It’s such a rare and wonderful thing when you have an idea that solves multiple problems. After the Orchestra made its big comeback last year, we identified several website-related problems in want of a solution.
For starters, our website was highly optimized for people looking to buy tickets, but our other content was in silos—a tour blog here, an education article there. Also, we were producing great stories for social media that were getting lost in the ether because we had no permanent home for them. Finally, it really bothered me that we were still publishing stories from our print magazine, Showcase, as PDFs.
The conversation started like this: “What can we do to replace the blog we used to publish before the lockout?” Nobody really wanted a blog anymore; it just wasn’t a comprehensive-enough solution. I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know what to call it or how to describe it to internal stakeholders. Then someone said “Why don’t we call it Showcase?” Our patrons are already familiar with it, and the types of content we would publish are the same as we would in our print piece, if we had unlimited budget—essays like this one used to be a regular feature in Showcase.
We were off to the races. I led and art-directed this project, managing one part-time web designer and a full-time web developer. I also met with internal stakeholders to create processes for acquiring fresh content and a publication schedule.
The first step was to make some navigation changes—previously, the main website navigation had three options: Buy, Learn, Give, and About, plus a Home button. We seized this opportunity to make our events calendar—our top traffic area—easier to find, as well as promote the heck out of our new section. One puzzle that we spent some time on was what to label the navigation button for Showcase. If we labelled it “Showcase” we risked alienating the sizable population of people who are not familiar with our concert program magazine.
We landed on “Stories” for a label, which tied nicely to our tagline, “stories from and about the Minnesota Orchestra.”
Website navigation, before:
The navigation changes also solved several other problems, including improving the layout at various screen widths and eliminating that pesky 1 pixel rule under Vänskä’s name. We also introduced a “transaction” navigation that is consistent across the main site as well as the two shopping cart sites.
We launched our navigation changes in early April, with the “Stories” button pointing to a placeholder “Coming Soon” article. This gave us a short window to test and finalize the navigation changes before launching Showcase itself.
We soft-launched Showcase the first week of May, and then went out to the world in a BIG way with our historic trip to Cuba, May 13-17, 2015. Traffic to the website, and time spent on the website, surpassed even my wildest dreams. I’m very proud of this project and can’t wait to see where it goes in the future.
Photo, top: side-by-side rehearsal with members of Minnesota Youth Symphonies and the Minnesota Orchestra, by me.