I keep an eye on the Web sites of more than a hundred American theater companies. Many of them are well designed, but at least as many are thoroughly exasperating to anyone looking for information about a company and its schedule–especially a journalist with a deadline who doesn’t have time to root around for basic facts.
If you want to keep traveling critics like me happy, make sure that the home page of your Web site contains the following easy-to-locate information:
– The title of your current production, plus its opening and closing dates
– A link to a complete list of the rest of the current and/or upcoming season’s productions
– A “CONTACT US” link that leads directly to an updated directory of staff members (including individual e-mail addresses)
– A link to a page containing (1) directions to your theater and (2) a printable map
– Your address and main telephone number (not the box office!)
An elegantly designed home page that conveys a maximum of information with a minimum of clutter tells me that you know what you’re doing, thus increasing the likelihood that I’ll come see you. An unprofessional-looking, illogically organized home page suggests the opposite. This doesn’t mean I won’t consider reviewing you–I know appearances can be deceiving–but bad design is a needless obstacle to your being taken seriously by other online visitors.
Two examples of good design:
Seven examples of bad design:
– This is an informative but cluttered home page.
– This is an uncluttered but insufficiently informative home page.
– This is an informative but amateurish-looking home page.
– This home page gets just about everything wrong–and it also contains a hugely irritating sound bite that plays each time you go there.
– This is a textbook example of unattractive, eye-resistant design.
– So is this.
– This superficially attractive site is so poorly organized that it’s hard to use.
(You don’t have to spend a fortune on an effective Web site, by the way. Remy Bumppo‘s bare-bones home page gets the job done.)