Arts Groups Know Their Online User Experience Is Lacking, But Now What?

Capacity Interactive (CI) recently published their 2016 Arts Industry Digital Marketing Benchmark Study, an increasingly invaluable resource for a broad array of arts organizations. It provides a comprehensive survey of digital marketing and perhaps unsurprisingly, one of their key discoveries in a large portion of arts orgs know they are underinvesting in their online presence but aren’t seemingly doing much about it.

Arts organizations are underinvesting in websites, particularly mobile experiences.

  • 63% of organizations indicated they did not have enough budget to adequately maintain their websites.
  • 39% of organizations reported not having a mobile-friendly ticketing path, 37% reported not having a mobile “select-your-own-seat” module, and 61% reported not having a mobile-friendly subscription path.

I’m still digging through the report but what caught my eye in that excerpt is how arts groups perceive their primary website and ticket buying websites as one in the same.

Adaptistration People 131questionFrom a perspective under my web developer’s hat, this is intriguing in that most arts organizations use ticketing providers that process web sales via a site hosted by the provider as opposed to integrating everything into the organization’s primary website.

Here’s how it works:

  • Patron visits
  • Patron selects a ticket purchase button/link.
  • Patron is delivered to the ticketing provider’s website to complete the transaction via a subdomain URL, such as

The latter usually attempts to skin the site to look like the orts org primary site, but there are usually tell-tale differences.

By and large, user experiences at ticketing websites are progressing much slower than primary website platforms so these differences become more and more pronounced each year.

We’ve examined this issue on several occasions but what’s important to keep in mind as applied to the CI report is arts groups tend to lump both of those mutually exclusive platforms into a single “website” outlook.

I’m anxious to see if CI’s report drills down into the primary website vs. ticketing website and if nothing else, this is one more reason why the field needs an annual technology summit to sort through these issues and begin to clarify critical distinctions.

We’ll revisit this soon once I’ve been through the report.

In the meantime, have you read it? If so, what are your thoughts and observations?

Download CI’s 2016 Arts Industry Digital Marketing Benchmark Study

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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