The National Art Centre is Canada’s national performing arts organization. They have hundreds of productions every season. Their marketing revolves around promoting their own events, fund-raising and promotion for their charitable efforts, and provide an attractive advertising platform for the companies that rent their stages. From largest to smallest, The main productions series are the NAC Orchestra, NAC Dance, NAC English Theatre, and NAC French Theatre programs. While the demographics of each program vary, most of the NAC’s patrons are over 35, and a great many are seniors. While the NAC sells individual tickets, they prefer to sell subscriptions of four or more shows, with a typical price range of one hundred to five hundred dollars per person. Its typical mobile site user is mostly likely to be a busy professional in their late thirties to fifties. They will likely visit the mobile site looking for show dates, phone number, or address.
The NACs website, despite a recent redesign, is challenging to navigate at the best of times. It is, however, fully responsive. In fact, the mobile version of the NAC’s website is so much easier to navigate than the regular I will shrink down my browser window on the laptop to navigate the site. The homepage has a banner link recent a performing arts related article produced by the NAC. It also lists the next five upcoming shows in a side-swipe bar, and links to key areas of the site. Discipline specific pages (Orchestra, Dance, etc) have further content including news, articles, videos, and podcasts. The NAC relies on Ticketmaster for sales, and the layout lends itself well to individual ticket sales, but not the purchase of subscription packages. This makes it easy for someone to check what’s on at the NAC in the next day or two, and buy tickets. Subscribers can also exchange tickets by voiding the tickets, photographing them, and emailing them to the NAC. This is an alternative to faxing in the voided tickets or bringing them in to the NAC in person.
The homepage lacks critical information about upcoming shows. As previously mentioned, the typical visitor is likely looking for whats on in the next couple days, box office hours hours, address, phone number, or parking information. Only the first is on the homepage. The NAC seems consistently unable to understand that people going to their website want to find their phone number. It takes at least a click to find their phone number and address, usually more. One can find the full contact information on the Contact Us page, but its hidden underneath an email form and FAQ index. This applies to all versions of the website. Luckily, the NAC has a very prominent location, so address is slightly less of a concern, but the missing phone number is a true oversight in the site design. You can get to the Ticketmaster page to buy tickets for an upcoming individual show in two clicks. The “convenience” of making a ticket exchange through photographing and emailing voided tickets is also not that great a convenience when one considers all the information one needs to include in the email, that one now needs to know in advance what show they would like to exchange for, and the discontinuation of credit vouchers. These last two factors are recent changes that are a terrible blow to costumer service for the National Art Centre.
The NAC needs to keep an eye of the ROI of its mobile strategy, since one of their key demographics, those over sixty, do not make heavy use of the mobile Internet and are traditionally not great problem solvers when a website is hard to navigate. The website’s reliance on side-swipe scroll might also provide difficulties. The NAC also makes it very easy to pick up tickets to shows at the last minute, despite their preference to have people subscribe to multi-show series months in advance. It has no notification system for upcoming shows, other than its monthly newsletter, which is not very mobile friendly. It would be very easy to set up a reminder system for subscribers, either through text or email, but no such services exist. For busy business professionals, such reminders would be critical customer service that is simply not there. The convenience given by their current mobile strategy for those buying night-of actually discourages people from subscribing in advance.
Mashable is a respected and trusted site for news and articles about develops in digital fields, targeting the “Connected Generation.” It prides itself on being an influential and engaged online community. They needs their readers to return frequently for new content, and want to promote comments and discussion on their articles.
Mashable has an excellent responsive website, and an app. With frequently updating content, Mashable gives multiple viable options for checking Mashable on the bus, watching TV, or whenever else one finds spare moments. The content is engaging, but a bit longer than what I usually like for a mobile read. Luckily, the app does keep one’s place in articles, and allows one to read content offline so long as the app isn’t completely exited. Share buttons are prominently placed, and one can easily search tags or switch between sections. The page is always perfectly legible.
While the strategy is well designed and effective, its execution is imperfect. Mashable likely assumes a their readers have robust smartphones, which is not unreasonable given its target demographic. My phone is a one year old, lower-mid range phone (the Moto G), and Mashable is pretty much the only site it ever struggles on when the articles are media intensive. The app also has many bugs when I try to use it. Ads do not display on the app. I don’t mind, but I imagine Mashable’s advertisers would. The app also only loads new content when it is completely exited and opened again. Lastly, I can only scroll down a few comments before being snapped back to the top of the conversation. It’s likely that these glitches in the app are not universal, but if I can’t read more than three comments on the phone, then its likely the app has glitches with other phones as well.
Mashable caters to exactly the demographic that is most likely to be using the mobile web and mobile devices. It is the demographic that is most likely to notice bugs, flaws, and hold Mashable to high standards. This is especially so since Mashable tries to position itself as a leading community and authority on such topics. Little flaws, even ones normally forgivable ones like the bugs in the app, have an amplified effect of undermining their authority.
Kickstarter is the best known and most popular crowdfunding website. Last year Kickstarter put more money in the hands of artists than the USA’s National Endowment for the Arts. Its typical users are smartphone adept and mobile Internet capable. They key actions that Kickstarter wants is for people to pledge to projects hosted on their site, to share and promote projects, and to browse and discover new projects. A well designed and run Kickstarter campaign can generate considerable publicity. Many users with disposable income browse Kickstarter like a bazaar looking for projects to support or some clever bit of merchandise.
Kickstarter’s website is not responsive, but they do have a solid mobile site. They have all the staples, a featured Project of the Day, side-swipe bar of popular projects, and links to get areas of the site. The only oddity seems to be a absence of a search bar on the landing page. Its a click away under the “Discover” button. The project pages are neatly laid out, with the video player working perfectly, and all the reward tiers are laid out for easy browsing. There is an easy button for backing the project or to sign up for reminders about the project. The pledged total, goal, number of backers, and time left are prominently displayed, as well as buttons to tweet, email, and share on Facebook. All of these are important for generating excitement and group enthusiasm.
Kickstarter also has an official app for the IOS, which seems quite similar to the mobile site in layout and functionality, the only notable difference in landing the user on a Staff’s Picks page of projects instead of a more generic home page.
When visiting the mobile site on my phone to check a minor detail for this project, I found that I had clicked to view a project and was seriously considering backing it. I still am considering backing it. The mobile site makes browsing projects very easy. If I had disposable income, I could easily see myself idly browsing Kickstarter on the couch while watching TV, or sitting on the bus, and I am not one who normally cares for shopping or browsing merchandise. In the past I have backed projects that barely succeeded in achieving their funding, and checked them a couple of times a day. The mobile site makes tracking and checking up on projects easy. It certainly promotes the desired action of browsing and discovering projects. Even if one prefers to pledge on a laptop or desktop, the Reminder and Share features make it easy to earmark discovered projects for backing later.
While the app doesn’t add many new features, if any, it does play off the personal feel that one would want from a site they have an account with. Also, IOS users tend to like to collect apps, and are more likely to make purchases through apps than through the Internet. Overall, it seems worth while for the specific demographics and personality of IOS users, and it seems responsible to not have support for Android or Windows devices yet.
The biggest risk that Kickstarter faces through this strategy is to remain accessible across all devices. Since the mobile site is not responsive, it may not work as well on some devices, and needs updates and investment as new devices are released. The app, which only works for IOS, does not mitigate this at all. So, perhaps, with their current strategy, they are not being as effective as they could be with website development and maintenance costs.