Before your audience can experience the show, they need to know about it.  And one way they find out about your company is the show before the show, i.e., every digital channel and physical touchpoint you have.  Among these, your web site reigns supreme.

Not everyone is skilled at acting, directing, or set design.  That’s why when you need good acting, directing or set design, you seek out those with experience.  Similarly, if you need plumbing, wiring or construction, you call a pro.  You don’t do it yourself.

Yet when it comes to web design, all too often theatre companies still decide to wing it and DIY.  The belief seems to be that it doesn’t matter all that much how good the web site is.

While that may be true with the current crop of aging theatre goers who still live outside the digital world, the next wave of audience members are very plugged in.  In the arts as in commerce, the faster someone can convert an idea (“I wonder what’s on right now?”) into actionable steps, the better the outcome.  Web sites are proxies for the brand.  And whether it’s fair or not, newly arrived viewers make a lot of instant assessments of the product on offer based on the web site.

Here’s a quick example of two theatre web sites on opposite ends of the usability spectrum.  It’s worth asking where yours falls.

The Good

As a maker of unforgettable live experience, you would expect Portland’s Liminal to have an equally intriguing digital presence.  And they do.  Whether on web or mobile, Liminal tells you clearly and simply what’s up.  But towering over the minutiae of details is the BRAND.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.32.15 AM
Web version. Beautiful! Mysterious! Dramatic!
On mobile. The essence of the experience comes through loud and clear.

The Not So Good

On the other end of the shelf is Imago, one of Portland’s oldest and most respected theatres.  Problem is, if you’re new and all you have to go by is the web site, it’s not a good experience.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.32.31 AM
Web version. The site is not responsive, so most space is not used. What little content there is looks massively dated.
The mobile experience is even worse. Pinch and swipe your way around the narrow view portal. Chances are, you’re going to bail soon.

And so now this

Ask how your web site channels the essence of your brand experience.  If you’re looking to grow an audience, a good show is important.

But the show before the show is crucial.