Founded as a professional company in 1969, the Houston Ballet, based in Houston, Texas, has grown to be the fourth-largest professional ballet company in the United States. 

The Houston Ballet worked with Adage to build a new website featuring a striking original design, research-based ecommerce UX, and powerful Tessitura integration, all on the foundation of the Episerver content management system.

  • Performing Arts
  • eCommerce
  • CMS
  • Tessitura
  • EPiServer

The Houston Ballet website features bold visuals and elegant navigation, as well as Tessitura integration for season subscriptions.

The Client

Founded as a professional company in 1969, the Houston Ballet, based in Houston, Texas, has grown to be the fourth-largest professional ballet company in the United States. The company produces more than 75 performances each year with a primary company of 51 dancers. The Ballet also operates a ballet academy, the Houston Ballet Academy, which trains more than half of the company’s dancers.

The Ballet’s performances are primarily held at the Wortham Theater Center, down the street from the company’s headquarters, Houston’s Center for Dance. Opened in 2011, the Center for Dance was at the time the largest dance facility in the United States, featuring nine dance studios and a black box dance laboratory space. The Ballet’s website is essential not only to promote their performances and Academy dance classes, but also to support their annual Nutcracker Market.

Now a city of Houston holiday tradition, the Ballet’s Nutcracker Market is one of their largest fundraising opportunities. Patrons can buy tickets to shop at the market for everything from clothes to jewelry to décor and a significant portion of the proceeds are passed back to the Ballet.

The Challenge

The Houston Ballet’s dated website made it difficult for them to sell tickets or to build a new generation of brand advocates.

The old website was built on a difficult-to-edit custom content management system and featured a dated design that failed to leverage the visual, high-art mission of the Ballet. The old design clashed with the Ballet’s brand and lagged behind when it came to the dynamic digital presences of the Ballet’s local and international competition.

Not only did the old design lack visual appeal, but its structure and content provided a poor user experience for content and ecommerce—a user experience built without consideration of the Ballet’s likely digital visitors. The site did little to serve the Ballet’s two important sub-entities, the Academy and Nutcracker Market, and was not mobile-friendly.

The Ballet is also a member of the Tessitura Network; however, their old site’s integration with the Tessitura CRM gave them limited options when it came to more than simple ticket packages.

The Houston Ballet’s new visually-focused Dancers directory page is a dramatic departure from their previous digital experience.

The Solution

Adage worked with the Houston Ballet to give their site a complete overhaul featuring an engaging design and powerful ecommerce to help them build excitement about their brand and sell more tickets.

Adage began the project with an extensive Discovery phase to dig into the unique needs of the Ballet and their patrons, as well as to better understand their brand and mission. A Discovery team featuring design, development, and user experience experts conducted an onsite workshop at the Ballet to help them flesh out their ideas using a variety of exercises, including stakeholder interviews, competitor analysis, and semantic profiling.

The team synthesized the research data and the Ballet’s mission statement into a primary organizing idea for the Ballet’s new design, centered around 3 I’s: Immerse, Inform, and Invite, and the goal of expanding their audience. 

  • Large scale multimedia, including background videos, help to create an immersive experience that complements the visual art of ballet.
  • The website also functions as the Ballet’s most important vehicle to inform and educate their audiences. Care was taken to ensure the website and its structure were informative, but not overly crowded.
  • Most importantly, the website must be inviting. The site must invite users to not only become patrons of Ballet, but also to join the purchase path. The measure of the site’s success will be directly tied to ecommerce conversions.

The user experience and design team used the organizing idea to layout and design the various page templates that make up the website. Because multiple sub-entities of the Ballet Foundation that would use the website, flexibility was key, so the website features a layout heavily based on the content blocks which can be reused and reorganized to serve different purposes.

The Houston Ballet Performance Detail Pages (PDPs) offer a wealth of multimedia in a fully responsive, block-based editable structure to inform and invite potential patrons.

The content blocks and back-end editing interface are features of the site’s foundation on the Episerver content management system. Episerver allows full WYSIWYG on-page editing, along with more advanced features such as visitor group-based personalization, useful for serving targeted content to the many types of patrons that visit the site. Episerver also provides easy-to-configure user permissions and publishing workflows, a key feature for managing Houston’s large marketing teams.

The ecommerce portion of the website is powered by Adage’s ACE Platform fully-customizable ecommerce solution for Tessitura, which seamlessly integrates their Tessitura database with Episerver for advanced ticketing functionality. Ticketing options implemented for the Ballet include ticket swapping functionality for packages.

Adage also implemented guest checkout functionality for donations—the ability to donate without creating an account being an essential feature for increasing donation conversions.

The website features a new Special Events page, which allows patrons to reserve different special events tickets on the web, instead of through a printed form. The entire site, including the special events page and the ticket purchase path, are fully responsive for mobile-friendliness on any device.

The redesigned Ballet site was named a Finalist for AWWWARDS Ecommerce Site of the Year, as well as the 2017 Interactive Media Awards Arts & Culture Best in Class. You can read more about the awards on our blog.