back to article UK's National Rail backs down from greyscale website tribute to Prince Phil after visually impaired users complain

In case you hadn't noticed, Prince Philip, aka the Duke of Edinburgh, aka the Queen's hubby, aka Stavros, shuffled off this mortal coil on Friday and thus the UK entered a period of "national mourning". Far from citizens taking to the streets and screaming at the sky, fists balled in anguish, most folk are pretty chill about …

  1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Optically challenged

    Many organisations have been woefully inept in catering for even people with relatively common red-green colour 'blindness'. When I was advising the Probation Service* (many years ago), they all had paper-based files. As areas had merged or changed management teams some had two or three different formats for folders. However, purely by chance, every area I advised had the colour red in some way on the folders for 'Scheduler 1' offenders. These are people convicted of an offence against a child from literally taking candy from a baby to full on physical abuse and murder. (Yup, they get let out on probation when the parole board says so, rehabilitation of offenders and all that.)

    This has a few issues. When a probation office is broken into (which is sadly all too frequent), the files with red bits on the folders tend to stand out a bit, so someone of an inquisitive nature might just read one of them. When in court and the probation officer gives evidence or reads from a folder, anyone who knows red implies Schedule 1 will know. Plus there is the possibility of a red-green colourblind probation officer. I do think I managed to persuade them to phase out the red markings. Of course it is mostly on IT now, so I have no idea what is going on.

    I realise that I have not been on a train for over a year.

    *Quite the nicest clients I ever had, lovely people, no money, but lovely people.

    1. Vulch

      Re: Optically challenged

      I realise that I have not been on a train for over a year.

      A bit over two years ago I qualified for a Senior Railcard, 30 quid a year or 70 quid for 3 years and gets you a third off most tickets. Bargain thinks I. HoHum...

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Optically challenged

        At the risk of appearing to be a bit of a smug git, my Network Railcard (30% off off-peak tickets) expired in February 2020 year, and I decided not to renew it until the Covid-19 pandemic is over, at least within the UK.


        (Troll icon, because some readers may find this posting offensive, and I have enough downvotes already to last me a lifetime.)

        1. William Towle

          Re: Optically challenged

          > At the risk of appearing to be a bit of a smug git, my Network Railcard (30% off off-peak tickets) expired in February 2020 year, and I decided not to renew it until the Covid-19 pandemic is over, at least within the UK.

          For everyone else with season tickets there was the opportunity to sell the unused portion back. And likewise for tickets sold for journeys planned at Christmas.

          For the journeys-to-work ticket I got posted a cheque rather than a bank transfer -"necessary because of [incomplete records of the original transaction on their side]" apparently (ffswut?! -->)- but compensation happened.

          Whatever "fully remote work with some office visits required" turns out to mean could have an interesting effect on what happens next...

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Was it the result of the Twitter storm or did somebody use to find how to escalate it?

    1. Evil Scot


      May have stopped when one Accessibility specialist pointer out it is an easy £1300.

  3. Test Man

    Idiots. Yes he died. No greyscaling stuff is NOT an appropriate tribute.

    1. John Riddoch

      The London Mayor's site is actually painful to look at and I don't have any colour blindness. That's an awful design and a poor tribute to Prince Philip.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Almost like being a kid watching black and white TV again. Maybe they should reduce it to 405 pixel vertical height as well.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Funny how people react to these websites. If it was an artist website it would be considered "cool". Now that it is a civil service website everybody and their dog complains.

          Besides can't people read anymore? It doesn't matter if a button has colour, just READ what's on the damn thing! In fact the majority on this website is also B/W except for the red banner at the top and the photo's. Double standards anyone?

          1. Mike 137 Silver badge

            'If it was an artist website it would be considered "cool".'

            Only by the sector of the populace that thinks (?) in that shallow manner. I've never in many decades been offered any consistent definition of "cool" other than the opposite of hot (as in physics) or some woolly notion of "I like it". When words cease to be clearly definable, communication ceases to function.

            But as to the greyscale web site - it seems to typify an established trend towards "trying to be original", that usually fails because [a] it's not spontaneous and [b] the practitioners are usually not sufficiently informed to recognise how commonplace their "originality" commonly turns out to be.

            It's been forgotten that art and visual design are means of communication. One sees this most explicitly in "corporate design". A society I know of used to have a logo that was based on their initials, so it was not terribly inspired but immediately recognisable. They "rebranded" and their logo is now just a pink squiggle that gets lost among all the other pink squiggles that were produced by trendy "designers" that year.

            1. TimMaher Silver badge

              A bit of pedantry.

              In my personal English lexicon, warm is the opposite of cool and hot is the opposite of cold.

              I shall now go in search of my coat. There is a copy of Hobson Jobson in the pocket.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: 'If it was an artist website it would be considered "cool".'

              "When words cease to be clearly definable, communication ceases to function."

              An interesting comment on the perception of time on the radio today neatly illustrates that:

              "Wednesdays meeting has been moved forward two days"

              It seems half the people asked think the meeting will be on Monday while the other half think it will be on Friday. It seems some people think they are a fixed point and the future is rushing towards them while the others are moving forward into the future. What seems like a perfectly understandable communication divides us into two roughly equal camps taking opposite meaning from it.

          2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

            My guess is that it's mostly leftists complaining because it's a tribute to HRH.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              I'm no royalist, but I am a humanist. It's sad for the family when someone dies, and they have my sympathy.

              However, he was 99 in failing health. My gran also died at 99. I was gutted, but it was expected.

              Leave the family to mourn their loved one. Do you really think any of them want a service-providing website to be made inaccessible as some sort of tribute? Would the Queen have really been upset if Fridays EastEnders went ahead?

              I'll personally mourn as much as the royal family mourned my grans death - and that isn't said with malice.

              To think that colour blind people need to illegally suffer for some misguided tribute isn't patriotic.

              Those who complained aren't doing it to be contrary to your hard right beliefs.

              They are simply suffering needlessly, and unlike you flag waving sheep, who easily fall for tabloid produced mass-hysteria, they actually have something tangible to complain about.

              1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

                Hard right ... flag waving sheep? Grow up.

                1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                  I've had the misfortune of reading other posts of yours.

              2. Brad16800

                Still, 99 isn't bad. Doubt i'll be around that long.

          3. AMBxx Silver badge

            Depends upon your target market. If your market includes people that struggle with poor contrast, then grey text is a really stupid idea.

            1. hoola Silver badge

              Then why do so many websites and applications use it.

              Just how many things are there are there, next to unusable because of stupid font sizes, grey on grey, or grey on blue. Far too many websites are an abomination to actually use because they have been designed by someone in an office with a 70" screen who is 20 years old.

          4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Besides can't people read anymore? It doesn't matter if a button has colour, just READ what's on the damn thing!

            Dear anon coward,

            This reminds me of school. When I refused to play cricket, on the grounds that I can't see the ball. The teacher's response was the familliar one where he thought I should just try harder, he suggested I be the umpire instead... I mean, I know people complain that the referee is blind all the time, but it's probably not such a great idea to actually try it! Tell me, do you instruct people in wheelchairs to stop being so lazy and get up and walk as well?

            Do you really find it so hard to understand that not everybody has equal ablities? God knows why. Enough has been said about it over the years - but then a lot of stuff gets talked about, and we can't know everything. Society is a compromise between a set of different interests, where we hopefully try to make things work well for as many people as possible. We probably shouldn't tear up the Tower of London to allow wheelchair access - though some parts of it could easily be made more accessible with no damage to a historic monument (know this from taking a pushchair round it a few years ago). Public buildings have less excuse - unless they too are of monuments that are hard to modify. However the cost to websites to make them clear and readable, is zero. Or negligable, it probably does take some time to think about, seeing as most of the people commissioning and designing them probably have normal vision.

            In fact the majority on this website is also B/W except for the red banner at the top and the photo's. Double standards anyone?

            Oddly enough, many users complained about various site re-designs at the time. And to be fair to them, El Reg actually has sought feedback after many of its design changes, and has subsequently made tweaks after users complained.

            There is, sadly, a trend in modern web / UI design away from clarity of purpose, and towards some aesthetic known only to the themselves. Seemingly a bit like the way a school of architects decided that their buildings should be aggressively ugly - and the more people complained about their hideous creations, the more sniffy they became about these revolting peasants.

            Apparently modern designs should be flat and without seeming depth, with vast white, empty spaces. Minimalism is king. Colours should be muted and high contrast often avoided - clear visual cues such as borders should be got rid of, or if forced to have them they should be the palest of greys, so as not to offend the artistic eye of the creator. Buttons are also bad! Too high contrast, too clear, too functional? Heaven alone knows. But clickable text is fine.

            I had to pay Mum's Congestion Charge for her the other day, because the TFL site designers thougth that a tiny text link on the far right of the page was superior to a nice button labelled PAY THE CONGESTION CHARGE in the middle of the relevant page. Fuck knows why!

            When I lay out data on a spreadsheet I consider the two obvious options. I can use lines and borders to denote the different bits of information, and their interrelationships, or I can use colour. Sometimes a mixture of both is even clearer, because too many line-defined borders can be as confusing as too few. In my case I'm seeking maximum clarity for minimum effort from the reader. But I accept that I have all the artistic talent of a cluster of colourblind hedgehogs, in a bag. However if making a website clear and easy to use someone offends the artistic integrity of a web designer, might I respectfully suggest that they seek other employment. Go the whole hog and become an artist perhaps? But if they wish to continue with their job of providing information in as clear and visually pleasing a manner as posible, then might I suggest they use a combination of colour and line to group the infromation they are displaying and sufficient contrast to make the site usable for the people struggling to parse it.

            It's surely not too much to ask?

    2. Sykowasp

      Indeed. I have a 'go to sleep' feature on the phone that turns the screen greyscale if I'm up too late doomscrolling. It really makes some things hard to read, and you realise how much colour is being used as a visual guide, and how hard a lot of stuff online must be if your eyesight is poor.

      I mean, hyperlinks used to be highlighted visually with an underline, until every site overrode that in the CSS to use colour instead (in some cases even worse than that). Some hypertext browsers even made the link an obvious button (back when buttons were obviously buttons and not a slightly different flat coloured rectange). Maybe browsers should have a 'Force hyperlink underline' option for visually impaired users and people who are tired of hunting links on some sites.

      Sites doing what nationalrail did is simply not on. Put a banner on the page, or something similar, if you absolutely feel you need to add to the avalanche of 'tributes', although I don't see why such a website needs to have this.

  4. Magani


    "...who missed hitting a century by about two months."

    He also missed out on getting a telegram from his wife.

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: Shame...

      "He also missed out on getting a telegram from his wife."

      I'd be interested in what the telegram plans are if she is still going strong on 21/04/2026.

      1. Rob Daglish

        Re: Shame...

        There speaks someone who has never sent them self a bunch of Valentines Day card in an attempt to appear more popular. Oh? The one with the pocket full of stamps, please...

      2. Brad16800

        Re: Shame...

        I wondered the same thing. Would it be a little weird to be writing a letter to yourself at 100?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: missed out on getting a telegram from his wife.

      Me too. She insists on sticking to WhatsApp, no matter what I try to advise.

  5. msknight

    OK so....

    The company finds itself in the unusual position of asking its customers to install ad and tracking blockers in order to get around its design and, by dint of that advice, will thus negate its own statistics collection in the process. Irony, thy name is National Rail.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: OK so....

      Most things that aren't irony aren't hard enough to use as rails....

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: OK so....

        I'm surprised that your comment didn't get down voted by leftpondians, cos they wouldn't have understood it!

  6. Martin an gof Silver badge

    The Transport for Wales news website also went grey at the weekend, but is back in the usual red, white and black now. No idea if that was a planned change, or if they were following the National Rail furore!

    At work, my projection of cheery images and videos on the front of the building has stopped and the floodlights were turned dark blue on Saturday evening. I turned them red-white-blue on Sunday, but have been advised that a plain dark blue is more appropriate until the weekend :-)


  7. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Have they..

    Introduced a rail replacement horse and buggy service?

    1. Steve K

      Re: Have they..

      That would indeed be a <br/> in the HTML

      (carriage return - sorry)

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        Re: Have they..

        Technically, &#13;

        The BReak tag has a slightly different meaning.

  8. chivo243 Silver badge

    Mayor of London's website

    Eyes must be going, thought I read wastesite instead of website!

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Mayor of London's website

      It's the difference between call by value and call by name.

  9. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Mark of respect?

    How on earth is changing your website into a facsimile of some goth metal message board an appropriate tribute? I imagine he would been pretty scathing about the idea that someone booking a ticket from Swindon to Didcot Parkway would be outraged that the ticket booking process didn't look like a Cradle of Filth fanpage. The guy apparently wanted it all to be "low key", so forcing all this compulsory mourning seems to be the disrespectful thing to do.

    And those who considered it an appropriate gesture would probably have been apoplectic when the train turned up and hadn't been painted completely black.

    1. Warm Braw

      Re: Mark of respect?

      Perhaps all those people screwing up their eyes to attempt to decipher the text were meant to bring back memories of the DoE's "forthright" way with words.

  10. Julz


    we could abolish the monarchy as a sign of respect and give his wife a rest.

    1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps

      How about we abolish you instead.

      1. ICL1900-G3

        Re: Perhaps

        Didn't you post something earlier along the lines of 'grow up'? Perhaps you should follow your own advice.

    2. the Jim bloke
      Thumb Down

      Re: Perhaps

      problem with abolishing the monarchy is it leaves you with the rest of the government - which on available evidence... is a stupid idea.

      The Australian republican movement was notable by their silence while Trump was demonstrating what happens when a con-man captures the head-of-state role.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is all the fuzz about?

    I don't understand what all the fuzz is about. These sites work just as good (or bad) in greyscale as in colour. This is clearly a typical 1st world problem bordering on decadence.

    1. Big_Boomer Silver badge

      Re: What is all the fuzz about?

      Oooh look, another Anonymous Troll who admits publicly that they have absolutely no empathy and can not understand what it feels like to be in someone else's shoes. Go poke out one of your eyes and use an electrical sander on the cornea of the other one and then see how that website thing works for you.

  12. vtcodger Silver badge


    I understand why it didn't occur to them that greyscale might be hard for some users to read. Could happen to any of us I think. But why did they not, once informed, simply add a conspicuous header that says "OUR WEBSITE IS TEMPORARILY RENDERED IN GREY IN TRIBUTE TO OUR DEPARTED PRINCE PHILIP. IF YOU NEED THE COLOR VERSION, CLICK HERE" ?

    Of course, it would help if clicking actually switched to the color version.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      Colour, dear boy, not color. It is a British establishment after all.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ad/tracker blockers. Use them (though not on The Reg)

    Sorry, I refuse to disable ad/tracker blockers for anyone.

    Here's an idea, maybe use static ads that are IT related that don't require tracking?

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Ad/tracker blockers. Use them (though not on The Reg)

      I agree.

      I block ad-trackers at home - not ads per se.

      I'd be quite happy for untracked ads to start appearing when I browse this site, and most others.

  14. Rob 15

    Speaking of ads

    Since you brought up the topic...

    Why doesn't El Reg have ads that don't stalk your readers? Does such a thing exist? Presumably if you were a printed organ you'd manage to source ads that aren't dependent on tracking to work.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Speaking of ads

      I quite like them.

      I never see any ads at home (thanks PiHole and Brave) at work I get the Redhat ads with some guy with a bog-brush beard. Now I have an extra reason to avoid Redhat.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Speaking of ads

      "Presumably if you were a printed organ you'd manage to source ads that aren't dependent on tracking to work."

      It's not about whether tracking works or not. It's about selling the ad space for the highest possible value and the ad space buyers have been persuaded that tracked ads are better and so more valuable. Personally, I think they are simply not wearing any clothes,

  15. Dave 15


    You make a f**k up and refuse to correct maintaining a boneheader and stupid notion that somehow you are right? No wonder bosses in the UK are looked at as a bunch of greedy but hamfisted morons.

    Now, if you wanted to do something put a black banner on, or something, dont f**k the entire website and then refuse to correct your glaring and stupid mistake.

  16. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    And when are Google """"maps"""" going to follow suit and realise that white against a light grey background is insane.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I hate Google Maps. It's good software, but the display is horrible. Contrast is great. One of the nice things about using a good A-Z is that it's really easy to see what's going on, while you're concentrating on the difficult task of navigating an area that you don't know.

      And when displaying their traffic information, they choose a bizarre combination of the two colours that are most associated with colour blindness, red (well admittedly a dark orange) and green. Which I can't tell apart.

      And the fuckers also only semi enable zooming. Yes, you can zoom in, but certain elements don't change size - like the aforementioned traffic lines. If they were bigger, I could have a stab at telling them apart, because I'm not colour blind in the normal sense, I just have very low vision and that makes it hard for me to tell similar coulours apart - make them bigger (or compare them directly against each other) and I can usually do it. They also use a fixed text size, so I can't zoom in place names.

      Although at least Google have an excuse in that keeping the map to scale while changing the zoom level and adding extra information is a complex set of problems.

      The arrrogant fuckers who design websites and use some setting to disable zooming on mobile browsers should be beaten with sticks! I'm pretty fucking annoyed that the browser makers gave them that option, rather than just ignoring them and letting their users operate their software as intended. A quick pinch to zoom to read a difficult word is sometimes really useful.

      Still, mustn't grumble I suppose. There are so many better tools than the old days - so we're still basically living the dream. Although what exactly happened to my domestic robot that would make the dinner, do the washing up and tidy my bedroom for me?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK's National Rail backs down from greyscale

    this is nothing, do you know what the National Grid are planning when the Big E follows?! There's this big red switch (or a lever), and and it's manned (or womanned) 24/7 in expectation of the Big Moment. You ain't seen nothing yet...

  18. FlamingDeath Silver badge


    They even closed down the QVC channel, “out of respect”

    What is it with the world, where every outfit under the sun feels they need to join in on the gushing, its just a tad cringeworthy

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: QVC

      They'd get just as many, if not more complaints, for NOT doing something. It's just the world we live in nowadays.

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. Spamfast

    Colour me annoyed.

    Given that a larger proportion of the population have some form of colour-blindness than are, for example, left-handed, perhaps more web sites should have a 'view in greyscale' option? Provided of course that it's been tested for usability.

    I could then use them on my old monochrome X terminal running an OSF Motif themed UI. :-D

  21. Screwed


    Interesting that the greyscaling can be switched on or off – albeit by the bizarre approach of ad blocking.

    I’m trying to imagine the development meetings which decided that a greyscaling option was desirable, even necessary and financially justified. What was the rationale? Did they actually anticipate using it in this way? And that the chosen technique could be switched by end users blocking/unblocking ads.

    Also interesting to speculate on how it was tested, perhaps whether it was tested. Certainly doesn’t appear to have been tested by a truly representative selection of real world end-users.

    Finally, how many other websites have planned things like this? When the queen does eventually die, can we expect even more websites to adopt this sort of approach? Maybe black on black.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Tested?

      Maybe their eyes operate in a different wavelength to us?

  22. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    It would be ok if this was TFL...

    ...and you wanted to get to that well known station on the black line...

    Mornington Crescent.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Somewhere, deep in the IT basement...

    ...there are mere web design operatives saying “I told you so”

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is news ?

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