The Fringe Theatre team approached us because they’d struggled with the previous versions of their website that didn’t meet their business goals or the needs of ticket buyers.

They needed help managing API integrations with a complicated ticketing platform and a content strategy to assist in bringing in new attendees to the Festival as well as shows throughout the year.

About Fringe Theatre

Fringe Theatre has been delighting audiences with the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, which happens to be the largest Fringe Festival in North America since 1982. There is magic in storytelling and “fringing” is always an adventure! In addition to the yearly festival, Fringe provides year round entertainment to patrons, support to artists, and community engagement opportunities to school groups.

Client Goals

  • Sell more tickets online
  • Introduce more people to “fringing” (more first-time ticket buyers)
  • Be able to easily update the website themselves
  • Integrate the website properly with their chosen ticketing program
  • Fix issues caused by a previous agency’s incorrect migration procedure

Needs Analysis

  • Website design, development, and migration
  • Content planning and editing
  • Social Media and AdWords training
  • Data and Analytics plan and training

Website Design & Development

The Fringe team had a good sense of what existing pages needed to be carried over to the new website. We also reviewed analytics and asked Fringe patrons (and people who had never been to the Fringe before) what they thought was missing to determine what new content needed to be developed.

There are two versions of the Fringe Theatre website: a Festival version (that only runs during the Festival) and an “evergreen” version for the rest of the year. The Festival version focuses on — you guessed it — tickets to shows at the Festival and information about the event. The other version that is live the other 247 days of the year still discusses the Festival, but prominently showcases the current season of shows and event space rentals. (Jump to the Evergreen vs Festival Content section of our Fringe Theatre Redesign blog post to learn how the two versions are configured.)

Ease-of-use was imperative! Fringe Theatre often relies on volunteers so we made sure that the administration area of the website was easy to use and provided:

  • Lots of on-page explanations for different fields
  • Content blocks that can be easily added and reordered on-page to control page layout
  • Custom templates for pages with extra functionality (like forms or accordions)
  • A searchable, living document user manual written to address the most common workflows first

Hurry Up or Get Left Behind

Google favours faster, lighter websites (and so do real human people). Fringe sees a traffic spike of over 4,000% during the Festival, so it was very important to keep performance top of mind during both design and development. The site is as lightweight as possible to accommodate the traffic spike and that started with making sure we weren’t designing bells and whistles that could potentially compromise speed. We took measures to load fonts as fast as possible, and extensive image compression was incorporated to reduce file sizes across the site.

We love talking about speed, so if you’re ready for a deep dive into how we tested for performance during (and after) development, read all about it here.

Make Finding Shows Easier and Increase Ticket Sales

We didn’t have a lot of control over the actual ticket buying experience, because it takes place off-site using a third-party platform. Finding information about a show on the ticket site was frustrating (and not very nice to look at), so we built a plugin to bring the show schedule and information pieces onto the actual Fringe website from the provider’s SOAP API.

There are over two hundred shows at each Fringe Festival! That’s a lot of shows to pick through to find the ones you want to see. To make things easier, we built a show-specific search and a ‘drawer’ that slides up and gives buyers one touch filters that they can apply to the shows. If you’re interested in learning more about how the filter works on both desktop and mobile, read on right here.

Sometimes random is best! The Fringe Theatre team is all about adventure and excitement — they always embrace the magic behind never knowing exactly what a trip to the Fringe Festival will be like. People like to have new experiences at the Festival, and what better way than clicking a button and having a random show chosen for you to go see?!

We built a shortcode that would use AJAX to retrieve the show data, find a random show, then return the name of the show and a link to the ticket site to buy your random tickets. The code ensured there would be a future performance for the show that was randomly selected so no one could get a recommendation for a show that had already finished its run!

The randomizer was used 22,014 times during the festival and led to over $28,000 in additional ticket sales.

Results

2017 was a record breaking year for the Fringe Festival! An increase of 8,000 tickets sold from the previous year meant that there were 400 sold out performances and Fringe artists earned more than $1.15 million from ticket sales.

During the planning process for the redesign, our team pushed for a new page about box office information (and information about the Festival grounds in general) — this was an important piece of content to develop in order to attract new attendees. This new page saw 28,989 views and resulted in many sales to first-time ticket buyers.

Limitations

Room for Improvement

Co-ordinating with the third party ticketing vendor was a challenge, but our team and the talented Fringe team worked hard to have open communication in that regard to ensure the needs of actual ticket buyers were met.

Unfortunately, the complicated ticket buying process that neither us or Fringe Theatre were able to control resulted in a significant loss of potential revenue. Only 67% of people who put tickets in their basket on the vendor’s ticketing platform proceeded to the checkout page. Then, only 84% of people who made it to the ticket page actually bought tickets. That means that only 57% of people who intended to buy tickets online were able to do so successfully.

Note: Compared to industry averages, this is actually still a strong conversion rate — people who love fringing are committed to wading through frustrating processes to get their tickets!

Reflections

We don’t build websites and then forget them — we review analytics and results, and make continual recommendations for improvements. The focus between Festivals is on developing additional content to meet the needs of Fringe Theatre’s growing audience, migrating to a hosting solution that can handle the huge traffic spike during the Festival, and on improving the ticket buying process.