Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Pro Tip of the Day

Over at The Reverberate Hills, Patrick Vaz has his helpful monthly Fun Things I Might or Might Not Get To post. Right at the start, he notes that it's dyspeptic. Yes, it is, and I want to address two of his complaints, which I have heard from others as well:
Dear SF Opera: for the love of God, would you please put a regular calendar, with an obvious link, back on your awful site? And maybe restore the front-page list of the season's operas, with a link to each, the way you used to have them, before you decided it was much more important to have huge slow-loading garish photos of wankers drinking from champagne flutes than it was to provide easy access to basic information about the season?
First thing is the second point: there are links to all of the season's operas, but you have to scroll down a bit from the top of the landing page to find them (http://www.sfopera.com/ ). Eventually, you'll see this:

Each of those large boxes is a link to the page about the opera named. (As you can see, the run of Carmen is over but it hasn't been removed from the roster yet.)

Now, regarding the calendar: yes, I agree, the company should have a static calendar available someplace. The URL http://www.sfopera.com/calendar.some_extension is the obvious location.

But I think it's important to understand why there isn't one: the new SF Opera web site is designed to work across different sizes of screens, from the 24" desktop monitor I have at work to my smart phone, which is on the small side by current standards. 

And there's a reason the company wants its web site to work across screen sizes: I believe they've stated that 80% or so of web searches and hits for the site are coming from phones and tablets. Static calendars look like shit on small screens because they need to be a fixed size to list all necessary information. Using what's called responsive design, which looks good on all screen sizes, is the best way to do this.

I can say from looking at my dojo's web site statistics that around 80% of hits to the site are also coming from small devices....and that's why the web site uses a responsive design.

And here, finally, is the tip. To find the page for a specific opera, type the following into Google:

sfopera.com name_of_opera

Substitute Carmen for name_of_opera and the first link will be to the Carmen page, for example.


Patrick J. Vaz said...

Thanks, this is useful. But I have had the experience of looking for an opera, scrolling down, and not finding it. The old website had all the season's operas (each with a link to that page) right up on top -- easy to find and use and it covered the whole season.

The calendar format is particularly useful if you're planning a trip and don't want to click on random links to see what is playing during some future month.

Speaking of the Opera's website -- I checked last Friday (I think around mid-morning) to see what was available for Jenufa that night and the message came up that on-line sales were no longer available and I needed to call the box office. This was well before the start of the opera and it seemed odd to me to limit availability like that.

Lisa Hirsch said...

There were plenty of tickets available for Friday's Jenufa, unfortunately.

The alternative to scrolling down: Click the link in the top menu bar that says 2016-17 Season.

The What's On link to its left currently shows all of the summer events.

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't have to remember the special tricks and traps for navigating each individual website that you visit. Instead, the web designers should make them possible to use.

I know that it's possible to make a website that detects what kind of computer is accessing it, and serves (by default) a different version of itself to different kinds of computers. There's no excuse for not providing a calendar for those who can use it because others can't.

Lisa Hirsch said...

As I said, I agree that that SFO should provide a calendar. I agree with the company on the use of responsive design, because maintaining different pages based on device type is, to say the least, far more error-prone, difficult to ensure that the pages are in sync, and more expensive.

I offered multiple means of finding what Patrick wants to see. Clicking a link or scrolling down to see a list of the season's operas aren't tricks, and the actual Google search trick is extremely useful for genuinely huge sites, such as the NY Times.