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Our new website: An update on progress

Chief Technology Officer Rob Greig on our forthcoming new website.

By Rob Greig (Former Chief Technology Officer)

21 February 2012 at 10.08am | 22 Comments

Since my last post, there has been a great deal of progress in developing our new and improved website. Like the rest of the team here, I was delighted with the feedback given to my last blog; it’s great to know that we’re on the right track with delivering many of the things you’re looking for.

The focus of the last month has been data, data and more data; we’ve been trying to find the best ways to display all the important information about our performances and productions in a way that makes sense to everyone using it.

A lot of the information you see on our website today has to be manually entered, meaning that we’re limited in how we can present the data, an increased likelihood of mistakes, and a lot of time spent updating for our team. In fact, this is also not one project, it's four; technology, the content, the ticket and e-commerce, and the repurposing of all the content from the old to the new.

Like all the work we do at the Royal Opera House it could not happen without the people who work behind the scenes, so I wanted to introduce you to the dedicated technical team who are making this all happen. We’ll look at the work of the content team in another blog.

Firstly they are the often unsung heroes, the development team of two developers and a manager. Jamie and his small team are building the site from the ground up. Working with reams of data, they’ve recently been building a new more integrated way to reserve a restaurant table - one of the consequences of which is that we won't be asking for a restaurant deposit on the new site. Other fundamental work includes keeping data open and accessible. This will, for example,  impact on the way we store and showcase our ever-popular production photography, which will be managed through Flickr.

Then there is the Technology team who are working behind the scenes with staff from all over the house to perform a major upgrade of the supporting systems and databases that hold the data and ultimately sell the tickets. Experienced and skilled techies though they are, they’re not your typical IT crowd - including a cellist, an actor, writer, dancer, and an ex-orchestra pit manager. Head of IT Chris and his team have to make sure the behind the scenes systems are safe, secure and responsive for both the website and the box office.

We also have a partner in all this; POP will be building the ticketing system and have taken on the formidable challenge of building an online sales system capable of handling our busiest periods without the need for a waiting room. They have a long history working with arts venues in the UK, previously creating the system that sends you our emails as well as our iPhone ticketing app. They’re currently working on a new select-a-seat tool which will be simpler to use than the current incarnation and works on other devices that don’t support Flash. Their next task is to build single click purchasing similar to Amazon’s.

After all these developments, I’m sure that your ultimate question is “When is it going to be launched?”, but I’m afraid we’re going to keep you guessing, for now at least. I can tell you that we start our first round of testing in the middle of March. It's important that we get this right; there are always issues with complex new websites, and we want to be sure we give you the best possible experience when we go live.

Read Rob's other blogs about the new website

By Rob Greig (Former Chief Technology Officer)

21 February 2012 at 10.08am

This article has been categorised Off stage and tagged digital, technology, website

This article has 22 comments

  1. Very excited for the new site. Sounds like it's going to be great.

  2. Thanks for the update!! I am VERY happy to read that you are building from the group up - completely new. It is a HUGE investment, but one I am sure will be worth while not just in the short term, but in the long term too.

    Congratulations and keep up the good work!

  3. Guy Cavendish responded on 22 February 2012 at 8:10am Reply

    More detailed information about the real-time side-effects these changes are causing to the site rather than PR pieces would be appreciated. All the listings by ballet/opera were unavailable recently, always returning to Calendar view. It would be helpful to state this us the case somewhere (or even return a call/email as promised).

  4. How about an Android App as well?
    I can remember queueing overnight in Floral Street and that was a pleasurable experience in comparison to the current on -line booking.

  5. Very exciting, looks like a lot of hard work going into this. Can't wait to see the finished article.

  6. Ann Lander responded on 22 February 2012 at 6:39pm Reply

    I always think it's such a shame that the joy I experience attending a production at the Royal Opera House is in inverse proportion to the angst I feel when booking tickets.

    Thanks for the update & I'm very much looking forward to seeing & using the new site.

  7. Elizabeth Lowe responded on 22 February 2012 at 11:24pm Reply

    I guess that is why I have not been able to even look at What's On this evening without being sent straight into the Waiting Room! At 23:15 hours, I was still 150th in the Waiting Room!
    I'm sure everything will be fine tomorrow, but I would have liked certain information about performances now!

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 23 February 2012 at 10:26am

      Hi Elizabeth. Sorry you had issues with the site last night. If you'd like to see production details without being diverted to the waiting room, going to should give you the information you need.

  8. Michael Wimbs responded on 20 April 2012 at 6:49am Reply

    Given that the iPad is rapidly replacing the laptop for tens of millions of internet users, (and, no doubt, a high proportion of online Friends,) it's alarming that you have made no specific reply to earlier queries about whether the new website will support iPad? Surely the new website is not going to be obsolete before it's been fully launched?!?

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 20 April 2012 at 10:22am

      Hi Michael

      You will be pleased to hear that creating a website that works for tablet (including iPad) and moving away from Flash to HTML 5 has been an important part of redesigning the website.



  9. JOHN WOODNUTT responded on 20 April 2012 at 2:02pm Reply

    The new website is certainly a disaster but that apart I found telephone booking much quicker than waiting twenty minutes for a Web response. The telephone operator was most helpful and certainly for someone with a knowledge of the House, better seats were available than those published on the web.

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 20 April 2012 at 2:14pm

      Dear John

      The new website has not been launched yet, what you are experiencing is an inability to select your own seat due to a problem with the seat map - this is a problem with the old / current website. Glad to hear that the Box Office were helpful.



  10. David Churchill responded on 23 April 2012 at 10:14am Reply

    VAST improvement - this a.m. I only waited 46 mins. in the waiting room and the only performance of Robert le Diable for Bognor Regis residents (last train about 10.20 except Saturday) was nearly sold out. Stalls Circle had no pairs of seats, and everywhere else nearly as bad. Wonderful, I have saved about 170 quid and got 2 in the amphitheatre - keep up the good work - I'll be much richer. Couldn't be bothered to try any of the other shows in the season and couldn't face the finger on redial!

    • ken watson responded on 23 April 2012 at 12:34pm

      Have to agree. Took me 40 minutes on line to get through the waiting room. Best seats available is no alternative for being able to see the sates you want, seems appalling pproject management not have have this facility as key part of any upgrade. Impossible to defeat the logic of "best seats" and had wait another 40 mins on phone to find a very helpful person who told me on Wednesday the proper facility would be available. Susan Fisher's email made no such promise and left us to assume the worst - certainly based on previous improvements

  11. Malcolm responded on 24 April 2012 at 10:01am Reply

    Might this mean it will work in connection withy AOL?? Didnt previously

  12. Anelim responded on 24 April 2012 at 11:22am Reply

    Hi, a new fast ticketing system would be great! I spent about two hours in the virtual waiting room waiting to buy tickets for Don Giovanny and see Erwin Schrott. But I persevered!

  13. Graeme Williams responded on 24 April 2012 at 5:09pm Reply

    Let's put this into perspective. At least you have a waiting room and given available time to sit there I know I will eventually get to the front of the queue. Many other ticket sales organisations don't have waiting rooms so one tries forever the get "on-line" and then most of the time one gets thrown out before the purchase is completed. THAT'S frustrating.
    The only niggle is sometimes my computer losing the connection, usually when reaching the last fifty or so in the queue. My answer - two computers logged in (but that just makes the queue longer!)

  14. Vivian 1926 responded on 24 April 2012 at 5:35pm Reply

    I don,t know about Twitter and Facebook, but I do know that the combination of on line and phone booking in ROH is much better than last year's Prom booking and so much better than the many years ago 4 am turnout.Fascinating to read about all the activity "enjoyed"? bythe younger set

  15. Lily Maiola responded on 24 April 2012 at 7:00pm Reply

    I had a great joy of having a good experience in buying my ticket by internet last November to attend on 2nd January to The nutcracker performance. So if things will be even faster now it`ll be very well welcomed.
    I didn`t have any problem in the past so I hope not having any in the future.

  16. teresa mello responded on 1 May 2012 at 9:44pm Reply

    Sounds like it’s going to be great, but
    I didn`t have any problem in my experiences buying tickets from you by the internet.

  17. David Gascoigne responded on 10 July 2012 at 10:26am Reply

    I find the new website simply awfull. No collections or performance datbase on line, no total or mini packages on line, no indication of sales dates for packages (including on the very well hidden booking dates section), half the information that was there on the old site is missing (or at least not coming up when searched for).
    All of the comments on this article are two months old promissing to resolve issues that remain unsorted. Bring back the old website until this one is as good and has been tested properly.

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 10 July 2012 at 11:20am

      Dear David

      We're sorry to hear that you have had problems. Here are some responses to your comments:

      - Collections still have a separate microsite, which we link to from around the main ROH website:
      - Packages will be bookable online in a later phase of work
      - We are currently working on modelling how the Booking Day pages appear, but they are currently accessible via a promo on the homepage

      Even despite the problems that some customers have experienced this morning, the new website is far more stable than the old one and results in far fewer errors. Completely rebuilding from the ground up is a gradual process, so we apologise for any frustrations along the way.

      Best wishes


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