Thursday, September 03, 2009

Oh What a Night - Jersey Boys Highlights Problems with Web Usability

Going to see Jersey Boys last night confirmed the value in me studying web usability. The websites to book the tickets and the theatre had such appalling usability it is unbelievable.

Here are the problems I encountered.

To book our tickets, we went to Ordering tickets is fine if you're familiar with the theatre and don't have any special requests.

The site does not allow one to refine a search by any criteria other than date and price. One clicks on a button to "Find Seats" within a price range and is given up to two options of seats.To check out where those seats are and if they have an less-than-desirable view, there's not much help. They do have a good feature that lets you click on a seat to see its view.

But ideally, the seat you're considering buying should be highlighted on a map of the theatre. One can find the seat for oneself by searching through their maps of theatres. A bunch of theatres are shown not just the one hosting the show you want to see, so you have to remember the name of the theatre (and with Toronto theatres changing names regularly this is not easy). The initial theatre maps are impossible to read, so one has to download the high-resolution PDF. It's not worth the download as even at full zoom the seat numbers are unreadable (my vision BTW is fine - recently tested even).

Better not have any special requests for seats as there is no criteria to refine a search or information provided about the seats other than their number. The site does have a feature to find "Best available seats". I can see the up-selling value to the company in that feature - but does anyone use it? What constitutes best available - surely people have some preference.

We like aisle seats (extra legroom and great for any hasty exits), to not to be under a balcony (bad acoustics and views), and to not be too close to the front (avoid neck craning). There's no way to find any of this out except to run a search, manually look up the two options of seats on their poor maps, and repeat ad nauseum until fate smiles upon you.

Or you get sick and tired of it and call Ticketmaster and get connected with someone who can find your customized seats in moments. Which is what I had to do.

No other online problems (they did forget to mail us our tickets, however) until the day of showtime when the show's websites let us down. I "Jersey Boys" and clicked on the first hit, the "official site". I can almost forgive them for their first two crimes as it is an entertainment sites and more "fun" is permitted. First crime - a splash page. Second crime - slow download. Then I discover I'm in the wrong site as even though I used Google's Canadian service the website for the Broadway version is the first to come up. But they do have an inconspicious link to international versions of the show, which gets me to the Toronto version site (and another slow-to-load splash page).

I usually take the subway to this theatre, but was driving this night and wanted to know where the nearest parking lots were located. I expected the site to have a "Directions" or "Getting There" link. To find parking info one has to guess. I tried the "Theatre" nav link and it seems like it is not there, except until below the fold there's the following text (I have to quote it as I just couldn't believe it:
For those who wish to drive to the theatre, please view the presentation on the left side of the page 'Where is the Toronto Centre for the Arts?' by clicking the 'Learn More' button for more detailed information, directions, parking information and maps."

The presentation looks like an ad, so one would never intrinsically click it. But when instructed to do so, I thought I'd get the parking instructions right away. Instead I have to click through 12 slides manually to first find out about the architects, the neighbourhood, the grand opening, its first show, the decor, the acoustics, the air conditioning, 3 more slides, then driving instructions, then a link to a PDF of a parking map. The map was exactly what I was looking for - excellent even - so I printed it out. I just couldn't believe all the b.s. they put me through in order to get it!

I love that someone must have noticed that parking info was hard to find, so they took the time to add the copy I quoted above. If they noticed the problem and had the time to address it, why not just include the info or link to a map right on the page? Why make someone wade through a presentation of useless information?

In preparing for this posting, I checked if there was another link elsewhere and the is parking info buried under FAQs. It is great info - but completely different. This info actually lists the rates (that is really good to know in Toronto) but does not have a link to their great map PDF.

I saw a link to "Jersey Boys radio" while on the site. After the show, I wanted to my wife to hear their songs, so I thought of this cool feature. But despite offering the radio in Windows Media and Real Player, it would not play for me in Internet Explorer or Firefox that night. This may not be the site's fault, but I didn't get any helpful messages or explanations. Today, it works for me - but such mysteries should not remain at this stage of the Internet's development.

Most of these usability errors and a lot that I encounter in general are so serious and so obvious that I find it hard to believe any web professional could miss it. After all don't people that make websites want to make money, by selling things, providing information to avoid phone calls, etc.? So lately I've been thinking what needs studying is not uncovering usability issues but rather why web practitioners fail to implement such basic practices?

1 comment:

TaylorSwift said...

Jersey Boys is one of my favourite shows. I know all the words by heart so it was nice to remember again in your post. Thanks for bringing back some fond memories about Jersey Boys . This weekend I’m going to visit my sister and we get pretty good tickets to attend it again so I'll be analyzing as well as enjoying that show. I know that I will enjoy every blessed minute of it!