The Roundabout Theatre Group produces several Broadway and Off-Broadway shows every year. Though Roundabout also present events like education programs and workshops, rent their venues and accept donations, purchasing ticket and looking up show information are patrons’ most urgent need, and yet their website is not user-friendly in terms of these services.
Problem 1: a very confusing homepage
As shown in the screen shot above, the first thing you see on the site is a slide show. However, it is difficult to figure out what to do next. It seems that the first slide present capitalized title of shows, which are expected to be links to show’s pages, while it is actually a picture that brings you to the subscriber page (see below). And you have to scroll down to find current shows.
One of the homepage slides
Beneath the slide there is a bar that summarizes all slides, including show titles and non-show content. Non-show buttons are put right next to show buttons and are in the same format, and everything seems to be mixed together. The real navigation bar on top is well hidden by dark background of the image (see above). There is another list of links to shows page on the bottom of the page (see below). How can you tell what this slide show is really for?
Analysis and suggestions
The Roundabout Theatre Group homepage violates Norman’s rule of affordance and constrain. The first slide provides wrong clue and there are two many place to click on. There are also no clear suggestions that distinguish links to show’s page from other content. Clearly it tried to present everything at once, but users may get lost easily with all the links that direct to various content.
In order to fix this problem, I would substitute the entire slide show with “the 2015-2016 season” list on their “SHOWS & EVENTS” page (see below), which listed upcoming shows in a consistent format with smaller pictures. I would also separate the rest of content from the show lisi by putting them at the bottom, and emphasize the navigation bar with brighter shading or wider spacing.
Problem 2: they are preventing me from purchasing tickets…
Aside from the messy slides on home page, there is no button labeled “TICKET”. And when you finally reached a show’s page, there you may still fail to know how to buy ticket, until you found a tiny notice that says the show is not on sale yet (see above).
On another show’s page, there finally is a “Buy Ticket” button, but when you click on it, and then click the calendar and then click on show time, you are told that the show has been sold out while it also says “best availability.” It would take you a while to find another tiny notice that says that the shows is not on sale as well (see below)…
Analysis and suggestions
This ticket-purchasing mechanism shows bad mapping, poor visibility, wrong feedback and no logical constraints. Most shows’ websites or performing arts organization websites normally have a big bright button labeled “Ticket” on the top of their homepage in the navigation bar, or on individual show’s page. That would be what people expect to see on this website. But such button is not visible and there is no clue where to find it.
Since the show is not on sale yet, the “Buy Ticket” button should not be active at all in order to stop people from trying to purchase ticket. Whereas show schedule is still necessary, and the calendar should be visible right in the middle on the show’s page, with correct “not-on-sale” feedback when clicking on dates.
Nevertheless, a better solution is to put the “not-on-sale” notice where the “Buy ticket” button used to be. Since most people don’t read everything on the website line-by-line but scan and look for important message, the “not-on-sale” notice should be much bigger than other content or marked with a bright shading.