February 11, 2016

UX Design and Theatre: A User Experience Cross-Analysis

It has been three months since I started working at Top Draw and as I do my administrative duties I observe the workings of agency life and what it takes to be a top contender in the fields of content strategy, ux design and development, and search engine optimization. As I settle into this new world, I try to understand the processes of web design-build by relating it to my previous experience in theatre production and education in theatre stage management.

I don’t necessarily need to know the details of web development and design in my position, but if I want to grow in this industry and feed my curiosity, understanding this world is a must.

Where I start to draw the connection between theatre production and web design-build is through the experience of the user (UX). A website can be very similar to a piece of theatre when placing consideration on the design of the set, the purchase of tickets and even the navigation through the theatre to seats, merchandise counters and refreshments. The user’s entire experience takes precedence in both silos and is carefully considered through each sprint of construction to reach the final product.

UX is every aspect of the user’s interaction with a product, service, or company that make up the user’s perceptions of the whole.

– Mark Yiu

Over the course of many years, I have directed, produced, stage-managed, constructed costumes, built props, sold tickets, hung lights, recorded audio, and even acted, sung and danced in a number of productions — all of which lend to the overall construction of the user experience.

Managing and Creating the User’s Experience

The Production Team

If a client is the playwright, then Top Draw makes up the production team that develops and puts on their play for an audience ­– the users. As a team, we are 100% involved in managing and creating the user experience. Our team is made up of stage managers, designers, the producer and director, as well as crew and actors. Not to mention front of house, ushers, and ticket takers.

The Management Team

The management team, along with the producer and director, is responsible for the smooth running of the show. They oversee both the logistical and creative side of the production. They are the ones who offer practical guidelines whilst being responsible for bringing out creativity and intelligible ideas. They allow content and context to flow and take place. This team is very much the backbone for the user experience.

The Actors

From a web design perspective, you can’t base user experience solely on visual aesthetics because it relies heavily on the merging of design and content. This is where the director and actors come in.

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The actors do everything they can to understand the story, analyze it and suitably portray it to an audience. Then they add in the first step of design with blocking – the actors’ movements across the stage and the physical interactions they have with each other, the space, props, sets and costumes, each of which are last to add but not forgotten. They’ve been developing along with the actors in order to come together in the end. The development stage is a “go” when the crew begins to hang lights, build sets, fashion costumes and print tickets for purchase.

The ‘User’ in UX Design

I have been on the receiving end of the user experience as an audience member myself and appreciate the careful consideration that has been given to ensure my enjoyment of the entire event, especially when I see a big London musical on Broadway.

The ticket purchasing is online and convenient. The Underground is right across the street so I don’t have to take a cab. The lobby is large and the ushers know exactly what the protocol is for incoming audience members. When the theatre doors open, ushers take my ticket and I enter the theatre. It is large, the seats are velvet yet small, but spaced in order for everyone to see the stage perfectly.

The pre-show music is playing and the volume is low enough to provoke chatter amongst the entering audience. When the show is about to start, the theatre doors close, the music swells and the lights lower to initiate the start of the show. People know to quiet down and focus their attention on the stage. As an audience member, even before the show begins, I am captivated by its story: this is my user experience.

As seen in community theatre, user experience is specifically designed to attract audience members who are likely to bring in the most revenue. They do this by strategically choosing shows for their yearly programs. This can be recognized in a large city theatre, like the Citadel. In its program there will be period dramas, Shakespeare, comedies and musicals offered, because its marketing team pays considerate attention to whom is buying the tickets, which are young families with children and persons of an older age demographic.

Different Systems – Same End Goal: A Positive User Experience

Relating my experience in theatre to agency life allowed me to recognize the similarities between its processes and that of UX design. They both occupy specific systems that result in a product. Theatre lives in the 3D world and website design resides in the 2D digital world, but they’re both here to create a visual product to attract users and offer a positive user experience on different physical and interactive levels.

If this has inspired you to want to learn more about web-design UX or how to recognize when your website is no longer getting great reviews for its performance, check out: When is it time to redesign?

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from Top Draw