With over 100 years of rich history, the Royal Conservatory of Music is one of the largest and most respected music education institutions in the world.
The conservatory’s mission - to develop human potential through leadership in music and arts - is the driving force for their standard of excellence in delivering curriculum, assessment, training, certification and social programs. At the heart of everything they do is their website which allows students to register for courses and exams, teachers to get certified and people of all ages to experience live music through concerts and performances.
This last piece recently became a focus for the Conservatory as they realized the lack of a mobile platform for selling performances was directly impacting sales. There was a huge opportunity being lost as evidenced by their usage statistics:
%stats about performance section%
The Conservatory was looking to make the purchasing process easier and more widely available to this growing cohort of users and we jumped at the chance to create a smoothly tuned mobile purchasing experience for one of the country’s most respected institutions.
Therefore helped establish the mobile strategy, defined the concepts and style of the mobile design and developed the final production application with ecommerce integration. All of which make it possible for performances to be experienced by a larger audience.
Planning to succeed
One of The Royal Conservatory’s requirements in this project was that it would be constrained to the performance section of the site only. Having acknowledged the need for a mobile strategy, the immediate need was to sell tickets online to mobile customers. With a well-defined job to be done and a tight timeline with which to accomplish it, Therefore carefully crafted a strategy that would maximize the potential for success. We knew a site-wide responsive overhaul was out of the scope of this initiative, but the important section was the Performances.
Rapid wireframing and prototyping was necessary to establish the design direction and get everyone working on the same page. Therefore’s large arsenal of digital tools allowed us to quickly provide mockups for the Conservatory’s approval, as well as easy references for developers.
We leveraged existing content and pulled it into a new customer touch-point. By using an XML feed generated from the desktop website we built an Angular app to display the same content. This served to keep one central source of all performance events, and allowed for easier maintenance by site managers.
The e-commerce integration used a third party service called Spektrix. Using their API, we inserted the ticketing workflow and wrapped our mobile designs around it to provide a consistent experience all throughout the purchasing process. Fully secured and connected to the Conservatory’s database of customers, this allowed us to deliver value beyond simply ticket purchases such as Gift cards and account management, right in the same mobile site.
Agile: not just lip service
At Therefore, the bulk of our projects are run in an agile development process. It encourages close client collaboration, streamlines and clarifies the development of features, as well as allows us to react to changes in the project without missing a beat. Going beyond that, we approach it as more than just a management philosophy. It’s ingrained in the company’s culture. There were a couple of instances during development where conditions forced us to pivot unexpectedly.
Initially we planned to use import.io to extract the event data we needed. Since our mobile version would serve the same content as the desktop site this was the perfect tool to get the data quickly and still allow the site administrators to make updates in the same place they always have.However as the project evolved, additional attributes were required that were beyond what import.io could pull in. We had to look for another solution that would allow for an easy access point for our Angular front-end and we had to implement it quickly.
Working in tandem with the team at The Royal Conservatory, we were able to create an XML feed with all the structured data. Not only did this allow for a more direct touchpoint, it gave us more flexibility for adding attributes in the future and our development didn’t miss a beat.
Once we got to the beta testing stage with real full featured content, we realized that the performance wasn’t quite up to par on mobile devices. By having our designers and developers working in close collaboration, we were able to present solutions and iterate quickly to boost the site’s performance without impacting the targeted launch.
Performance optimization is an ongoing process and as the site gathers live user data it will no doubt evolve in order to meet continually shifting demands.
The Never-Ending Story
We tend to approach websites like living organisms. Even when a development cycle ends and a product launches the work is only beginning. We implemented detailed google analytics filters and funnels to track conversion goals. UX measurement tools allow us to see real user interaction data in the form of heat maps, scroll and click tracking and recorded user sessions allow us to observe these interactions in real time. All of this knowledge serves to inform the way in which we improve the user flow by removing roadblocks to the end goal: delivering great live classical music experiences to the masses.
Reflections and Outlook
Minimum Viable Strategy
When creating digital products and services, it is well accepted to map out a minimum viable product in order to ship quickly and test out any assumptions but it can be tempting to spend a lot of time up front trying to formulate a flawless strategy. In the Royal Conservatory’s case, the lack of any previous mobile strategy meant we had to get to a simple, actionable idea.
By focusing on the section of the site that really could benefit from mobile usage, we were able to define the problem we were going to solve for the user quickly so that the design and development could proceed. Our lean UX principles extend beyond the design and into the strategy process, often both happening in unison. For the Royal Conservatory, this fluid and focused planning process was critical to the success of the overall project.
A Modern Classic
Just because the Royal Conservatory features classical music doesn’t mean their website can’t be designed for the future. 10 years ago, mobile consumption wouldn’t even have been on the radar as a viable business end point. However, the recent usage trends were clearly pointing towards a mobile future and Therefore is proud to be a partner with the Royal Conservatory’s efforts to continually evolve so that they can foster appreciation for the classical arts.