Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

  • Visual Design
  • Usability Testing
  • Purchase Path Optimization

Pittsburgh Cultural District Website

Visit the live site

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust supports a consortium of seven local arts organizations that make their home in the city’s downtown Cultural District. Offering everything from visual arts exhibitions to Broadway shows to resident theater productions, the Trust has been called the “single greatest creative force in Pittsburgh.”

So where’s the front door to this diverse collection of offerings? Why, its website of course. And as more and more customers purchase their tickets online, the Trust needed an update to its desktop-centric, outdated design.

The Hardest Working Workflow in Show Business

The Cultural District's website revolves around one mission-critical workflow: the ticket purchase path, used by each of the member organizations. In 2014, just over half of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s ticket sales were made online. Compare that to Ticketmaster, where online sales make up 90% of the total. In other words, there was a lot of room to grow.

Progressive reveal animation showing how ticketing workflow is on the cultural trust website.

The current website, however, was a barrier to growth. Users were frustrated with the complex and unintuitive path to finding events and buying tickets. Meanwhile, the Trust was spending valuable resources maintaining both a desktop and mobile version of the Cultural District's site.

Our challenge was to keep the purchase process simple, but account for the many unique circumstances that different kinds of events and venues might face. And to do so in a responsive environment so the Trust only needed to maintain one website, with seamless access for users across any device or browser size.

What Are We Doing Tonight?

The purchase path begins with finding an event. We needed to optimize for two common user scenarios: 1) you’re looking for something fun to do, with no particular date in mind, or 2) you’re free on Saturday, so what’s on?

To do that, we developed two responsive calendar views: one by event, one by date. The first is optimized for the user whose primary purpose is discovery; the second is optimized for the user who has a specific date in mind. Mission-oriented users get clear paths to action. For the wanderers, we cleared the clutter and allowed events to stand out. The new workflow reflects the way users think about buying tickets, rather than the organization of the back-end process.

The Cultural District Website Mobile View The Cultural District Website Desktop View

Test Early, Test Often

The new design evolved through iteration and input from users. Early on in the design process, we brought in real and potential Cultural District visitors to test out prototypes in our usability lab, and we made significant improvements to the experience based on what we learned.

Bearded not only solved our design challenges, they have changed the way we work and the way we approach problems.

Patrick FitzGerald Director of eCommerce Operations Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

At the end of the project, our colleagues at the Trust could feel confident that this critical online experience would meet and exceed users’ expectations.

All Dressed Up With Someplace to Go

Although visual design is one of the last layers added to a functioning prototype, we certainly don’t wait until the end to think about it. In our very first meeting with the Cultural Trust, we led their team through a series of activities designed to elicit the visual direction for the new site. We used that direction to inform choices around color, typeface, content density, and tone.

When we asked users what they thought about the new look, we heard things like: “It’s sophisticated,” “fun,” “classy but friendly,” “It kind of reminds me of getting dressed up and going out.”


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