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The English National Opera (ENO) has a new website.

From a UX perspective, everything is cleaner and clearer.

Let's take a look at why it works, and get some insight from the agency that built the site.

Simplified navigation

Compare the navigation on the old ENO site to the very much simplified nav on the new site, both shown below.

The newly simplified menu means that to find certain pages, users must perform extra clicks.

For example, the page about food and drink used to be accessible in one click from the header dropdown, but now takes two.

Despite this extra clicking, it's obvious that the drastically simplified menu is a hell of a lot more manageable than the old one.

Key pages are more prominent and there's less choice, which ultimately may have led to many users missing the most appropriate or important information.

Human-centred design is all about presenting a manageable amount of information to the user.

Substrakt, the agency behind the redesign, sum it up nicely.

What happens on stage is just the tip of a huge iceberg, so when it comes to the website, lots of different things tend to jostle for prominence. Simple navigation is often the first casualty.

One of the aims was to strip back the navigation and reduce content silos, angling the site towards the three main user needs (booking tickets, organising your visit and finding out more about opera).

Longer pages with jump navigation allow the content room to breathe and don't overwhelm the user.

ENO old nav

eno old nav

ENO new fixed and simplified side nav

eno new site nav

Sticky 'book' buttons

Each opera event page includes a book button which sticks to the header when you scroll down on desktop.

This sticky button has been a hit with users, as Chris Unitt from One Further, who did some user testing on the project, notes.

Substrakt had worked on the website for Birmingham Hippodrome, another of my clients, and we'd seen the effect of the sticky ‘book now’ button so that was a must.

True enough, that button is being used around twice as much as the static one.

This functionality isn't yet present on mobile, but will likely feature in future updates. Currently, the majority of ticket bookings are made on desktop.

Opera event page

ENO event page

ENO event page 

Content modelling

Content modelling has been used to better surface content, as Substrakt explains. 

Proper modelling of content (productions, performances, cast/creative, news) has made archiving and cross-linking more efficient/affective. The same content can be brought together in different ways across the site to serve different user needs.

For instance, someone booking a ticket for The Magic Flute may want to see image galleries for the current production, whereas someone looking for general information about that opera might be interested in images from all stagings, current and past.

..[This] means that a piece of content is less likely to get hidden away in a silo that corresponds to a department more than it does to any sensible user journey.

The quick buy

I expect to see more arts and entertainment websites introducing a 'Quick Buy' button.

It lives at the top of the 'What's on' page and makes perfect sense for simplifying the journey to purchase for those reluctant to explore.

Chris Unitt gives some context around this button, as well as the prominent 'Calendar' button at the top of the page.

We carried out user testing on an early version of the site, using participants that mapped to the personas identified at the start of the project. It showed that the fundamentals were sound, but we found lots of small tweaks that would improve the user experience.

For instance, on the What’s On page, the Calendar has been made more prominent and the Quick Buy dropdown was added for people who refuse to scroll or find it difficult to do (the fold is only dead to people who haven't done much user testing).

'Quick Buy' button on homepage

quick buy button

quick buy on ENO


The new simplified site with extra scrolling and reduced menu options makes perfect sense on mobile.

As the screenshots below demonstrate, there's a clarity and focus to the content that improves both navigation and perception of the brand.

Though mobile doesn't account for a significant proportion of bookings, there's no doubt this new approach stands ENO in greater stead as this user shift continues. 

eno on mobile  eno on mobile

For more on digital in the arts, why not read the following articles:

Ben Davis

Published 2 March, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)


Damien Francis, me at private equity

So basically, they've thought about main purpose of site - to sell tickets - and added prominent call to action buttons. Nothing revolutionary, just common sense.

8 months ago

Chris Unitt

Chris Unitt, Managing Director at One Further

Exactly. Although it often doesn't turn out that way, so it's great to have good case studies to point people to.

8 months ago

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