Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ranking the Circus Websites – A Walk Down the Cyber Midway

From Showbiz David Consumer Courts Division

How Appealing Are They? How Easy to Use?

Joining me for this round of reviewing is “Honorable Judge Kathy,”my sister in Omaha, and Doug, a San Francisco-based technical writer, bicyclist, and yogi, who has created some basic websites of his own. Both bring unique and useful outsider points of view. We reviewed 10 sites, rating each on six key elements: 1 — Immediate first impression at the opening page; 2 — visuals (video or photos) of the acts/show; 3 -– general feedback from press reviews and/or customers; 4 — route information; 5 — ease of purchasing tickets on-line; and 6 — last impression: overall appeal of the site and ease of navigating through it.

We each made a reasonable effort to find and rate each of the elements — short of embarking on a History Channel expedition. If anything seems clear, it is that most of these sites could benefit from easier linking to and between key elements. There was absolutely no discussion between us while we were rating the sites; thus, no opportunity for any of us to try influencing the others. Nor were any of our ordinals changed once they became known to all of us. These rankings were determined by adding our respective total scores for each circus. With a possible high of 5 points in each of the six measured categories, the most any circus could earn from a judge was a perfect 30 — or a perfect 90 total from our combined three scores

Also included are selected comments from your three peerless adjudicators.

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1 Big Apple Circus (65 points)

Big Apple has accelerated its immediate impact and appeal by a total revamping of its previously slow and passive opening page: Now, we see their tent going up in Lincoln Center. Even then, for all its assets, it is a far from a perfect website and it did not win over all three of your judges.

Kathy: “I am VERY impressed with the ease in which I could navigate around this website. And I loved the way, when the website went up, that it showed, amidst the hustle and bustle of the city life, the big top going up.” Kathy was also charmed by the initial imagery of clowns and ringmaster. “The bios are great, as I love reading about the history of the performers.” Her one qualm: “Not enough photos.”

Doug found the site somewhat confusing. “Performance schedule was nice and clear” but Ticket Master showed certain performances as being sold out that elsewhere appeared available. “I finally found some photos that looked promising, but they weren’t enough, and the way they were hidden wasn’t inspiring.”

2 New Cole Bros. Circus (64 points – the winner of a tie with Circus Vargas by virtue of its being ranked above Vargas by two of the judges.)

Honorable Mention from Judge Kathy

Another circus showing redesign savvy. A video of performance highlights probably gives too much of the show away. (Ringling’s video teaser bears superior editing.) While I was delighted to discover a new opening page, and set to the most captivating music (circus owners should check this one out), Kathy questioned the image on it “For some reason, motorcycle riders just don’t seem to me to be a part of the whole circus picture, but I feel this one deserves an honorable mention.” And Doug noted, “Can’t control which seats you buy. There’s no seat map.”

3 Circus Vargas (64 points)

Honorable Mention from Showbiz David

I continue to admire this site, finding it mainly lacking — like Ringling — in customer or press quotes. It’s overall clarity and simplicity, combined with a compelling color scheme, makes it a theoretical leader in the field.

Kathy “Really liked the colorful front page. Would like to have seen a few more photos and bios.”

Doug discovered a problem that I encountered when I rated this site last April: “Ticket page needs info about seats earlier. I put my seats in the order basket, and only then saw where they were.”

4 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey (61 points)

The generally excellent Ringling site, distinguished by superb video samplers, suffered in our overall ratings for lack of reviews or customer feedback and for some frustrating navigational problems. From Doug, “They have three shows but I couldn’t figure out the difference. Clicked on ‘about the show’ and was taken to a new window about schedule and tickets. Not what I wanted.” Nor was he pleased being referred to the cumbersome Ticket master, which requires the deciphering of a code, “which I always find annoying.”

5 Cirque du Soleil (47 points)

Honorable Mention from Doug “Visually appealing.”

Our marks varied widely. I’ve grown less enchanted, finding the opening page somewhat Halloweenish and creepy, whereas Judge Kathy found it “like sci-fi ... very disappointed.”

Doug’s high score came with acute reservations: “Images alluring, music sets a nice tone. Navigation horrible and confusing — I felt like I was in maze going in circles. High on style, low on function. Too many choices left me feeling confused.”

6 UniverSoul Circus (44 points)

None of us were very engaged by this sprawling and problematic website. I found the newspaper stories and/or reviews virtually impossible to read and therefore off-putting.

Reported Kathy, “I just could not get excited about the front page.” She also found navigating a little slow. “I missed seeing any reference to a big top, and also, I do not feel ‘hip hop’ belongs at the circus.”

Doug was not sold, either, left unimpressed by stories you can’t read and links sending you off in directions you never intended to take. “Clicked High Res photos, and it took me to a page to enter an e-mail address, but the page didn’t say what I was doing this for.”

7 Carson & Barnes (38 points)

While I liked the site’s simple functionality, both Kathy and Doug were left wanting. “Very basic,” said Doug. “Need more pictures on first page of web site, noted Kathy. "Most photos made me feel like I was visiting the zoo.”

8 Kelly-Miller (35 points)

Honorable Mention from Judge Kathy “The pictures and WELCOME on the front page are great!” said she. “I would definitely want to go to this circus if it came to my town.”

Doug: “When I clicked the Video link, I thought it was a mistake that I was watching a video about sponsoring the circus. Then I realized the entire site was about bringing the circus to my town, not about selling tickets to people."

9 Walker Bros (24 points)

Although all three judges registered equals scores of 8 points each, I must say that I was charmed by this cozy little site, mainly because it appears to be new, (I could not find a site for Walker Bros. at the last ranking in spring). At this humble stage, Walker Bros reminds me the little engine that maybe, just maybe could ....

10 Circo Vazquez (21 points)

There simply is far too little here, although Doug found it “sort of a nice site, but it’s extremely slow, which ruins it.”

Individual Bests in the Six Categories:

Best First Impression: Circus Vargas
Best Visual Images: Ringling Bros.
Best Reviews and Quotes: Big Apple
Best Route Information: Big Apple
Best On-Line Ticketing: Circus Vargas, New Cole Bros., and Ringling Bros.Best Last Impression: Circus Vargas and New Cole Bros.

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So, what do you think? All comments and alternative points of view are welcome. And, thank you, Honorable Judges Kathy and Doug!

1 comment:

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