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Last week I reviewed Arsenal’s new website, and in general I thought the club had done a good job of creating a simplified and user-friendly browsing experience.

However I didn’t look at the ticketing system as part of the review, and it’s since been pointed out to me that several Premier League clubs offer a below par user experience for fans trying to buy tickets.

This sparked nostalgic memories of spending ages trying to buy tickets for Spurs games back in the days of dial-up internet.

I assumed the user experience would have improved by now, but has it?

Arsenal

Last week Arsenal unveiled a stripped down new website, that was a vast improvement on the cluttered old version.

Admittedly as this article was in the works I didn’t actually navigate to the ticket buying part of the site at the time, but if I had my review wouldn’t have been quite as glowing.

The reason being that if you try to buy match tickets, the new site is revealed to be a glossy façade masking the dreadful old version. Click the ‘Buy now’ button and you’ll be sent back in time to the old site.

Then if you can find a game for which tickets are available, you are initially greeted with this screen.

The interactive stadium is okay if you get in early, but by this stage a number of these section only have a handful of seats available, and certainly no rows of two or three seats together.

So with that option rendered all but useless, you can switch to the ‘Best available’ option.

This allows you to pick a number of seats and the price band you want to choose, but it doesn’t appear to filter out areas that are sold out. So you have to keep selecting different areas until one of them actually has enough tickets to fulfil your request.

Once you’ve found some available seats, the shopping basket isn’t that bad though the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ call-to-action is a bit dull. 

Unfortunately you are then forced to register an account, which even requires you to enter your age and gender.

Thankfully there are only two pages in the payment process, which is a good way of avoiding basket abandonment. However on the second page you are told there is a booking fee of £6.30 and postage costs £2.20.

This is a dreadful user experience, as a survey conducted by Econsultancy and TolunaQuick found that 74% of shoppers would abandon a purchase due to high delivery charges, while 54% would drop out if they experienced any technical problems.

But then football teams are probably largely immune to the normal rules of ecommerce.

Newcastle

As mentioned, registration is one of the main causes of basket abandonment, but Newcastle lays its cards on the table right at the start by forcing you to create an account before you can even start looking for tickets.

Again, this requires a huge amount of personal information including your date of birth, gender and two telephone numbers.

After registration, you’re sent back to the original screen to pick your tickets again. This is quite annoying from the user’s perspective, but nothing can prepare you for the next slice of web design hell...

It's awful to look at and there are no instructions, so it was essentially trial and error to see if I could work out how to get seats.

To find tickets, you need to click on a section of the stadium, then scan around to try and find two seats together – which means you might search every available section and find nothing

And you can’t even see the prices for all the adult tickets as the text all blurs into one.

It’s a dreadful user experience and is in dire need of an update – just look at those calls-to-action.

On the plus side, the shopping basket is more user-friendly with big, blue CTAs, and the booking fee is displayed upfront. Also the checkout process is just two screens and requires limited form filling, though that’s thanks to the fact that you've already been forced to register an account.

Manchester City

Manchester City has one of the best websites in the league, so I was quite hopeful that buying tickets would be a pleasant experience.

Not so – as with Newcastle, City require everyone to register upfront and the forms aren’t exactly short. However, it does offer a postcode lookup tool, brightly coloured CTAs and a status bar.

Finding a ticket is a variation on the same awful theme as before – you are given a stadium view and forced to click round each one trying to find available seats that are actually next to each other.

Thankfully the checkout is short and only requires you to enter credit card details – but again this is because you are forced to register upfront.

Tottenham

Though you aren’t forced to register before searching for tickets, Tottenham’s site suffers from the same issues as all the others in that you have to search round the entire stadium to find seats next to each other.

Another bizarre feature is that you can search using three different views – Overview, Closest to Seat, and Interactive Seating Map – each of which appears to show a different number of available seats.

Manchester United

Want tickets from United? You don’t have to register upfront, but it’s the same stadium view as all the others.

In conclusion...

Though this is only a handful of examples, I’m confident that the rest of the league is likely to follow suit. The user experience on all the sites was terrible, with Newcastle standing out as a particularly hideous example in my opinion.

But in reality, moaning about the poor user experience offered up by Premier League teams is pointless, as they have no incentive to change.

Football tickets are a unique product that you can’t buy anywhere else (except possibly from touts), so fans will probably have to put up with the shoddy UX for the foreseeable future.

The proof of that is borne out by the fact that when Arsenal revamped its site it left the old ticketing system in place.

There are alternatives to the current system – such as allowing people to just choose how many tickets they want and the price band or section of the stadium.

This is the system employed by the likes of Seetickets and Ticketmaster, and while it’s not perfect it saves users from fruitlessly searching an entire stadium for a pair of seats next to each other.

But as mentioned, there’s currently no incentive to change, so why would they bother?

David Moth

Published 11 February, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1676 more posts from this author

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Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

Bit pointless doing it for a load of teams that sell out every game. What's the point in them investing in UX when it won't make them a single extra £ ?

over 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Ben, all these teams had tickets available on general sale for their next home games when I looked on Friday, so they clearly don't sell out every game.

I agree that the additional investment won't make them more money, but go and look at Newcastle's site - at some point the club will have to realise that it's not good enough to force fans to use that system to find tickets.

over 3 years ago

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Ben Goodwin, Email marketing manager at Personal

Arsenal, Man City and Newcastle were away from home so still had over a week to sell the few remaining.

Spurs vs Newcastle was a sell-out

Man Utd vs Everton was 200 tickets short of a sell-out (probably segregation).

Both those matches were on TV so I'd suggest they pretty much always sell out or thereabouts.

I'm sure the usability could be improved but I'm just not sure there's any point doing it proactively. Whilst people are desperate to get tickets (at up to £100 a pop for some of the clubs mentioned) there's just no gain to be had.

over 3 years ago

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Jamie Crisp, User Experience Consultant at Co-operative Banking Group

It's just another example of how football clubs take advantage of their fans. They are not viewed as "customers", as no fan is going to go elsewhere if they do not like the product on offer. We'll put up with poor displays while standing on a cold night in the rain with only an expensive cup of instant tea to keep us warm so we'll put up with a frustrating and poor UX!

It's the same with the prices for merchandise and food in the stadium. It's £2.50 (ish) for a pint in a pub outside the stadium, but £3.70 for one inside. There's also a reasonable selection in the pub, but only one choice in the ground, which is actually a club sponsor, so you'd think the club would be able to reduce the price a little.

Ticket prices have rissen something like 800% since the advent of the premier league. In no other market would such a huge price rise be tollerated.

But football (and other sports) fans are the most loyal customers in the world so there's no incentive to change. This is the product of a capitalist approach to a market that doesn't suit it. The free market will only be a driving force for improvement if the consumer has a choice and is willing to buy take their business elswhere, that simply isn't the case in football.

over 3 years ago

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Tom

I actually think you're bing quite unfair on Arsenal for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it's rare that anybody buys a ticket on general sale a few days before a game.

When there are plenty of tickets available you can chose the block, the actual seat and check the view from there.

As a member, your card is activated which gets you in so you don't have to worry about postage charges.

However, the experience of buying tickets for Fleetwood mac and Bon jovi have been atrocious. The queue system was broken, the seat selection was non existent and there were huge fees at the end.

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Ben I'm an NUFC fan, and I know that there are around 1,000 to 2,000 tickets available for every home game. With the cheapest ticket at £25, that's still a fair amount of income.

Also, cup and Europa League games aren't covered by season tickets, so these clubs still have plenty of extra income to generate, and better UX would certainly help.

over 3 years ago

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Michael Potts, International Marketing Manager at TescoEnterprise

Can't speak for City home games (I've got a season ticket), but for away games the site is brilliant - takes me 2 minutes (if that) from first click to purchase, and delivery is free. Fantastic.

To be fair to Arsenal, most of their fans have got butlers who order their tickets for them...

over 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Pottsy, glory boy...

over 3 years ago

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Neale Gilhooley

I had a different experience when trying to get 2 tickets for a big interest match. I found that at some clubs I had to register, or even join some 'super reds clubs - at a cost, just so I could then join the waiting list.

Not so at Everton, I registered (minimal info & fuss) saw the available tickets, the price, the view and bought them in minutes.

2 tickets x Everton vs Chelsea on 30/12/12 for £38 each. Not bad! The tickets arrived by post a few days later (even during the Christmas mail rush) and I was delighted at the whole user experience. So welcoming and available compared to a few other clubs in Red.

over 3 years ago

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iain martin, Founder at Skipedia

If you think the Premiership is bad, you should try the Championship... All clubs are required to have the same format website, with terrible UX. I just buy tix from the club shop.

over 3 years ago

Gemma Holloway

Gemma Holloway, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

I've found this similar type of poor user experience with gigs and performances alike, where they ask you to chose your seating/standing location before telling you there are no tickets in that area available and then having to go through a lengthy registration process before being able to actually purchase the tickets.

As you mention though David, unfortunately these industries have no need to change as they are one of the only channels to purchases such tickets. Although, admittedly for the type of tickets I am referring to there are third party sites, such as ticketmaster, but often on these types of sites they then refer you to the venue website anyway or do not add their booking fee until the final stage - again leading to basket abandonment and poor user experience.

over 3 years ago

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Joern

Interesting article but a wee bit pointless. If you think the ticketsites in the premier league are bad you should most definitely try to get tickets in the other european leagues. ;)

I'm not from the Uk, but I'm watching football in england frequently and I always marvel at how much better the ticketshops are compared to their european counterparts.

In addition, the clubs are not going to sell a single ticket more to a game just because of user experience. I strongly doubt that. A lot of games are sold out anyway, or almost sold out and the few that are not sold out are more or less because of the opponent, the date or the ticketprice.

Bottom line: as long as it is not Ticketmaster (by far the worst ticketshop in the whole world!) we should be humble. ;)

over 3 years ago

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