And so, the new Royal Mail website is another great example of what, for big orgs, is now not a nice-to-have, nor a must, but truly an organisation-defining asset and service.