A good web site is your best show

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.

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The show before (and after) the show is also excellent | Playwrights Horizons is a digital superstar

If you’ve been to a show at New York’s legendary new play super highway Playwrights Horizons, then you probably know just how important this place is to the American theatre.

Over and over and over again (and then again just because they can), PH delivers the goods that global theatregoers hunger after. Like right now – you’d be insane to miss the NYC premiere of the latest anti-complacency grenade from Brooklynite Bruce Norris, #TheQualms.

How do the folks at PH do it? Well, we’d tell you – but then we’d have to kill you. And killing people is wrong. PLUS – trade secrets like that are closely guarded. Suffice it to say, they just do it. And you better get down to PH ASAP if it’s been a while. Because you may have forgotten how good a night in the theatre can be. It is life itself.

But just as important as the quality of what you’ll see on stage at PH is the beauty, finesse, and yes drama of their digital presence – the show before the show. And after. When it comes to digital engagement with the audience, the quality of which is what determines whether an actual physical audience will show up to the show, the lil’ old theatre that could down on W. 42nd is an extraordinary, visionary leader. Which is just what you’d expect based on the shows they put on.

Prepare for the extraordinary - both on stage and in the digital realms.  A touch of the artist is everywhere at Playwrights Horizons.
Prepare for the extraordinary – both on stage and in the digital realms. A touch of the artist is everywhere at Playwrights Horizons.

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2012 – The best web sites of Portland theatre

Just in time for 2013: the best Portland theatre web sites of 2012.

How important is a good web site to your (theatre) brand?

Techno enthusiasts may overstate the impact of a www presence (strong or weak).

But in our increasingly visual world of beautiful content served up and consumed on glittering devices and magical panels, it’s likely that when someone comes calling to your URL for the first (or second or…) time, they quickly form an impression.

Is your web site unique? Is it effective? Is it compelling? Does it communicate an artistic vision? Is it -er- dramatic? Does it draw the audience in? Is it – like the shows it lists – unforgettably stunning?

It should be or do all of those things…and more.

We give out awards for achievement on stage, but bringing in an audience (of which the web presence is one part) is every bit as difficult and requires just as much art as putting on a good show.

So here’s a look (in alphabetical order – except for the first one) at 15 Portland theatre (related) web sites circa 2012 that are giving outstanding performances, setting the bar high, and making the most of Al Gore’s visual medium (the intar-web-nets).

Click on any image to go to the site.

Worth viewing on a big screen if you can…

It doesn't get much simpler - or better - than tEEth.
tEEth. It doesn’t get much simpler – or better – than this.

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Excellence in information design meets arts event listings at the New York Times

The New York Times has an entire department devoted to information design and data visualization. So it’s no surprise to find new examples of excellent design work almost daily on their web site.

Whether it’s election results, sales, Olympic times, carbon emissions, or [you name it] – the Times knows how to turn data into insight. And their creations are often works of art as well as analysis. See this overview of their 2012 output if you need some inspiration.

Event listings – and theatre shows in particular – is a personal information design interest of mine. All too often, simply answering the audience member’s simple question “What’s on?” proves much too hard. Either the interface is unbeautiful, or too technical, or larded to the gills with muffler sale offers, discount tanning coupons, etc.

Usually what’s missing is not the data, it’s “the last millimeter”: a simple and attractive user interface on your screen that gives life to the data. That is what makes all the difference.

Clunky web sites that repel rather than attract potential audience members have real world impacts. When it’s harder than it should be to see what’s on, fewer people turn out. These sites also look bad – inadvertently implying the shows advertised are similarly ill-conceived.

It doesn’t have to be this way. And leave it to the NYT to come up with yet another brilliantly simple yet comprehensive way to navigate the full theatre listings of a big international city – and thus remind us how easy this nut should be to crack.

Take a spin on their beautiful interface and see what you think.

The good…

It should be this easy to see what's on.
It should be this easy to see what’s on.

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