Saturday, September 21, 2013

Circus Websites 2013 Ranked: Showbiz David Takes a Look, Surprises Himself: Visuals, Routes and Ticketing Take Center Ring

Yesterday, all their troubles seemed so far away ...

Cirque du Soleil's Kooza

How could I have guessed they would stack up like this?  You can be surprised.  Not always do the Big Players with Big Bucks come in First.

I’ve looked at regularly touring U.S. circuses (foreign based, as well), that are out at least six months every season. Three elements turned out to seem the most critical, so to these I paid particular attention:  1.  Making a case in photos or videos for seeing the show;  2  Routing information; and 3. ticketing.

I ranked six categories, assigning to each up to 5 points.  So the highest possible total score is 30 points

1.  Immediate visual impact of the home page — how much did it make me want to go farther
2.  Ease of seeing all options for easy access to any.
3.  Routing information
4   ticketing options, ease of using the software.  I went only as far as reaching the point where credit information is required.  I did not mock check beyond this point.
5   photos and/or videos of the acts. 
6   last impression, looking back, how enthused the website make me feel about seeing the show

Worth noting:  There may be a case to make for the overall navigational fluidity of a website fostering a more impressive experience for the viewer.  For example, the acts that are featured in a streaming Carson and Barnes' photo slideshow might not register as strong an impact were they each to be pulled up individually.

ABOUT THE PHOTOS:  All of these images were downloaded from the their respective websites.

In a Word:  To each website, I have assigned a one word summation of its principal appeal, or lack of.

So, here goes ... Drum rolls! ... Trumpets! ... First on parade -- The Best Circus Website!


total score: 26

In a Word: Ticketing.  A magnificent makeover from the last time ranked.  This socially savvy website is so warm and welcoming, it grabbed my attention and pulled me in and then charmed me with a lavish though well organized spread of lovely flaring circus colors,subtly rendered, and all of the necessary information right there.  The immediate towns are listed, and there's a strong compelling photo slideshow of featured acts. Best of, this one offers perhaps the easiest ticketing system of any of the websites.  Kudos to the Byrds!

Circo Hermanos

2  Circo Hermonos Vasquez

total score: 25

In a Word: Glamor.  A lovely embracing home page which spells class. The vital information is clearly placed for easy linking to.  Routing and ticketing are top notch.  I found the photos good though not great, despite which, it's a show I would much like to see.

3  Cirque du Soleil  

total score: 24

In a Word: Brilliance.  Even with its opening page taking centuries to appear and the sprawling website's state-of-the-art videos a challenge in patience to surf, all of which suppressed the score some (blame it partly, I suppose, on my average PC), Cirque’s stunning imagery shines deep and high and  wide. There are so many shows, but if you know the one coming your way and want to look it up and get tickets, those two essentials are well presented and super easy to navigate.  I tested the Kooza video and was blown away.  Cirque's reigning brilliance animates an otherwise unwieldy landscape.

Hip Hop dancers at UniverSoul Circus

4  UniverSoul Circus 

Total score: 22

In a Word: Splashy.  A jazzy captivating splash of action and promo footage featuring customer feedback on the lot.  A bit of a jumble, yes, but the route is clear to find and study, ticketing seems a tad cumbersome but surely doable, photos are strong enough.  And yet, I was left fairly dazzled but with a nagging sense of overall act content being maybe less than the sum total of what initially comes into flattering view.

Okay, in polite alphabetical order here ...

Magic at Circus Vargas

5.  Circus Vargas (tie)  

total score: 21

In a Word: Appealing.  They do a generally good job, focusing heavily on illusion acts, creating a fairly strong impression. It’s just a little disjointed.  The images were quite impressive, but up front, there were too few of them, lending the sense of incompleteness.  Latter images of talent rectify that fairly impressively..   Route and ticketing work fairly fine.

Tabares at Cole Bros.

5  Cole Bros Circus (tie)

total score: 21

In a Word:  Vibrant.  Johnny Pugh’s cyber pitch opens with a terrific big top interior composite glorified with circus action.  Opening page is graced with an ingratiating photo of the man himself, one of the nicest guys who ever ran a circus -- so far as I know. This website has a modern sparkle similar to Carson & Barnes.  Average photos of perhaps too many standard acts flow by slowly and somewhat stiltedly, casting, overall, the impression of a good show, though perhaps a little too predictable.

6  Ringling-Barnum 

[website images not downloadable]

total score: 20

In a Word: Impressive. A strange experience from the Big One —  home page stands there with the imperial grandeur of China’s Forbidden City at the gates.  But getting into it and moving around can feel like crow-barring your way against doors that refuse to open, or opening doors that lead nowhere: Examples: I could not view the "About the Show" teaser videos, and, looking for information on the double wheel act in Built to Amaze -- the room remains empty, all except for a sign that reads Stars of the Steel Vortex.  Who they?  These setbacks are score suppressors.   Knock knock, Feld Entertainment!  Is anybody there?   Still, all in all Ringling does a fine, if somewhat stodgy, job, of organizing its various shows, and it offers, for each, a wealth of stills to pull up and view.  Not so welcome are the  tiny spaces accorded for information about the artists, which can test one's patience.  Routing is the best of any website, you open up a brilliant pictorial map of the country and find an arrow closest to where you live. From there, it’s a fair breeze.  Ticketing takes you to Ticket master, and you know all about that.  Even then, I left with a feeling of strong sustained confidence in our nation's longest running entertainment phenomenon.

On fire at Kelly Miller

7  Kelly Miller   

total score: 19

In a Word: Promising.  Spectacular opening, weak finish.   A dazzling array of large mesmerizing photography up front creates the sure image of a major circus. These opening frames are breathtaking.   From there, it’s somewhat downhill.  The route is clear to study, but, worst of all, this is one of only two websites under review here that do not offer on-line ticketing, the other being Zoppe.  This deprived the total of score of up to 5 additional points.  Giving them even just 3 more for ticketing would have tied Kelly Miller with UniverSoul, for a 4th place ranking.  The site ends up showing off too many smaller photos, many redundancies and some from previous seasons, shrinking the overall impression from spectacular down to average. 

No photos yet from Big Apple, but rich artistic renderings: The Dusov Troupe

8  Big Apple Circus  

total score:  17

In a Word:  Muddled.  Opening page does not exactly scream "Circus!"  How ironic that arguably our nations finest big top should put out a website so fraught with cumbersome options, not all that easy to get through and around.  Institutional gridlock? Maybe I’m being unfair, but they open in a few days, and then onto the all-important Big Apple date next month, for which tickets are now actively on sale, so you’d’ think there would be a slate of flattering photos on line.  I could not find a single one. Went back a second time. Same result.  Going into the website is a bit slow, there are numerous items organized into square shapes, with little immediate circus imagery to catch the eye.  Route and ticketing are technically fine, but during seat selection, I ran into a stumbling block that took time to outwit, reminding me of the on-site box office computer glitches in times past that made waiting in line an infuriating ordeal.  I could have marked them down for this, but I gave them some slack.  And still ... here they are. 

At the Zoppe Family Circus

9.  Zoppe Family Circus

total score:  14

In a Word:  Friendly.  They don't have many dates and don't offer ticketing, but they perform the year around, and they are a likable bunch.  The big plus here is a short but charming video made in 2010, which fairly sparkles with homespun magic and a big heart. 

10  Walker Bros Circus

[website images not downloadable]

total score:12
In a Word:  Obscure.  Home page in rich reds pulls you right in, and that's about all there is, Peggy.  You can see their route if you try, and you can even buy tickets in a reasonably easy way.  Photos leave something to be desired.

11  Culpepper & Merriweather Circus

Total score: N/A  The website,such as it is, refers you to their face book page, and that's as far as I got

And that's a ranking wrap!

Your comments are, of course, welcome

First posted September 21, 2013


Jim Royal said...

Hello David,

In our defense, I feel that I should mention that 95% of our dates are one day stands sponsored by local organizations. They handle advance ticket sales and sometimes offer them online. Being able to offer the online service on our site is something we are hoping to provide in 2014, but is it is complicated by the association with the local groups and their responsibility regarding advance sales.

Showbiz David said...

Congrats again, Jim, on your fabulous front frame pics ...