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This week, we’ve been singing the praises of Colston Hall’s new website (it’s a concert hall in Bristol, England).

We’re not going to gush any more, but we thought our readership might be interested to hear from agency and client, as to the process of redesign. What were the hopes, fears, successes, failures? How did the tender process go down? What happens next?

Attempting to answer some of these questions, I’ve been talking to Carly Heath, Marketing and Press Officer at Colston Hall, and Graeme Swinton, Creative Director at Palace.

The client view

What were your objectives?

1. A website that reflects the vibrancy of the organisation

We knew that we could completely re-write the rule book as to what we could do with the website. 

Our front end objectives were easy, we wanted to reflect the wide and varied factions of our business, and accurately represent the vibrancy of the building. 

The website needed to breathe and feel as alive as the venue itself. We have such a wide variety of shows that it was really important for us to ensure that they all received an equal footing. 

We also needed the website to work harder for our education programs and weddings and conferences – it was a lot to fit into one brief! 

Finally, we have a very long history, and we wanted to incorporate this into our new website – there are not many venues that can boast 146+ years of service! The archive functions (and the soon to launch Timeline) does exactly this.

2. A box office that doesn’t look boring

It had been decided that we were switching to a new box office system, so we needed the new website to effectively integrate with PatronBase, but without looking too boring.

3. Across devices and social platforms

Finally, the site needed to be futureproof, it needed to be accessible and navigable across all devices, and with social at the heart of the site.

We are in the business of providing good times for people, and we wanted to capture this to display and encourage people to join the conversation. 

4. A usable back-end

Our old CMS had been built for us many years ago, and was slow and clunky, so our main objective on the back end of things was something that staff would find easy to use, that could be easily updated when new technologies came along, and was flexible enough for us to be able to change elements of the website ourselves without having to go back to our designers. 

Tell us about the process of selecting a web designer

We went through a tender process, putting it out on the Arts Council website and Bristol Media amongst other places.  I did a lot of research before entering into this process and sent out the tender invitation to a few companies personally, Palace being one of them. 

Palace came back with a plan that answered every element in the brief, but also invented a few new ones. They totally understood the need for our customers to want to interact with the artists and the venue, and their expertise in music websites was a refreshing perspective from a standard arts venue listing site.

 

Getting the content ready 

Although it was a lot of work getting the content ready to build the site, it was actually quite an easy process – no less because of the calming and considered approach from Palace.

Whenever we were presented with the designs or next phase of the build it would kick up loads of ideas about what we could do, or how we could push it a little bit further. We were very lucky in that Palace shared our vision and did everything they could to help realise it.

Social and upkeep

Surprisingly, it doesn’t actually take that much time investment to keep the social going as a lot of the work is automated. We have to be careful that people are not abusing the system, but checking through the social feeds doesn’t take long and we are really impressed with the systems that Palace have created for us. 

Our social stats have totally peaked since the web launch and its certainly making us think a lot harder about how we can interact with our audiences and attract new people to the venue.

Planning for archive and interaction

There are still a lot of features to come from the website, our timeline will be a great information source as we have a very large archive (which we now need to digitise so we can display it to the public). 

With the social capabilities our audiences are able to go back in time and talk about historical events and add pictures and anecdotes to these events, its going to be a slow process to get it all online, but we are looking forward to seeing how the public interact with the data in this way.

We hope that they realise the full potential of this site, and we are looking forward to hearing people’s memories of coming to the Colston Hall – and also planning to make future memories with upcoming events. 

Overall, we’re very proud of our new website, and are looking forward to flexing its muscles and unleashing its full potential. 

Agency view: Graeme Swinton of Palace

What are the challenges for the arts sector?

A lot of our work is for the arts and music sectors and there is a fine balance between artistry and commerce especially with regard to the music industry.

We're always keen to make sure that with our work all stakeholders (artist, client and audience) feel included and are rewarded.

How is your client base evolving?

We have spent a lot of time investigating and developing how 'social' can enhance online experiences. We are firm believers in inclusivity and the importance of engaging with the actual people who use a site.

Our clients have this sort of mindset also, such as the recent Twitter campaign for Kylie Minogue or Colston Hall and the social chatter which is encouraged around individual shows. 

What are you asked for by clients?

All sorts! It's not what we get asked for that ever causes us problems it's the time-frames. I won't name names but we had a request from a large US recording artist to deliver a promo site by the end of that day.

What is your philosophy?

We focus on detail and we deliver work that is a cut above the rest. We combine this with a sensible and usable approach to the needs of the audience.

Let us know if you've recently redeisgned your website...

Ben Davis

Published 25 September, 2013 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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