We work with a wide range of Arts and Culture organisations that all offer a variety of different flavours of events, performances and shows. From cinema tickets to dance workshops; regardless of what you are selling, you will always have a challenge in providing an interface and an experience that allows your users to easily find and discover the right event for them.
Every website needs to provide a User Interface (UI) that can handle what we class as the four main types of search behaviours.
- I know what I want exactly
- I know what sort of thing I want “such as comedy events”
- I don’t know what I fancy, inspire me
- I have 4 hours free on a Friday ‘what fits my schedule?’
These four types of user behaviours all need to be supported by your UI, with minimal clicks and most importantly be fast and respond to touch and inputs.
“Any modern website needs to be able to go from 1,000 events to one with minimal clicks and ease”Paul Sheffield, Creative Director
How to achieve it?
Card sorting with a throwback to Fringe
Our team all recall the brief we received from Brighton Fringe on how complicated their events were. We were faced with the ultimate challenge of handling over 1,000 events, some of which could have 100+ performances on a single day, plus a huge diversity of events on offer.
So we started with the facts and the team got to work on understanding these events in full detail. Whilst we won’t outline our full process today, we can get you started with a commonly used User Experience process that is simple and easy to do internally with some colleagues.
The process is called card sorting. There are a variety of eco-friendly options here if you don’t want to use physical post-its but we tend to find these work best as they can easily be moved around as you work through the process.
Write the name of every event on a single post-it so if you have 100 events, you should end up with 100 post-its. You then put them on a table and pick two up at a time and talk about them:
- What are they?
- Are they a particular type of event?
- A series?
If both post-its are alike/similar then put them down on the table next to each other, if they aren’t then separate into two piles. Repeat this process for all your post-its and you will find that you have natural groupings being formed of your event portfolio.
Groupings are important. Consider visiting a supermarket and want to buy some broccoli. Your natural path will point you towards the veg aisle. The same logic applies to events, want Michael MacIntyre go and look for the comedy genre, want Jimmy Carr go to horror.
Once you have sorted all the event cards, you should have a really comprehensive understanding of your event offering, and you can spot trends and natural groupings that would then apply to your taxonomy offered by your filters.
This is just the start, you still need to grow your taxonomy from there and consider all the other angles a user might need in order to discover their perfect weekend of events or Friday night, but it’s a good place to start.
What about tech?
Without going into the raw technicalities here, your website needs a solid foundation from both the front end and back end. Gone are the days where it’s acceptable for a user to click a filter, the page reloads and there are the results. Here’s what we class a minimum for technical requirements.
- Instant updating of results when a user selects a filter option
- Keyword search
- Proper implementation of data schemas
- The full responsive front end experience
- Fully accessible interface with supportive tools available
- Pagination being used where appropriate
- URL updates as filters are selected, allowing for sharing of my search to a friend
- Flexibility of the grid to have other communications dropped in? (CTA’s, Adverts etc)
What about ticketing platforms?
There are a myriad of event ticketing providers out there for you to choose to partner with. We have worked with many and we can say with some certainty that you must pay special attention when selecting a new partner, especially when it comes to front end UI’s and accessible agency friendly API’s.
You need a partner who can provide a fully-fledged API that can allow your web agency to pull through every event into the database of the website if possible. It allows your agency full flexibility to control the look and feel of the UI and the functionality regarding filters.
Our chosen partner is Red 61, because of their great product that delights our customers but also the passion of the people who work there about delivering a modern web experience.
See more about them here: https://www.red61.com/
Grandad’s R&D Labs - Full Calendar View
In our R&D lab at the moment is a new viewing and browsing experience that brings together a traditional grid view layout as well as supporting a fully featured fast calendar view.
We won’t give too much away but to give you a flavour of its features:
Full wishlist functionality that shows a complete calendar view of your events over a time period
- Downloadable styled PDF’s with your chosen events
- Responsive calendar view of your entire events portfolio
- Complete intuitive filters & responsive UI
- Fully compatible with any ticketing system that offers open API’s
- No page loads or delays switching between traditional and calendar view
1,000 to 1 is a challenge, especially when you are a multi-faceted venue that offers a diverse variety of events and performances. Always think about your users first, and challenge internal thinking and perceptions on how you think users search.
With an effective search UI, we can almost guarantee you will see a positive increase in revenue. With the advent of COVID-19 and digital offerings, you must build a solid foundation that lets your users find what they are looking for but also be inspired by the events on offer.