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  • Edward Dyer

Website Design 2014


The website has gone through some major changes over the last few months in preparation for the new academic year and for Minotaur's 2014 Edinburgh show, The Psychosocial Gathering.

I just wanted to write a quick message to go through some of the updates, improvements and under-the-hood changes that should make the website faster, more engaging and jam-packed with information about both our productions and our talented members.

I've used Wix before to create websites, but never before to this extent. It's a great tool to use: it's simple and effective, and I hope Minotaur continues using it for years to come. They keep adding new features so expect the website to be even better in the coming months.

The website came to me, prior to Edinburgh with a handful of pages; it’s now got over 180, and as the 1st Years arrive for 2014 there will be another 50 added. Back in June, several pages were still ‘under construction’ and now, there are no pages lacking in information – everything is up-to-date. The About Us page has had a complete rewrite to bring it in line with the rest of the pages, and updated for the latest information. The last three years of productions have been added, too, divided into new headings: Productions, Charity, New Writing and Edinburgh. Each Production has it’s own page, filled with galleries, trailers, cast and crew lists, posters and reviews. For the Edinburgh Productions, they even have an extensive Behind the Scenes Extras page to credit those who spend all their time backstage. The Shorts, the biggest festival of its kind at UEA, were mammoth productions to add, each with over a dozen short plays, 40-50 actors and even more members of the production team.

Every single member of the company now has their own Profile Page, linked in with all of the shows they’ve been a part of. Once added, you’re there forever, as Alumni/Alumnae are moved to their own special graduates page once they leave UEA. Even the company galleries have been alphabetised and had names added to make searching and finding your profile even easier. If you’ve been a member of the Committee, your page is linked in with the Committee pages (also going back three years). For the Publicity Artists, it’s a great place to showcase the work you’ve done for the year. These Profile pages also serve as a great way to navigate around the website: each page has dozens of links to and from it so every page gets an equal exposure.

Another way to navigate the website is the footer, where there’s a brief site map. Apart from that, there's a new Search tool, which can be used to jump directly to the page you want. Search for a show, a member or a blog post to find exactly what you’re after, quickly.

Speaking of the Blog, that’s had a major revamp too. Everything is much easier to look through, read and keep track of. I've added all of the Psychosocial Newsletters, as well as last year's Librarians Emails. They can be organised by tags, date and show. It’s completely self contained and integrated into the website so adding new blog posts throughout the year will be simple. The same goes for new episodes of Radio Drama, which has been given a new focus on the site, giving it the attention it deserves.

You can now also view the whole site using a dedicated mobile version. Everything has been hand adjusted, resized and rearranged especially for phones so eveything can be read without overlapping.

While that might be everything you can see, there are several changes that are useful for anyone who will be developing the website next...

• Recent reviews on the homepage are contained with a separate list object so you can add a new review to the top without having to move the others down.

• All the pages have been ordered under their separate headings in the website editor. You might be able to see these headings by using the Search Bar on different productions. The same goes for all Profile pages; they’re all sorted by last name to make linking their pages much faster.

• Uniform fonts and colours. The design of the website can be changed by clicking only a few buttons. You can change the font, size and colour of all the text, buttons, boxes and menus because they’ve all be linked in together.

• If you’re adding a page for a new production or company member, you’ll find a handy template (example) you can copy and build up from. It stops you missing out any information, and more importantly, if you copy an old show and change the information, there’s always the risk that something isn’t changed and names get carried over when they shouldn’t have been.

• The site is littered with ALT text and SEO information. That basically means that Minotaur has a much higher chance of being picked up by Google on an every-day search. While it takes a while for Google to realize our site exists, you can probably search for your name and find several pictures of yourself, lifted from the work I’ve been doing.

• Most the images have been renamed in the website photo viewer, so when they’re added to the site, you don’t end up with annoying ALT text saying ‘photo.png’ for example.

• Being able to copy and titles and paste them elsewhere (especially if it’s got a complicated name and you can’t spell it!)

• Links in the header to take you back to the homepage

• Whether you go to minotaurtheatre.co.uk or .com, you’ll get to our site.

One final comment I’ll make is about Google Analytics. It’s an extremely powerful tool for figuring out your website audience: where do they live, which pages do they look at most, what do they search on Google to find the website? It’s great for debugging and finding problems, as well as promoting our website in the right places. Now it’s been updated and completely redesigned, it’s something we should all be proud of, and look to maintain and update into the distant future.

There’s a lot left to do and I’m sure the website will continue to grow and evolve as the Company changes and adds a whole host of new ventures to its portfolio. I’ve seen some of James’ designs for a new layout, and they look great.

It’s been both a nightmare and a pleasure to work on.

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