Why is a Cloud Based Box Office Better?

Thinking about a cloud-based box office for your venue, festival or event? Here are our top reasons why a cloud-based box office’s are better.

Inexpensive

Because you can take advantage of economies of scale, there is no expensive outlay for hardware when using a cloud-based box office.

Zero Maintenance

Because you are not having to buy any extra hardware, you are also not responsive for having to maintain this hardware. You can focus on your business alone.

Better Functionality

Because you have great economies of scale with cloud-base box offices and ticketing software, you also get better functionality. For example, Ticketsolve has over 150 customers across the UK and Ireland. We develop functionality across a wide spectrum – allowing any of our customers to take advantage of as they develop and grow their business.

Continuous Upgrades

We’ll use Ticketsolve as an example here. We deliver upgrades constantly and consistently to all customers. How can we do this? Having our system be cloud-based means we can provide upgrades and improvements to our ticketing solution anytime.

Access Anytime

Cloud-based ticketing and box office software means that your system and data is accessible anytime 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You can get to your information from any internet capable device.

Better Security and Compliance

While there has been some discussion about the merits of security over the cloud, it will always be better than what can be achieved in house.

Better Reilability

Again going back to economies of scale, cloud based ticketing software affords you less downtime – if any. This is extremely important when it comes to ticketing and box office sales.

What do you think? Hardware or Cloud?

Is Your Ticketing System User Friendly?

There is a lot of talk about “user friendly” when it comes to ticketing and box office software. But what does user friendly really mean? In this post, we break down what a user friendly ticketing system really means.

User friendly is not necessarily a visually appealing website or interface. While that is certainly an element of user friendly, it is not everything.

User friendly, is really about usability, which is defined by Wiki as “usability” is the “ease of use and learnability of a human made object.” That is, it needs to be easy to use and you have to be able to easily be able to learn how to use it.

There are some other elements that make a ticketing system accessible and intuitive.

  1. Ease of installation.

    When it comes to box office software, the ease of installation is our first stop. In tandem with this is the necessity for new or additional hardware requirements. Look for services that are web-based (cloud-based). These SaaS box office systems will have a lower install footprint and be easier to install, and typically require no additional hardware.

  2. Updating the software.

    Lengthy and infrequent updates can lead to problematic software and downtime for your box office. Look for a service provider that offers continuous, automatic updates. Software updates like this mean they happen automatically (no intervention is required by the user), and they happen frequently cutting down on issues or bugs with the software.

  3. Intuitive.

    This is the one area that impacts box office staff and patrons the most. And it is certainly one that has to be right. Ask for a demo to see the software in action and ensure it really is intuitive and easy to use.

  4. Efficient.

    A big cumbersome, lumbering system is not going to be fast or efficient. A demo will help to understand if a system is efficient and fast.

  5. Support.

    This is another big one. No matter how great your box office software is, occasionally there will be problems. A provider that offers multiple support access points is important. 24/7 support is even better.

  6. Technology standards.

    When considering a user friendly ticketing system, check that the technology adheres to industry standards. An example of a non-adherence would be Microsoft. Rather than adhere to industry standards, they adhere to their own. The result? Problems, problems, and more problems.

  7. Error handling.

    How the ticketing system handles errors adds to its ease of use. Clear, concise is what you are looking for here.

  8. Training.

    Training on any ticketing system is critical to the learnability aspect of the box office software. The training should be easy to follow and cover basic and advanced options. There should be the option for ongoing informal and formal training if required. Importantly, the training should be appropriate for all staff regardless of IT skills.

  9. Feedback.

    While this is not strictly speaking about the user friendliness or usability of a ticketing system, how providers deal with feedback directly impacts it. Look for informal and formal channels that allow box office staff to give feedback. Feedback should be a core of any ticketing company’s usability practice.

Ultimately, if your ticketing software is efficient, makes your work go smoothly, and helps you to make more sales – you are on to a winner. 

Is your ticketing system user friendly or user aggravating?

Thinking of Branding and Designing your Tickets?

Last week, we held a great webinar about using Ticketsolve’s ticket editing feature (you can get a recorded version of the webinar by email talktickets@ticketsolve.com).

Why does designing your print at home or box office tickets matter? Tickets need to give information about the event,  and serve as a receipt of purchase allowing people entry into an event. But giving a little more thought to your ticket design gives you:

1. Branding

Tickets – print at home or box office – are the ideal chance for a branding opportunity. Something as simple as the inclusion of your logo on your print at home tickets can have an impact.

2. Personalisation

Personalisation is an interesting area for ticket design. Perhaps done by segment, this is another way to help build loyalty and the feel good factor from your brand.

3. Promotions

Tickets present a great opportunity to give information about special promotions or offers. For example, including an offer for concessions, etc.

4. Social Media

If you are looking to promote your Facebook or Twitter, tickets are a great place to do this. What about running an Instagram competition or Tweet Seats promotion, and promoting on the ticket itself as well?

And to give you a kickstart and little inspiration, check out these beautiful tickets.

Do you brand and design your tickets? Run promotions and offers on them?

 

See How Responsive Design at Ticketsolve Looks

Over the last number of weeks we have written about the change to responsive design that is coming to Ticketsolve. You can see the previous blogs from the links below:

Web Design Matters

Changing for the better

Where Ticketsolve is Heading

Arne, one of our dedicated Ticketsolvers, has explained what it all means from a technical perspective.

In this post we hope to give you a sense of what all of this change will look like.

To recap:

Why is Responsive Design Important?

  • Responsive design gives a consistent user experience across multiple devices, browsers and platforms.
  • It is future proofed for new devices and platforms
  • Google-friendly

Why is Ticketsolve Changing to Responsive Design?

  • When a customer chooses Ticketsolve for their ticketing system, their entire look and feel can be replicated on our ticketing platform.
  • This has led to massive amount of customisation for customer pages.
  • Currently any changes that we make to our pages have the potential of “breaking” the look and feel of a customers page.
  • This makes it extremely difficult for us to guarantee that for each custom site, each page works well on each common browser and device.
  • We need to keep Ticketsolve progressing for everyone’s benefit – the way to do this is through responsive design.

So What is Ticketsolve Doing Exactly?

  • We have created a new front end (the bit patrons see).
  • We are using responsive design to do this so that we can create a unified customer experience for the regardless of the device they are using, platform or browser.
  • The first change is in the listing pages.
  • We will take feedback from the Ticketsolve community and then begin to make changes in step-by-step fashion across the entire ticketing system (show pages to cart to check out).
  • Importantly, the biggest change is that we will have specific customisation settings, that will be used to give you the look and feel of your brand on Ticketsolve,
  • The backend will let you customise without any technical knowledge.

Drum Roll Please!

 

And to see what it looks like all put together, click onto Wexford Arts Centre’s site, who have it up and running . . .

Wexford Arts Centre

So what do you think? How do you feel about the changes? Let us know!

 

 

 

Responsive Design and Where Ticketsolve is Heading

This post is part of a series on responsive design and describing in-depth the important changes coming to Ticketsolve. The previous post went into how the current system works, and the shortcomings it has. The takeaway there was that the existing approach is preventing us from making important improvements to our systems, especially in the field of “responsive design“, which we’ve talked about two posts back. Responsive design has significant advantages over our current model.

With an understanding of our current approach, and of the problems we are trying to solve, now we want to explain how we intend to solve them.

HOW ARE WE GOING TO IMPLEMENT OUR NEW MORE RESPONSIVE DESIGN?

We have been working for the past six months on a complete rewrite of our “front end” – the site patrons use to browse and buy tickets. This marks a big leap forward for us, applying many best practices for the modern web. This new front-end will also unify our previous desktop and mobile sites, providing a uniform responsive design experience across devices (tablet, mobile, PC etc.).

In the first phase we are only replacing the listing pages. We have designed a new layout that looks crisp and visually appealing. From here, taking a step-by-step approach, we will replace the other parts of the checkout process, from show pages to cart to checkout—all making for a responsive design for our patrons.

With all the main parts in place, the new listing pages can be enabled or disabled on a per-customer basis. We intend to gradually bring customers onto this new scheme, improving the system gradually based on their input as we go along. Making things easier cross-platform is what responsive design is all about, and we want to ensure that the site is as responsive as possible.

The biggest single difference compared to our old system is that we now have specific customisation settings for the look and feel of each account or domain.

As explained in the previous article, in the old system we allowed for the inclusion of a custom “style sheet”, which can be used to influence the placement and appearance of every element or section on the page. This provided our customers with maximum flexibility, but it has brought us to a point where maintaining support for a hundred-odd unique style sheets is hampering any further progress. We have come to the conclusion that what really matters for our customers, is the ability to give the Ticketsolve site the look and feel that people associate with their brand. This branding includes using a specific colour scheme, fonts, background images, etc.

In our new approach, all these different aspects can be configured separately. Text and background colours can be set, and will be used across the new responsive design, as well as fonts for copy and headings, and a background image.

We will continue to add more toggles and dials based on feedback from customers. We want to make sure the site can be customised to people’s liking. These settings will even be accessible in the Ticketsolve back-end system, and can be customised without technical knowledge.

We believe this approach will create the perfect balance between the needs of individual customers, and the needs of the platform as a whole. To that end we will also drop support for custom HTML in the header and footer of pages. While we understand the value of being able to add custom navigation elements, we need to be able to test the system across browsers and devices. This testing allows us to guarantee that it works well, across individual accounts.

One new option is to embed the Ticketsolve pages in an “iframe” on the customer’s own site. An “iframe” is a section of a web page that displays the content of another page, you can think of it as a browser window embedded in a web page. When using this option, the Ticketsolve pages will no longer display a header or footer, so the regular header and footer of the embedding site can be used.

SO WHAT’S CHANGING UNDER THE HOOD?

Under the hood the new site will be powered by a new, fine grained API we are building. An API is a system for programmatically requesting data, for example upcoming shows and events. The new front-end site is only responsible for presenting this information in an appealing way. In the same way customers that choose to do so can build their own user interface on top of our system. This new API is offered as a more modern and flexible alternative to our current XML feeds.

Before the change, the paths to accessing Ticketsolve were:

  • Desktop site including custom styling
  • Mobile site without branding
  • Custom site based on XML feeds

After the change the options available are:

  • Responsive design of the site with fine-grained branding for desktop, tablet and mobile
  • Responsive design of the site embedded in an iframe on the customer’s site
  • Custom site based on the new API, or on the old XML feeds

In the next and final post in this series, the spotlight will be on the new responsive design, how it looks, and how it can be customised to your needs.

Do you have questions about these developments? Would you like to get a preview of how things would look for your domain? Contact our support and we will set up your organisation’s branding and give you a sneak peak!

Ticketsolve is Changing – for the Better!

Last week we introduced you to the idea of responsive design One Site To Rule: Responsive Web. We wanted to give you a flavour as to where we are headed with Ticketsolve and why it matters to you.

This week we want to look more closely at why this change is coming to Ticketsolve.

A big thank you to Arne for writing a smashing post this week! Take it away Arne . . .

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Over the past months we at Ticketsolve have been working hard on a number of improvements to our system, to make sure we can continue to deliver a great and competitive ticketing platform for today’s and tomorrow’s web and mobile world. The centerpiece of these developments is a more modern looking responsive user interface that provides a unified look and feel across devices. We are now at the stage where we can start engaging our customers to help us test this new approach and gather feedback.

This article and the ones following will try to clarify how our system currently works, and explain the pain points that made us realize changes are inevitable. Then we can contrast that with our new approach, showing the benefits it brings to individual patrons, our customers, and the platform as a whole.

Currently there are three different entry paths into Ticketsolve for a patron browsing for tickets on their laptop, tablet or mobile phone. On their computer we show them the standard Ticketsolve web interface, on tablets and phones we redirect them to a specific mobile version of the site. Finally some of our customers choose to develop their own interface, by retrieving information about shows and events from Ticketsolve in the background, and displaying it in a custom fashion.

In each case at some point the patron transitions from the customer’s site on to Ticketsolve. To make that transition as smooth as possible we recreate the customer’s branding on our site. Except for the mobile site, which cannot be rebranded.

When building a platform that is shared by many, there is a tension between improving the platform in a general way, and catering for the needs of the individual. While we pay a lot of attention to each individual customer, for instance through our 24/7 support, in the end keeping in mind the long term health and quality of the platform as a whole is paramount.

The look and feel of the standard Ticketsolve site can be customized a great deal. The appearance and placement of every element of the page, every paragraph, button, picture or link, can be completely redefined through the use of a custom “stylesheet”. On top of that we allow the inclusion of arbitrary elements at the top and bottom of each page. This gives our customers maximum flexibility, but it comes at a cost.

Over the years these customizations have proliferated. This has led to the unfortunate situation that we are no longer able to make changes to our pages without breaking at least one customer’s look and feel. It has also become harder for us to guarantee that for each custom site, each page works well on each common browser and device.

Increasingly we are asked about modernizing our site which, agreed, starts to look dated. – In addition, sites are increasingly taking advantage of modern web features which don’t gel well with our current approach and often match the exact features we are adding here in a platform sustainable way. Furthermore the web has advanced significantly in the last six years, and we’d love to make some technological improvements. But as it stands our hands are tied.

A separate problem with our current approach is that our mobile site can’t be branded. Ideally we would be able to deliver a unified experience across devices, so links can be shared and visited on whichever device is convenient at the moment. The visited page should look familiar on any form factor, but adjust itself to be just as usable be it on a phone or a widescreen monitor. This, no doubt, helps with conversion as well. By delivering a unified experience we can accelerate new feature development and release across all platforms at once.

Stay tuned for our next article, where we will explain how we intend to tackle these issues.

How do you feel about these changes? Do you have any questions? We’d love to hear from you.

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One Site to Rule Them All: Why Responsive Web Design Matters

There are some big things going on at Ticketsolve at the moment around responsive design. Over the coming weeks we will fill you in, and take you step-by-step through why responsive design is so important, what the changes are, and how it will affect you and your patrons (hint: responsive design improves patron purchasing experience across multiple devices).

What is Responsive Design?

In a nutshell, responsive design is about creating websites that are fluid and adaptive. Sites developed with responsive design give a consistent user experience regardless of device, platform or browser.

But we already have a site that is optimized for mobiles!

Let’s take a look at a concrete example. Joan uses her mobile phone to look for tickets, whilst on her lunch break. After work, she pops onto her laptop to do more research. Then in the morning at work, she purchases her tickets from her tablet.

It is crucial that Joan has a consistent user experience no matter what device she uses. A poor user experience will most definitely negatively impact the purchase and likely future purchases.

But Why Responsive Design?
There are four core reasons responsive design is a must for websites today.

1. Consistent user experience across platforms, devices and browsers.
2. Future proofed for new devices and platforms.
3. Google friendly.
4. Easier site management: One Site For Every Screen.

Future Proofing your Site
Consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to research purchases and complete their purchases. Responsive design ensures they can do that.

But it is more then just optimizing for tablets or optimizing for mobile phones. What are future devices, platforms and browsers we will be using? Responsive design let’s us future proof our sites so they are ready for any new devices or platforms that come on stream.

Google Friendly
Google has publicly stated its preference for responsive design, and now weights the user experience when ranking websites. From Google, “It keeps your desktop and mobile content on a single URL which is easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to, and for Google’s algorithms to assign the indexing properties to your content.”
If you rely on Google for web traffic (and who doesn’t these days), responsive design is a must.

Easier Management: One Site for Every Screen
At present, sites are optimized for mobile, tablet, desktop, laptop, etc., separately. Ideally, we would have one design that can automatically adjust given the device, platform etc. Responsive design does just this, and eliminates the need for a different design and development phase for each new gadget on the market.

Content is developed once and delivered across all platforms. This not only increases our marketing opportunities, but also makes it much easier to add on complimentary services – across all touch points.

Importantly, we need to assess all aspects of the site – images and text – and think about how these elements will work on a variety of screens, devices and Internet access points. For example, a beautiful website on a desktop that loads painfully slowly over 3G, will frustrate users and misses the point of responsive design entirely.

Jeffery Veen, author of The Art and Science of Web Design, sums it up well:

“Day by day, the number of devices, platforms, and browsers that need to work with your site grows. Responsive web design represents a fundamental shift in how we’ll build websites for the decade to come.”

We will be detailing more about this change at Ticketsolve and will be in constant communication with you.

What do you think? We would love to hear from you about any questions you have about responsive design.

Mobile App Update: Event Filtering and Offline Scanning

If you are an avid follower of this blog (and we know you are), you will recall that we launched the new Ticketsolve Mobile App before Christmas. Well we have a made a few changes we wanted to let you know about.

Event filtering
If you are running multiple events from your box office, and want event-specific info going to event-specific staff – you can do that! The filtering allows each event to be run separately, meaning event information goes where you want. The data of course is still centrally located – and again can be separated by event.

Offline Scanning
The Ticketsolve mobile app can turn any mobile device (smart phone, tablet etc.) into a scanner. Using Wifi, you can scan tickets at the gate, and have the date upload directly into your Ticketsolve box office. But as we all know, Wifi can go down. Obviously, this would create a serious issue with hand-held scanners. That is why Ticketsolve’s mobile app has an inbuilt contingency – offline scanning. The app will still scan and collect data locally, which can then be uploaded once the Wifi is back working. Sweet.

Need help with the Ticketsolve mobile app? Call us or drop us a line – +353 1 4100647 or info@ticketsolve.com – or even submit a request to the helpdesk – we love chatting about our new baby . . .

Ugly Tickets

Print at home tickets are ubiquitous. And most people would question the notion of trying to redesign box office tickets when home printing is so prevalent.

But there is something about traditional printed box office tickets. In fact, just yesterday Sports Illustrated posted a breaking story on SI Wire about what this year’s Super Bowl tickets will look like. As we have discussed before, tickets are mementos from an experience or memory we want to keep.

That is why I love Matthew Lew. He looked at tickets (specifically Ticketmaster tickets) and said, “this could be done better.”

Lew was inspired to look at ticket design, after reading about redesigning boarding passes.

What is really wonderful about this kind of thinking is that it is user driven. The redesign is about usability – not just because we want a pretty keepsake.

In the case of box office printed tickets, Lew considered the following:

1. Information. There are two users to consider, the front of house staff and the end customer. Both need to be able to validate tickets and get seating information quickly.

2. The flow. Certain information for your tickets is relevant pre-event and certain at the gate. So what date are these tickets for? What time do doors open? What is the event? And where are my seats?

3. Branding. Space is at a premium on tickets, so how do we include branding without crowding the space?

4. Security. The involves incorporating a security strip (hologram), and bar code.

5. Fit. Traditional tickets are not wallet or pocket friendly.

So what Lew designed is a credit-card sized ticket that trims down the information to basics, while still retaining security and branding. The new designed ticket is vertical with seating information right at the top, followed by hologram strip with branding, event date and price, event details (including promoter), location and barcode with number at the bottom.

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The ticket uses easy to read typography that is left aligned and on a background colour print for added branding.

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Lew also tested the design on thermal printers to ensure it could work – and it does, even in colour. The only question he doesn’t address is dealing with ticket stock and printer options.

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But I like where he is going with this. A practical redesign where usability trumps everything else. This is after all how Ticketsolve got its legs – thinking about how to make selling tickets easier and more user friendly for everyone.

So what do you think of Matthew Lew’s design? Could it work for your venue or theatre?

*Images courtesy of Matthew Lew

Widen Your Reach and Increase Sales with Facebook Connect

Facebook is much more than just a social network. With access to 1 billion users, Facebook provides access to a massive worldwide audience whilst allowing you to instantly engage with your customers and effectively drive ticket sales.  With the right tools, you can turn Facebook into an important sales and marketing channel.

Ticketsolve’s new Facebook Connect plug-in ensures that that anyone with a Facebook account can instantly interact with your website and buy tickets with the click of a button. The plug-in’s single sign-on functionality means that when a Facebook user sees one of your promoted events on the social network, they can purchase tickets without having to register or sign in again on your site. This removes a significant barrier to purchase.

Online purchase abandonment at the payment stage hovers at around the 60% mark, and the number one obstacle to sales at this stage is that customers are usually asked to sign in or register before they can progress any further. This equates to a cashier at your local corner shop asking for your home address and a password every time you try to buy your groceries.

That would drive away customers in the offline world so it’s hardly surprising that it turns people off in the online sphere too. Your customers will appreciate the convenience of using their existing Facebook account instead of having to register a new account and, by eliminating extra steps, you’ll be shortening the path to sales.

Furthermore, using Facebook Connect means that your customers will become a real marketing asset. When a ticket is purchased, details of the event are broadcast on the purchaser’s newsfeed, and events can be shared or liked, all of which will increase an events social reach.

Contact us to find out more about Facebook Connect on Ticketsolve.