Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dear Theaters - Can We Talk About Your Website?

Dear Theaters,

I love you. You know I do. This whole blog is about how much I love you.

Can I tell you, though? I just spent a few hours going through your websites to update a show list for Twin Cities Theater Bloggers, making sure we don't miss any of your amazing shows.

I'll be honest: it was not always easy.

I know: You make theater, not websites. You're probably paying someone to make your website look snazzy, but, darn it, snazzy does not always equal user-friendly and intuitive.

So out of love, here are ten tips from your devoted theatergoing friend:

1) Current Show Info: Got a show running? Put it front and center. Don't make me hunt around for the show info. If I'm going to come see your show, I really need to know when and where the show is playing and how to buy tickets.

2) Dates and Times: That said, please don't make me click through to your ticketing software to find the dates and times of your show. Having to jump back and forth between your ticketing site and your website is irritating.

3) Giant Pictures: Beautiful pictures of your past productions are fine, but I hate having to sit through a slide show just to figure out what you're doing next. And those sites that consist of nothing but a giant image and a few mysterious unmarked links? Oy.

4) Mystery Meat: Speaking of those buttons: please don't let style overtake substance. I don't want to spend more than 30 seconds clicking on various icons in the hopes that I'll be able to find out if you have a show running. I REALLY don't want to do this. Labels are awesome.

5) Click Here to Enter: This is just web design 101: Don't make me click on something to actually access your website. You do not need a splash/entrance page. It is unnecessary. Love, your friend, me.

6) USE THE YEAR: I'm sorry to yell, but there's little more annoying than getting psyched about an upcoming show only to realize that it was last year, not this year. Why do people hate the year so much?

7) Cast and Crew List: Hey, who's in your show? Got a cast list? Put it online. Often the aspect that tips me over the indecision threshold into buying a ticket is based on the cast. We've got an amazing theater community--build on it.

8) Past Productions: After seeing one of your terrific productions, I'm often thinking about your other productions I've loved. Even a list (with the year presented!) will help spark amazing memories and goodwill. Not to mention, that historical overview and noted longevity is great for someone who is considering giving you money.

9) About Us: You know who wants to know about you? Theatergoers. Know who else? Potential donors. Tell us about yourself! What's your mission, who do you serve, what's your focus? These are all amazing things to know.

10) Reviews: Did someone say something nice about you? Share it! Just like picking up a book and seeing a blurb by a favorite author, a positive review from a critic or blogger (ahem!) can tip the scales in your favor. People love your show? Let us know!

And One to Grow On: If you aren't updating your website, please direct me to where I can get more info about your theater. Are you using Facebook and/or Twitter? Instagram? Snapchat? Some new social media I've never heard of? Let me know.

Although I was tempted (thanks, shoulder devil), I am not calling out any theaters directly. Why? Because of LOVE. And a little optimism!

Thanks for listening, theater friends!

See also: Ten Tips for Your Post-Show Discussion (from your audience member)