The Internet Is Constantly Evolving, and So Should Your Website

Today’s blog post is written by Kate Levine, Client Administrator, PatronManager. 

Recently, I stumbled upon the original website for the 1996 movie Space Jam. To my delight, not only has the website never been updated, but you can still click through all of the links. This website, or dare I say “artifact,” is a joyful relic from my youth that almost feels as if it belongs in some sort of online museum. It’s flashy, colorful, and tacky — I love it, see for yourself! This got me thinking about how far the internet has come from the 90’s era of AOL, Yahoo!, and Netscape to where we are now.

Back then, the internet had a meager 10 million users. According to this report from We Are Social, as of January 2018 the internet has surpassed 4 billion users. This statistic is staggering, though perhaps not surprising as e-commerce took firm root in the 90s with new websites such as Amazon and eBay, and has only continued to grow and change the way people consume ever since.

This is an especially important note for arts organizations whose main point of sale was once either a physical box office or a reservation telephone line. Your website is now (and has been for quite some time) your organization’s calling card, so you must make sure it speaks the language of consumers today and continues to evolve with them over time. Here are a few items to focus on in this endeavor:

Efficient Navigation

In the past few years, websites like Amazon have made the checkout process for purchasing online so easy. All consumers have to do is type what they want into the Amazon search bar, and within minutes they can find it and order it. Consumers love efficiency. It’s a genuinely satisfying experience to navigate a website that was built in such a methodical way that it’s nearly impossible to get lost.

For arts organizations, an easy adjustment would be to review which pages your patrons are spending the most time on (via your google analytics account) and make sure they are easily accessible from your home page. Most likely, these will be your “Buy Tickets” and “Events Calendar” pages. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I have visited an arts organization’s website and had to click through multiple different links just to make a purchase. This should be the easiest action your patrons can take on your website.

A Great Mobile Site

Mobile is the future. Every year, more and more people are buying their tickets and subscriptions on a mobile device. Even more of your patrons are using a mobile device for event research, even if they eventually convert on a desktop. Simply put, you must have a mobile-friendly site. And Google agrees! In March of this year, they officially announced that they will be indexing websites based on the mobile experience over the desktop experience. This “mobile-first indexing” goes to show that providing a mobile-friendly experience is crucial.

Strong Branding

A great website can capture an audience’s attention as soon as they click on the URL. You want to show who you are and what your organization stands for in a big way, that feels “uniquely you.” This means a keen attention to detail, from the background color and font choices all the way to the writing style of your show/exhibit descriptions. And it should match what you’re doing in all your other marketing assets (e-mail, print, social media, etc.)

Here is an example of exemplary branding: The Public Theater in NYC is famous for their bold graphic lettering, used in all marketing materials for their shows (and of course on their website). No matter what is being advertised, you know exactly who is behind the advertisement because of how it looks. Take a look below:

  circa 1994                                     circa 2018

Both of these images are from the same organization, 24 years apart. Their branding has stayed consistent and compelling over multiple decades. It feels familiar, yet updated for long-time patrons of The Public, and conversely, it’s exciting and bold which can aid in capturing the attention of potential new patrons! Now, this is not to say that your organization can’t re-brand if your leadership deems it necessary. Many websites and organizations that have been around for a long time have done this — just make sure you know why you are doing it and have a comprehensive plan in place before you move forward to ensure you don’t lose customers in the changeover.

The internet is an ever-changing landscape, but one thing is sure to remain the same: customers will go to your website to research your organization, find out about your programming, and most importantly buy tickets. It is essential to stay on top of current trends to prevent your website from becoming an ancient relic like the awful (amazing) Space Jam site and help it become a valuable tool to sustain your organization for decades (maybe even eons) to come.

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