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Our website: A look forward

Chief Technology Officer Rob Greig on our forthcoming new website

Our website: A look forward
12 January 2012

Post originally published on the blog of the ROH (where I worked as a Digital Developer), London by Rob Greig.

Back in 2001 someone boldly told me that theatergoers would not want to book their tickets via the internet. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s never to underestimate the ability of technology to capture the imagination and change the way we do things. According to legend, even Bill Gates famously said, "The Internet is just a fad".

The fad didn't pass and six years ago (a millennium in internet years), we at the Royal Opera House launched our current website. This shiny new website, putting all sorts of exciting new content at the fingertips of the world, quickly became popular. More and more people took to booking online and as a result, unfortunately, the hot ticket often became the slow ticket. This meant that an online waiting room had to be introduced to manage the demand.

When I joined the Royal Opera House in 2009, the website was already feeling a bit old. We spent the next 12 months shoring up the site, improving stability and have experienced relative success. We can now serve 26% more customers online than we could in 2009. However, this is no real consolation to many of us who still have to sit in a virtual waiting room of 2000 fellow audience members queuing for tickets. It has been a source of frustration for everyone who works at the Royal Opera House because we want to provide the best possible service to our audience.

We firmly believe that we should be providing an excellent experience for everyone from the moment someone arrives at our website. This can be tricky when we have to employ a virtual waiting room up to 30 times a year to manage the 50,000 people on the busiest days all trying to buy tickets at the same time. 53% of you now book your tickets online and we’re sure it would be more if our website had the capacity. So we went back to the drawing board and decided to start again with a new website.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve been building a new team with the expertise to create the next improved Royal Opera House online experience and are starting from scratch. We’ve also been listening: taking on board your comments and feedback from emails and letters; on Facebook and Twitter; and from the plethora of excellent blogs maintained by dedicated Ballet and Opera fans. We know things are hard to find, not always accessible and know that tickets need to be simpler and quicker to book.

After an extensive period of planning and preparation based in part on your feedback, we are now building the new site and there is still a lot to do. Unfortunately, I can't guarantee everyone will get the best seat in the house, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you for your patience so far and we look forward to launching our new site and hearing your thoughts. Keep an eye out for more details shortly.

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