Arts Organization Websites: Start At The Beginning


If there’s one problem that plagues arts organizations by way of website design, it’s starting the design process at the end. Meaning, too many groups have an image in their head of the way they want a site to look from a graphic design perspective, but they don’t think about everything needed to create, edit, and mange content.

So unless they have someone to take them back to square one the most likely outcome is a design that is mostly cosmetic. Sure, it might look pretty and have a few added bells and whistles, but it won’t deliver what your group really needs and in a year or two, you’re staring down the barrel of another substantial and costly redesign.

The problem here is getting past anxiety associated with a lack of knowledge about website trends and available options. To complicate matters more, there are too many providers who are willing to leverage unawareness into upselling products and services designed to boost their bottom line instead of helping arts orgs maximize marketing performance.

The good news is getting back to square one while simultaneously building confidence is easier than you might think if you know which questions to ask, which features and services you actually need, and keep the project focused on the singular objective of improving marketing performance.

To that end, the goal for today’s discussion is to develop a working frame of reference you can use to get more from providers, build confidence through improved control, and improve your online presence without busting budgets or driving yourself and colleagues crazy. By the time we’re done, you’ll be on the right path to breaking free of the expensive ground-up redesign syndrome and take meaningful control over your online presence.

  1. Where should the development/redesign process begin and what are the primary goals?
  2. How can I decide which solutions are best for our situation or write an RFP and evaluate proposals if I don’t know the difference between PHP and RSVP?
  3. What are the minimum features and functionality we should require; is there anything we should avoid?
  4. How do I tell a provider to make something happen as cost effectively as possible without making the site look cheap?
  5. What are the differences between websites, box office software, and customer relationship management solutions?
  6. Does our organization need an app in addition to our website?
  7. Where does social media, videos, and graphic design fall into this process?

Additional Resources

About Drew McManus

“I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired.”

Those were the first words out of an executive’s mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals “aggressively embracing career change” but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn’t matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can’t keep your own clients out of the ground, and I’m fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I’ve done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, and love a good coffee drink.

Follow Drew on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn and read his blog, Adaptistration.

Join Us This Week!

  • Tune in on Friday, June 29 at 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern (6:00 p.m. GMT) to participate in the fifth round of #artsmgtchat.
  • Follow @artsmgtchat and Drew (@adaptistration) for questions. You can use TweetChat to follow the discussion. Make sure you use the hashtag #artsmgtchat to be included in the discussion.
  • If you are new to our Twitter chat, please check out our Twitter Chat 101 guide.
  • Bring a colleague to this Friday’s #artsmgtchat.
  • Tweet this post and share with friends on LinkedIn and Facebook.

4 thoughts on “Arts Organization Websites: Start At The Beginning

  1. I thought this would be an interesting addition to the website discussion we had on Friday, especially since we addressed integrated CRM and marketing software, websites, etc.

    Eugene Carr, Founder of Patron Technology – PatronManager CRM:
    “PatronManager CRM is the first truly complete, 100% web-based CRM technology designed for arts and cultural organizations. It’s an all-inclusive system that combines box office software (ticketing and subscriptions), donor database management, professional e-mail marketing, comprehensive contact management, and effortless staff collaboration into one cohesive unit.”

  2. Pingback: Arts Organization Websites: Start At The Beginning « #artsmgtchat « Lorraine Goodman + Arts Administration

  3. “It is your role to think like a publisher and begin any new site or site redesign by starting with the content strategy.”

    Scott, David Meerman (2011-07-26). The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly (p. 115). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition.

  4. Pingback: Twitter: The Concert Experience Force Multiplier | Adaptistration

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