Theater websites have specific goals and specific needs. Like many arts institutions, theater websites are often behind the curve. They are usually older designs, not mobile-friendly, and difficult to update.
Theater websites need to be kept current, with easily updated calendars of shows. And theater websites should be mobile. Patrons are on their phones, looking for showtimes, locations, and directions.
Patron’s expectations are high. But get it right and you’ll grow your audience, activate your donors, sell tickets, and reduce management time. For a smaller theater, web design can give them a bigger presence.
Here are some of the key factors in web design for theaters:
The calendar of shows is the center of the site. It needs to be detailed, easy to use, and flexible enough to support any event. A great online theater calendar includes the following:
Provides show summaries as overlays directly on the calendar
Filters by shows, donor events, classes, or any other event type
Is optimized for mobile visitors through responsive web development
Patrons who are ready can purchase tickets through a ‘buy ticket’ link. Or they may want to see the show details.
Here is where the visitor gets excited about the experience and decides to go to the show. To build that interest, give as much information as possible. Here’s what it takes to give each production a great home online.
Visual impact with a large central image that sets the tone. This is the cover of the playbill.
Image galleries and videos emulate the experience ...and leave a little mystery.
Artists/actors, reviews, showtimes, and any other information is available to visitors through tabs, making show pages into small show sections.
Although rich with information, the shows must be easy to manage. It should take no more time than absolutely necessary to add an upcoming production.
People are searching for production names, showtimes, and artists, so these pages should also be search friendly.
Theater goers are using their phones. The 2012 Arts Patrons Mobile Preferences Survey found that 70% of arts patrons said they would use a mobile device to look up arts events.
These visitors are looking for more than show information. The survey shows patrons looking for directions, proximity of events, and parking information.
Any theater using email marketing or social media is driving mobile visitors. Responsive web design makes every page mobile-friendly, from the home page through the ticket purchase.
Of the many ticketing systems, Tessitura is emerging as one of the most flexible and robust. There are several options for integrating Tessitura into a theater website; the simplest is to link to the Tessitura online tools from the show pages. APIs for deeper integration are also available.
Regardless of the system, let visitors purchase online in a seamless experience. It should be easy and connect to the box office.
Behind-the-scenes stories can turn attendees into fans. The website is home for these stories, adding personality, color, and life to the company. Interview the directors. Showcase the sponsors. Explain the history of each production. Here are the tools you’ll need:
WordPress blog: This is where the news article and stories live.
Social Media integration: Let the fans share, like, and comment.
Newsletter sign-up: This gives the visitor a way to take action and the theater a way to stay connected. It should be simple, prominent, and close to the content.
Without these tools and this content, the site is simply a catalog of plays. With this content, the site is a hub for communication, even if the posts are short or infrequent.
An engaged audience, a growing list of subscribers, more sharing in social networks, and more traffic to the site are all outcomes of great theater web design. Arts patrons’ expectations are increasing. Meet those expectations with a useful, engaging website.
Interested? We would be happy to share with you our experiences and help you understand the potential opportunities involved in achieving your goals.
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