Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rant, Followed by Public Service Announcement

I can feel a rant coming on about terrible music world web sites, having just been horrified by the redesigned Met and NY Phil web sites. The Met redesign....I mean, what I can say? My tweet says it all: It went from being homely but functional to being pretty but useless.

Homely but function is always preferable, because selling tickets is more important than looking good. Always make it easy for people to give you money, as my web site basics page says.

And also: I must report that the Met's IT staff (or whoever does the web design; could be an outside design company) neglected to check how it looks and works on mobile phones. I know this because I tried the site on my phone and it just didn't work. I didn't get a mobile-adapted site, and if they think they have "responsive design," which adapts automatically to your device, they are just wrong. I saw a lot of code instead of the web site, and, well, that is not want you want your customers to see. Removing the ? from the end of the initial URL did help, but after that? Completely useless. I could not find the fucking calendar!

Note: I am a user of the most popular mobile operating system in the world. There are about a billion Android phones out there. It's better if Android users can view your web site correctly! I mean, it can't be possible that they checked this, but only on iOS? No.

And also: board members, staff, and critics should be required to use the web site to buy tickets at least annually so that they experience exactly the same pain that audience members, aka your customers, experience. I am looking at you and you and you and you and you, big-city reviewers, who can call the press department and bypass this crap. You are advocates for the audience, and calling out terrible orchestra and opera web sites is one concrete and important way to advocate for the audience.

I am not looking at myself because I buy most of my own tickets, so I do go through the pain. And then I complain about it here and everywhere else I can, sometimes in letters to musical organizations.

And also: the Tessitura web site lists the NYPhil as a customer. Man, they have the ugliest Tessitura display I have ever seen. Pony up for something better and more functional, guys. What you have looks like Brown Paper Tickets, a ticketing provider used by many smaller organizations (that is, the ones who can't afford Tessitura). It works just fine, but using a Tessitura display of that type is...really very strange for the country's oldest symphony orchestra.

Oh, gosh, I went ahead and ranted.

So, public service announcement. If you hate the search function on an organization's web site, use Google instead. There is search help, believe it or not. You have to search for it, because somehow Google is allergic to context-senstive help, that is, having a link to that help center on the search page. That would make sense, right? And I should know.

Anyway, here's the syntax for using Google to search a specific web site:

site:web_site_URL "your_search_term"

For example, if you want to find the sole performance Maurizio Pollini is giving at the NY Philharmonic, type this into the Google search box and hit return:

site:nyphil.org "maurizio pollini"

If you want to see Semyon Bychkov's concerts, use this:

site:nyphil.org Bychkov

For the BSO's Elektra programs at Carnegie:

site:carnegiehall.org Elektra

Or substitute Goerke or Nelsons or "Boston Symphony" for that last term.


Henry Holland said...

As you know Lisa, starting ca. February, I go to the website of every major orchestra and every opera company in the US and Europe (and places like Carnegie Hall) so I can do my spreadsheet to see if there's enough good stuff in a time frame to travel for. I've been doing this for over ten years.

The number of poorly designed websites I come across is appalling. You would think that the most basic information a website can provide would be:

Orchestras: conductor, soloist(s), all pieces being played and the dates and times
Opera companies: piece being done, singers, conductors, director, dates and times

But oh no, that's often buried in websites with tons of ads, poorly designed layouts and so on. The Los Angeles Philharmonic does a good job of it, I always go to this page for each new season:

LAP 2015-16

However, on a lot of German and Austrian opera websites, they'll give the premiere date but not the full run of performances so I end up having to go the subscriptions section and piece it together that way. Even worse is that they'll list only the premiere date of the operas in a 280 page PDF file that's full of ads, but only list all the dates on the website a few months in advance, so if I want to go to a Der Ferne Klang in July, I won't know until May or so what all the dates are, which is too late to plan with.

Even worse are the websites for the publishers of the composers I like. For example, Schreker is with Universal Edition and one time an employee of that company showed up at The Rambler website. I asked why they couldn't list all the performances of his music for a given season on the UE website, why did I have to find out from the Pfalztheater Kaiserlautern's website that Irrelohe was being performed in an upcoming season? He made some absurd comment about how hard it was to do and I fired back "But you know when something is being performed, you negotiate on behalf of the rights owners AND you have to send out the orchestral and vocal parts months before a performance so the musicians can study them".

One thing that's gotten worse in the last few years is websites that are stuffed with videos and links to articles and PDF's and so forth but even with a decent internet connection (and using pop-up blockers), that stuff can take forever to load.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I do know this, and I wonder why you don't just use operabase.com, especially their new& rare page.

Chanterelle said...

The Met site is imitating other glitzy sites that use copious photography and make it cumbersome to find info--Opera de Paris, I'm looking at you. Unfortunately, the Met has also emulated Paris in making their press contact information all but inaccessible. At least when buying a Met ticket online you can choose your seat--unlike Paris--and there are customer service phone numbers.

Drew said...

I could go on, and on, and on...

Lisa Hirsch said...

I bet you could! I am happy to name names, of course.

Henry Holland said...

I do use Operabase, it's how I learn birthdays, the day someone died and when an opera premiered so I can post YouTube clips of Schreker, Korngold, Reimann, Birtwistle and other favorites stuff on Parterre Box! :-) For instance, today is Martin Bernheimer's birthday, I'll probably post something about him as I'm a big fan.

But Operabase basically does online what I do with my spreadsheet, they're in the same boat as they'll often have the operas listed for a company and the date will be like this:

May 26+

which means "we have the premiere date, nothing else".

Anonymous said...

It's not just the arts, it's business. Southwest Airlines. I tried its webpage with my Android tablet, and was redirected to a mobile site which did not work. First few people I talked to at their help desk knew nothing about it: eventually I found a guy who knew it does that on Android but was either unable or uninterested in fixing it (apparently they believe only in the existence of Apple) but who did tell me a workaround: a hidden command button in Android that overrides mobile redirects and sends you to the desktop site.

Anonymous said...

I've found it's mostly large orchestras whose sites are impossible to navigate. Smaller orchestras that play 5-12 programs a year are usually pretty straightforward and pretty timely. It's really small groups that can't be bothered to update their websites at all. They'll mail out well-designed ad leaflets, but put the same info up on their website seems too much trouble.