In Between Time
- Research and requirements gathering
- Website design / online brand development
- WordPress development
- Training and on-going support
New WordPress Website for In Between Time
In Between Time (IBT) has grown over the last two decades to become a critically acclaimed and globally respected producer of contemporary and live art. Their festival, IBT Bristol International Festival is the culmination of all their commissioning and producing work, weaving its programme across Bristol every two years.
IBT15 - Fujiko Nakaya's Fog Bridge. Photo inbetweentime.co.uk
What was needed
Every two years the IBT Bristol International Festival programme and ticket sales had been built on new, separate websites, with the main IBT website remaining separate and static. This separation between the main site and festival sites caused confusion and navigation issues for users and ticket buyers.
IBT wanted a redesign to make their website more inline with their position as leaders in the industry and, most importantly, to incorporate all of their festivals, events ticketing, news and videos, in their main website and not across multiple festival websites. The other key issues and needs IBT outlined for their new website were –
Research and Planning
We arranged a full day of planning and thoughts gathering with the IBT team. It’s always a fantastic opportunity for everyone to meet one another and for us to really dig into the issues the whole team are experiencing regarding their current setup and to identify IBT’s priorities moving forward.
A photo of the planning session with in between time
During the planning session we worked with the IBT team to identify their different types of users. We do this to help us plan what types of content will be required for each user type and to enable us to properly map out each user journey. The main user types IBT wanted to engage with were:
Identifying these user types is essential for us to consider the needs of each user during the wireframing and design stage. Each user journey needs to be clear and simple – for ticket buyers, they need to have the ability to find events easily, have all the information regarding the event clearly listed, be able to buy a ticket quickly and then share the event with one click. Planning this journey out before the design stage gives us the ability to make sure each of these steps is considered, ensuring the website is tailored towards IBT’s users.
The journey for Supporters and Partners was more focused around who IBT are, their story and impact/credibility. With this in mind we knew that it was important for the IBT team to be able to create engaging content, that was easy to find from the homepage and that showed off their position as an industry leading arts producer.
There were a few challenges that arose throughout the project. Firstly, having a coherent, flexible navigation was crucial in directing users on a clear journey through the website. The previous sites – both main and festival – did not link well, were terribly different in design and often lead users to dead ends of both sites. We found having a primary menu bar, showing the main pages, was most recognisable to users but also integrating a secondary navigation for the instances when a festival was active would be beneficial for everyone. The secondary bar served another function of indicating that a festival was on.
Tackling the event page was important to us. We needed to display both the description and event details without the need to scroll down too much, which is simple enough on desktop computers but proved to be an issue on mobiles. As a solution, we created tabs, allowing readers to either view the thorough descriptions or cut to the chase, and view the details of the event. In addition, we implemented a banner style label into the design that allows users to identify it with a specific festival.
Lastly, with so many pages, events and posts on the site, we needed to offer a simple way of varying the design of the pages. To solve this, we added the options to add either a full screen headers, that take advantage of all the amazing photography IBT have to offer, or a slimmer bar, that still had a some nice textural qualities but allowed users to get to the content sooner. An optional sidebar was also added.
The main challenge was to create a website that worked seamlessly as a main site and festival site in one, with the ability to easily search for upcoming events and past events from previous festivals. There was a lot of planning sessions within the development team around the best way of achieving this. We decided to compare the options of a WordPress Multisite and normal WordPress single site and went through the pro’s and con’s of each method –
|• Clearly organised content editing and options||• Quick ajax searching across all current and past events will be very hard to achieve|
|• Separate users on a per festival basis||• Advanced Custom Fields will be restricted with related content and other options|
|• Image and events content duplication across sites network|
|• Related content and other Advanced Custom Fields options will work out of the box||• Potential for a large amount of new festivals cluttering up the backend|
|• Our starter codebase will not require any major changes to get the basic site structure organised|
|• Maintenance is simpler|
|• We get the opportunity to improve on our WordPress admin UI capabilities|
|• The Staging environment will be a lot easier to setup|
|• Less work for the IBT Team to create new festivals|
Having reviewed our findings we decided against a WordPress Multisite, although it can have some unique benefits, we felt it presented too many obstacles, which hindered our usual tried and tested development processes.
During the development planning process we highlighted a few key points to focus on, which would make the website easier to maintain for the IBT team:
See how we worked with Whitechapel to develop their latest website.
Identifying these needs beforehand made it much easier to plan out our development timelines and to make sure we stayed focused on the key objectives.
As with almost all of our projects we used the powerful Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) plugin, which enables us to build much more complex custom field groupings, which results in a cleaner and easier backend for us to update in the future and user friendly for our clients to use.
One aspect of ACF we used a lot in the IBT build was the taxonomy field. This field is quite simple but gives users a lot of quick control around organising a large number of posts. For IBT, we created ‘Events’ as a custom post type and then multiple taxonomies to enable them to build up a solid archive of events. This is how the structure of events worked –
|Events||Adding event is the beginning point, there are 28 fields in total which relate to dates, times, prices, images, accessibility and more. Having created an event the taxonomies below are selected to organise the events into categories for filtering and archiving purposes.|
|Festivals||Within this taxonomy there’s quite a bit of logic around what the festival is ie ‘IBT17’, ‘IBT15’ etc but also the sponsors for the festival, the festival colour to be used for links and highlights and the festival logo, all of which elements are used across the festival pages for each specific festival.|
|Event Type||Event types is used so we could create ‘archive’ pages for all events i.e family, showcase, free and also to help filter events for the programme, past events and what’s on pages.|
|Artist||By selecting a predefined Artist, from this taxonomy means all events by this artist will appear on their individual artist page, which is a great archive for artists that have appeared at multi festivals.|
|Venues||Venues works in much the same way but also has additional fields for the venue information such as contact details and an interactive map|
|Partners||Partners are very important to IBT and to build up an archive for each partner of events they were involved with is very useful for them.|
|Cities||Finally, Cities is a very useful taxonomy for users to quickly find events in their area, especially for filtering events on the ‘What’s On’ page.|
Our preferred method for WordPress builds is to use the ACF Flexible Content Field. This allows us to create bespoke, reusable blocks for our clients, which can be added, reordered and edited as needed to allow for more dynamic content on client created pages. Some of these blocks for IBT includes the ability to add
The flexibility of these blocks enables IBT to build multiple types of page layouts for their website and also gives them the power to completely reorder content as they like throughout the website.
After reviewing IBT’s previous analytics and average traffic patterns / quantities we decided to push the site to a London based Digital Ocean virtual private server, known as a ‘droplet’. This gives us the flexibility to scale the server’s resources at peak times during festival seasons. These VPSs are also very cost effective in comparison to dedicated hosting but give far more control than basic shared hosting.
When you are running your own servers, maintenance and backups are critical. At Atomic Smash we actually have multiple layers of recovery:
As the site ages we use tools like New Relic to monitor server performance and debug any technical issues. This also helps us assess when the server may need upgrading or even a newer caching technology may need to be applied.
The site also uses a the caching plugin W3 Total Cache to dramatically increase page load times and general site speed. One example of future optimisation might be to move the images (and other media) to a content delivery network or CDN. This will reduce local server strain and increase image loading efficiency leading to faster page loading.
Helen Cole - Artistic Director & CEO of In Between Time speaking at the IBT17 Launch Party
The whole Atomic Smash Team attended the fantastic IBT17 launch party at the Loco Club, Bristol. It was a great night with some excellent guest speakers and a first view of their IBT17 festival trailer (below) and all the amazing events on the festival programme.
We were excited to be there and proud to have worked alongside such a globally recognised arts producer. During the event, IBT announced their Website was officially live and it was a nice moment for all of us to be there with them to celebrate!