Encore Tickets, Best Of Theatre

Organization: EncoreTickets     Tools: Macromedia Dreamweaver/Fireworks/Flash, Framer etc     Platform: Web      

The project

Best Of Theatre (Which is owned by Encore Tickets) was an initiative to drive sales back to the business at a time when competition for ticket sales was rife. The business ran other brands (like LondonBreaks and TheatrePeople) that were performing poorly with less conversion than the competition. This would eventually affect its turn-over. Hence the project was charged with creating a new brand concept that will lead to securing a better share of a market that is worth over 2billion yearly. The business hadn't considered revamping the older website brands because they now had plenty of negative reviews in a number of forums and discussion boards. I worked as the UX designer and was involved from the very beginning where we selected a name. Naming is a very important part of brand creation and could play a part in its success. We wanted one that will be meaningful as well as memorable for the consumer - "Best Of Theatre".

Identifying the problem causes

To kick off, I was curious as to the poor reputation and proceeded to perform a review of analytics data on those sites. While reviewing the statistics I simultaneously visited the pages in question to see what faults they had (example: checking pages with worse user session durations and most drop-offs) It appeared that the product pages and order process were the culprits and had the most drop-offs. I documented my findings and summoned the team and stakeholders for a presentation where i shared this information. The most common and pertinent issues I found across the sites i had tested include the following:

- Purchase journey was long and most users will easily lose their patience

- Registration form had too many irrelevant fields, asking for information which we won't use, it shouldn't waste the users time by asking them to provide items like their job title, next of keen, etc.

- The shows description copy was not particularly written in a manner to encourage users to make a purchase.

- The look and feel of the site lacked flare, and did not excite a user seeking to see a show. We should use relevant images and pictures from performances. 

- A proper nav menu was non-existent except for 'about us' 'contacts' and 'sitemaps'.

- No information about running times in the shows description page

- Links to the reviews are present in some description pages and not in others. 

- The call-to-action button for placing an order was not striking enough - considering its color.

Defining UX strategy and design goals

My team (consisting of a Visual designer, web master and project co-ordinator) met to plot a way forward. We had a brainstorming session where i proposed the UX strategy which was carried out in the following weeks. They included user interviews and user testing observation sessions. This was to verify my findings and ensure we were on the right track. We did this by recruiting volunteers to carryout tasks on the older sites (including purchasing tickets). In the end it was confirmed that 70% of the test subjects would bounce from the site. Afterwards, I created six personas to represent majority of our typical users. I then performed competitive analysis to learn what makes our rivals successful in order to capitalize in ways that will enable us outsell them. I noticed that most sites like ticketmaster and london-theatre-direct had a rich full width UI with immediate access to user's primary needs. (Search event by name or date). Also London-box-office. There was an emphasis on providing personalized search from the homepage. Most sites also placed accreditation and web ranking data to show their credibility. These and lots of other findings were shared back with the team for further brainstorming and discussions. I later proceeded to create process maps specifically user journeys and task flows to implement a quick and straight forward ordering process that can re-assure the user and possibly encourage a return visit when next they think about seeing a show. We were going to initiate a four step process. 1. Pick your show, 2. Pick your date 3. Pick your seat, 4. Checkout. Based on our user tests earlier, we ascertained that users often wanted to know the highest selling show of the current week or month. and with that, a list of the most popular shows. Considering the large number of shows, the homepage will use entire width area to reduce vertical scroll height. Images of the shows will be large (at least 270px height and width to present the graphics of each show in all its beauty, encouraging the user to click to find out more. These details were to be captured in the sketches and mockup which followed next.

Design, testing and support

I created a number of sketches and shared them with the team. they were tested using user scenarios created earlier, and followed by numerous iterations. We eventually settled on a particular style that best suited our core users from the personas.  It partly followed the theory that images spark a user’s curiosity  better than text. This applies even more on a website that,s for showbiz. The final sketches were then transferred to wireframes. In the homepage it featured a horizontal banner area in the upper half of the page. This holds the 'show of the month.' and followed by a range of most popular shows each with the product image. the title, rating and price. Below that were buttons enabling the user to select a genre' (Plays, musicals, family shows or special offers) these linked genre pages will allow sorting by price or alphabetically. Next is the 'newly added shows'. Presented in the same format as the most popular shows. This hierarchy was primarily focused on addressing the trends we observed during tests performed earlier. The wireframes were based on 12 vertical grid patterns which allowed the pages to wrap to device viewport size. The wireframes were then presented to all stakeholders in a presentation to ensure we were all in agreement, there were some queries which we addressed and eventually received approval for Interactive prototypes and further testing with real users. The high fidelity prototypes were created and during the tests we had to make a few changes following user feedbacks. Some test subjects found it confusing that the visual design for the date selection calendar used grey and black colours. we made adjustments by using blue red and orange instead. with red indicating the selected month. I added a legend on the top to indicate that orange fields represented discounted shows. The seat selection also had to be revisited as combining the graphics layout of seats and the selection section was deemed confusing for some, this was separated into two tabs. Further-more, upon passing final tests, I provided support for development and liaised with stakeholders to keep everyone in sync until deployment to production was completed.

The business hired an SEO specialist to push the web marketing and over the following month the website gradually experienced increasing amount of hits and conversions daily (especially around weekends). Today 'Best Of Theatre' is a successful brand name providing Londoners' a quick and user friendly theatre ticket shopping experience. 


This project showed me additional reasons why It is better to involve the developers from the early stages (when research deliverables are being reviewed). Though they are often reluctant to join so early and are usually busy on other projects. At least there should be a representative to provide insight on feasibility and technical knowhow. The benefit is noticeable when the project reaches development phase. Because the developers have been involved from the start, they know how the solution was formulated and things can go a lot smoother until deployment completes,