James Royal-Lawson


The Beantin Manifesto

Digital products and services are a gathering point for pretty much everything we’ve ever learnt. There is a never-ending list of different specialities that need to be utilised to produce the seemingly mythical perfect digital experience. 

Those of us working with digital design work in a rapidly changing sector. Yes, we’re maturing as a profession, but the sheer vastness of what we are trying to learn, understand, and manipulate – combined with the speed of change, means that maturity isn’t something that will arrive over-night.


Human beings love compartmentalising things. So do organisations. Unfortunately that doesn’t work with digital design. You can’t work in silos. Each speciality can’t sit in it’s silo and produce the optimal result without genuine co-operation and co-ordination with other specialities.

Ignorance is bliss

One of the biggest problems is that many of these silos don’t realise that the other silos exist let alone the benfit they bring and the importance they carry. That’s understandable. A specialist programmer isn’t going to be a specialist copywriter. Your marketing department isn’t your finance department. You aren’t expected to know the details of how the other professional/department/silo goes about it’s business.

True collaboration, across organisations and with the people who will use what we create is essential for us to get the most out this fantastic medium we work with, and prevent people suffering harm.


Here is my 6 point manifesto that I will follow to help join the dots, get specialities working together, and ultimately make a better digital world:

  1. Share: Don’t hoard knowledge. Distribute and educate.
  2. Honest feedback: Always speak my mind. Never hold back from sharing an opinion.
  3. Good enough: Never aim for good enough. Aim for best.
  4. Your best interests: Do things that are best for people, for society. Not for short term gains. 
  5. Web standards: As much as possible follow (and even create) web standards and agreed conventions.
  6. Hypothesis driven. Design and evaluate honestly and openly. 

James Royal-Lawson is an independent designer and podcaster based in Stockholm Sweden.

[Originally written in January 2011. Revised in December 2020]

8 Articles worth reading… (Spotted: Week 37-38, 2010)

Children’s Websites: Usability Issues in Designing for Kids

9 years on from their first survey, Nielsen have produced a new study into the usability of Children’s websites. “It’s now common for a 7-year-old kid to be a seasoned Internet user with several years’ experience.” – If we think that the millennials are the internet generation – in 10-15 years this wave of 7 year olds will be in the marketplace.

No One Is Looking At Google Instant

A small eye tracking study (14 searches by 7 users) but contains some interesting finding – one such finding was all of their test participants didn’t look at the screen whilst typing their search phrase!

New navigation for our intranet – please help!

More practical advice from The Intranet Professor. A lick of paint for an un-respected, un-loved, un-used intranet, or full renovation?

A Comprehensive Guide Inside Your <head>

Excellent guide to the <head> section of HTML. As technically the head is limitless, there are a number of additional things Alex could have included (but you have to draw the line somewhere!) Nevertheless, one link reference that really should have mentioned is rel=”canonical”.

HTML5: The Facts And The Myths

I Had the pleasure of listening to Opera’s Bruce Lawson evangelise HTML5 at Disruptive Code this week. This Smashing Mag article by him and Remy Sharp is a good primer for those of you who don’t know that much about it.

Internet Explorer Extinct by 2013? 2010 Update

In 2008 web dev & design site Sitepoint predicted that they wouldn’t be receiving any visits from people using an Internet Explorer browser – here’s their 2010 update. Interesting stats and interesting to see the continued trend of browser usage in the dev/design world.

Let’s create a neat graphic and pretend that it’s true

Read Jesper’s Churchil-eqsue post, then read Amber Naslund’s post 3 Reasons B2B Social Media Makes So Much Sense. Two boxers each waiting to pounce from their respective corners of the ring? Is one of them half-way up the garden path? Can you apply behaviour analysis and “CRM the living shit out of all the data” to B2B customers in the same way you can B2C consumers?

Japanese Mobile Users Can Sign In to Facebook Using QR Codes

Facebook are experimenting with using QR codes generated whilst you are logged in to the standard site in order to authenticate your log-in to the mobile site. All done in a couple of clicks rather than a load of fiddly typing. Sounds like a usability win to me.

No more writing for the web?

Below is a transcript of an exchange between myself and Per Axbom on the Beantin Facebook page earlier this week.

The conversation is in response to this blog post: Why it might be time to stop writing for the web by Tamsin Hemingray at iCrosing.

Interesting post, and I agree with aspects of it – but ultimately I disagree. Yes you should write for your target audience, but when writing for digital channels you have to understand as a writer that your target audience includes the machines that process, index & re-use your carefully written content.


I see your point, and there is a fair bit to say about needed education to understand how to write, or rather: incorporate links, headers, keywords, images , etceteras in a way that optimises the content for the web medium and for the ease of being found using search engines – and of course being easily read on a screen.

She touches briefly on this in the article in the sense that she expects her staff to already possess many of these skills; they are so to say, self-evident. This I do not agree with, this is something that few writers are aware of and the need to be more so.

The part I do agree with the most is that we are focusing too little on the humans we are writing for, in comparison with how many web writing classes there are to just sort out all the technical stuff. There is too little focus also on how the web article fits into the grand scheme of things that the company publishes and distributes and communicates to customers and stakeholders. There is a lot of let’s just push it out, but not much let’s push it out because _this_ is what we want to accomplish.

But ultimately, should writers, historically an artistic breed of humanity, need to adapt to technology and figure all this out in every piece of content they write or should technology in fact adapt to humans?


So we don’t really disagree on this one Per… Yes, she does put a whole load of skills in the “we wouldn’t have hired them if they couldn’t do this already” list – but reality is there are a lot of talented writers out there who are used to the relative freedom “print” gives them compared to digital channels.

Many of the one-day “writing for the web” courses that she is complaining about, probably should be thrown out of the window as they don’t really help writers (and companies) produce content that better meets their goals.

The human/technology relationship is a symbiotic relationship. Both have triggered the evolution of the other. The reality is, that although technology is getting better at dealing with us awkward humans, us humans have to still give a little bit of a helping hand along the way.

Just as language has grammar, the internet has standards (formal and informal). If we follow both, then we end up with a much better user experience – and a higher chance of achieving what we set out to achieve.


5 Articles worth reading… (Spotted: Week 26, 2010)

Why I Still Blog

Hans Kullin asked and answered Why do I still blog? last week on his blog, this week, John Cass gives his answer. Both provide some interesting insights into the ever-evolving blogosphere.

Yahoo Style Guide

July 6th Yahoo will launch their book, which will cover grammar, punctuation, web accessibility and writing copy that helps SEO. The companion web site has some useful articles too.

10 Reasons Why Your Analytics Are Failing & 13 Tools To Help

The reasons listed here are quite a nice analytics “basics” overview. Covers a lot of things that are all too often overlooked.

Serving Static Content from a Cookieless Domain

You are all (as you’re clever, web-savvy people who read this blog), already serving your static content from a seperate domain. This is a good explaination of why (and how) you should make sure that your media domain doesn’t serve up cookies with all the media requests.

Sitemaps: One file, many content types

Now all specialized sitemap formats can be rolled into one file. Sitemaps, and how Google are enhancing them, is a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” situation. Google want to serve accurate, useful, search results – and we all want our pages, images, videos, etc to be included. Get scratching.

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