Act I: Exposition

The lights go down, the curtain goes up.
And magic begins.

Despite the marvels of technology—and as a digital agency, we understand, appreciate, and harness those marvels—nothing compares with the immediacy and vibrancy of live performance. However, you’ve got to get the “bums in seats” to appreciate that energy firsthand.

The Grand Theatre in Kingston opened in 1879. As Kingston’s premier performing arts facility, it’s hosted a range of local, national and international artists and productions, from classical dance to major musical acts, community theatre to Tony Award-winning shows. This cultural gem’s history includes a stint as a movie theatre, and four major renovations to restore and expand it.

In 2011, the Grand was looking for a way to share a taste of that live experience online, and also showcase upcoming performances, honour their generous corporate partners (and attract new ones), connect people with tickets, and make life easier for their already busy staff. They chose us.

Community has always been our thing, so the Grand—Kingston’s cultural hub—was a dream client. We jumped at the chance to help an organization that serves its community by bringing people together, creating space for memorable experiences, showcasing local talent and bringing world-class talent right to Kingston. We saw a great opportunity to help this stunning, historic venue’s team keep the theatre thriving with a strong digital presence that could showcase the venue itself, and help the Grand make new connections and strengthen existing ones.

Act II: Rising Action

Like many performance venues vying for funding and the increasingly divided attention of the masses, the Grand’s goals included boosting ticket sales and encouraging corporate partnerships. They wanted to create a strong visual presence with their website, and use the broad-reaching capacity of digital media to raise awareness of the theatre and its programming, and reach a younger audience, too. They also wanted to make sure that the website interface was easy to use, both for their staff and their patrons.

Of course, the staff needed the ability to keep their website content current, but there was an extra challenge. The ticketing system they had been using required staff to add complete performance information to their site, then input that same information again, this time into the ticketing system. Like most performance venues, the Grand’s team has numerous demands on their time, so this duplication of effort was particularly irksome. They’d referred to this frustration in their Request for Proposal, so before we were even hired, we started talking to their ticketing system provider, TixHub, about possible solutions. Then we worked together with the Grand and TixHub to integrate the ticketing system into the site, and solve the double entry problem by setting up a feed between TixHub and

We built a website with a content management system (CMS) that gave all staff—not just those with IT degrees—the power to keep the site fresh and relevant. The redesign process started with the visual impact, echoing the moment the lights go down and the spotlights come up, letting the performance take centre stage. Tying back to the goals of the project, we sketched out the site to make way for a “Buy Tickets” call to action that was clear and prominent (and bright, once we brought that sketch to life). We also created a clean, simple event calendar that allows people to easily see performance dates and navigate between months for a view of the whole season. With the launch of the new site, the Grand was ready to unveil a new IMPACT youth pricing initiative to attract young people to the theatre.

And we built an interactive mobile version of the site that connects the Grand Theatre with a broader and more tech-savvy audience, including students and young professionals who may become new patrons.


Act III: Resolution and Results

The Grand Theatre needed a website to showcase its unique programming lineup—from local amateur performances to Broadway show tours to modern dance. Working with the Grand and their ticketing vendor, we designed a vibrant site that reflects the Grand’s history and vitality, and gives staff easy and efficient access to the Grand’s digital communications. The new design showcases the theatre’s beauty, and makes it easy for visitors to learn about events and purchase tickets.

In the first year after the site launched, the Grand had a 20% increase in online ticket sales, and drew 500 online registrants in the first season of their IMPACT youth pricing initiative. Since then, we have continued to help the Grand get more from its online presence. For example, we added a “Related Performance” box to blog posts that drives visitors to more information or to buy tickets with the click of a button. Performance information pages feature “More Shows Like This” to help visitors discover other shows that might interest them. A recent home page redesign keeps the focus on performances, with clear purchasing and “tell me more” actions for each, while showcasing the latest blog content, encouraging newsletter signups, offering the calendar view, and keeping the primary goal top of mind with a prominent “Buy Tickets Here” call to action.

“[rtraction] proposed not only a new look for the site, but a new CMS system that would make it easier for multiple staff to keep the site up-to-date. They forged a relationship with our online ticketing agency to automate content, which relieved staff of hours of labour. They created a beautiful palette based on our site that highlights the experience of attending our events.”
— Stephanie Earp, Marketing & Communications, Grand Theatre

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