Last week I reviewed Arsenal’s new website, and in general I thought the club had done a good job of creating a simplified and user-friendly browsing experience.
However I didn’t look at the ticketing system as part of the review, and it’s since been pointed out to me that several Premier League clubs offer a below par user experience for fans trying to buy tickets.
This sparked nostalgic memories of spending ages trying to buy tickets for Spurs games back in the days of dial-up internet.
I assumed the user experience would have improved by now, but has it?
Last week Arsenal unveiled a stripped down new website, that was a vast improvement on the cluttered old version.
Admittedly as this article was in the works I didn’t actually navigate to the ticket buying part of the site at the time, but if I had my review wouldn’t have been quite as glowing.
The reason being that if you try to buy match tickets, the new site is revealed to be a glossy façade masking the dreadful old version. Click the ‘Buy now’ button and you’ll be sent back in time to the old site.
Then if you can find a game for which tickets are available, you are initially greeted with this screen.
The interactive stadium is okay if you get in early, but by this stage a number of these section only have a handful of seats available, and certainly no rows of two or three seats together.
So with that option rendered all but useless, you can switch to the ‘Best available’ option.
This allows you to pick a number of seats and the price band you want to choose, but it doesn’t appear to filter out areas that are sold out. So you have to keep selecting different areas until one of them actually has enough tickets to fulfil your request.
Once you’ve found some available seats, the shopping basket isn’t that bad though the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ call-to-action is a bit dull.
Unfortunately you are then forced to register an account, which even requires you to enter your age and gender.
Thankfully there are only two pages in the payment process, which is a good way of avoiding basket abandonment. However on the second page you are told there is a booking fee of £6.30 and postage costs £2.20.
This is a dreadful user experience, as a survey conducted by Econsultancy and TolunaQuick found that 74% of shoppers would abandon a purchase due to high delivery charges, while 54% would drop out if they experienced any technical problems.
But then football teams are probably largely immune to the normal rules of ecommerce.
As mentioned, registration is one of the main causes of basket abandonment, but Newcastle lays its cards on the table right at the start by forcing you to create an account before you can even start looking for tickets.
Again, this requires a huge amount of personal information including your date of birth, gender and two telephone numbers.
After registration, you’re sent back to the original screen to pick your tickets again. This is quite annoying from the user’s perspective, but nothing can prepare you for the next slice of web design hell...
It's awful to look at and there are no instructions, so it was essentially trial and error to see if I could work out how to get seats.
To find tickets, you need to click on a section of the stadium, then scan around to try and find two seats together – which means you might search every available section and find nothing
And you can’t even see the prices for all the adult tickets as the text all blurs into one.
It’s a dreadful user experience and is in dire need of an update – just look at those calls-to-action.
On the plus side, the shopping basket is more user-friendly with big, blue CTAs, and the booking fee is displayed upfront. Also the checkout process is just two screens and requires limited form filling, though that’s thanks to the fact that you've already been forced to register an account.
Manchester City has one of the best websites in the league, so I was quite hopeful that buying tickets would be a pleasant experience.
Not so – as with Newcastle, City require everyone to register upfront and the forms aren’t exactly short. However, it does offer a postcode lookup tool, brightly coloured CTAs and a status bar.
Finding a ticket is a variation on the same awful theme as before – you are given a stadium view and forced to click round each one trying to find available seats that are actually next to each other.
Thankfully the checkout is short and only requires you to enter credit card details – but again this is because you are forced to register upfront.
Though you aren’t forced to register before searching for tickets, Tottenham’s site suffers from the same issues as all the others in that you have to search round the entire stadium to find seats next to each other.
Another bizarre feature is that you can search using three different views – Overview, Closest to Seat, and Interactive Seating Map – each of which appears to show a different number of available seats.
Want tickets from United? You don’t have to register upfront, but it’s the same stadium view as all the others.
Though this is only a handful of examples, I’m confident that the rest of the league is likely to follow suit. The user experience on all the sites was terrible, with Newcastle standing out as a particularly hideous example in my opinion.
But in reality, moaning about the poor user experience offered up by Premier League teams is pointless, as they have no incentive to change.
Football tickets are a unique product that you can’t buy anywhere else (except possibly from touts), so fans will probably have to put up with the shoddy UX for the foreseeable future.
The proof of that is borne out by the fact that when Arsenal revamped its site it left the old ticketing system in place.
There are alternatives to the current system – such as allowing people to just choose how many tickets they want and the price band or section of the stadium.
This is the system employed by the likes of Seetickets and Ticketmaster, and while it’s not perfect it saves users from fruitlessly searching an entire stadium for a pair of seats next to each other.
But as mentioned, there’s currently no incentive to change, so why would they bother?