Jacob’s Pillow Website Redesign
Meet the Pillow
Jacob’s Pillow is a National Historic Landmark and National Medal of Arts recipient – an esteemed arts institution that presents world class dance performances, supports promising emerging artists, and offers unparalleled training in arts administration and production to interns and in a variety of dance styles to students in The School. The Festival is a pillar in the Berkshires, presenting free performances four nights a week and hosting a multitude of community events.
It’s also where I planted the first seedlings of my own professional life.
My first experience in a dance nonprofit was a summer internship in marketing and press relations at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 2008. That summer was pre-Instagram. Pre-Facebook ads. Pre-content marketing as we now know it. My duties were to write press releases for performances, assemble artist bios and music credits for program booklets, and edit marketing copy on various print pieces.
The website looked a lot like this:
Fast forward eight years, and the Pillow’s website was exactly this – that is, pretty much the same.
But the ways we can reach and interact with new audiences and loyal patrons have completely changed. Cue the need for a mobile-friendly, visually-stunning, user-focused redesign. The Pillow wanted a new and improved site to convey a sense of place and community, sell more tickets, and house fresh, contemporary content.
We had from December 2015 through May 2016 to design and develop a site with these goals in mind. No sweat.*
*This is sarcasm. There was indeed sweat – panic sweat – about this crazy fast timeline! I typically work with clients on overhauling a website this large on a year-long timeline.
Not only did we have a very limited time to create and implement dramatic improvements, but the Pillow was going through a lot of transitions in its leadership. At a certain point, both the Director and Director of Marketing and Communications roles were empty, awaiting successors to start on campus.
As project manager, with key decision-makers changing throughout the redesign, I had to continuously refer back to goals and plans from kick-off to ensure all parties were on the same page. This period of transition also meant the Pillow was understaffed the month prior to launch, so I stepped in as copywriter/editor, managed content population and focused on search engine optimization.
- Reviewing the current website, redesign project guide (created by the brilliant folks at Capacity Interactive) and any other relevant materials supplied by the Pillow
- Overseeing the first phase of the web redesign, including day-to-day management of the design agency, review of all work, tracking of feedback and synthesis of change requests made by the Pillow, and minding that all decisions support goals of the project guide
- Assisting on a full content audit of the Pillow’s current website to archive copy as needed, generate and better prioritize content for the new site, and strategize placement of content in a new site map
- Copyediting for the full site
- Original web copywriting for pages as needed
- Attending regular meetings with the Pillow redesign team, design agency and Capacity Interactive to discuss design progress
- Communicating with key members of Pillow staff on relevant sections of the site for feedback and buy-in
- Consulting on creation of original media for sections of the site as needed
The Web Design
Barrel, a design agency based in Manhattan, suggested and led us through a phased approach to the full web redesign, which focused first on stunning Festival pages, revamping the informational flow for The School, and moving the content on remaining pages to newer, flexibly designed templates.
Now it looks like this:
In four short months, we successfully ushered in a beautiful and easy to use calendar (which is now the second most frequently visited page on the whole site). Now the Pillow is able to show off everything a patron can do when on the grounds for a ticketed performance in one space. And we know that longer visits and deeper experiences build loyalty to the Pillow more than just coming for a show.
We can prominently feature a greater amount of video and big, beautiful images. And we know that video, more than anything else, influences and encourages ticket purchase decisions.
The new site is more contemporary, aesthetically balanced, and beautiful. This shift shows that we’re serious about the artists we support, the work we present, the partnerships we form and the community programs we offer. Katherine Casey, Graphic Designer and Website Manager, put it best: “I can’t wait for this modern design to be our welcome.”
Pillow staff now has full control over a better navigation and a more intuitive flow of information for the user. They used to apply band-aid solutions to what they couldn’t execute in the old site’s CMS. Now, everything makes more sense for the user and is easy to update by the Pillow. – With Pillow Picks, we have space to house more entertaining content on our own site without the stress of regularly keeping a blog. We can use this section of the site year-round to draw in dance enthusiasts, supporters, current and future patrons, and interesting artists.
There are more prominent calls-to-action throughout the site, and the Pillow can shift them as needed. Even the homepage design was built with two distinct options to better serve their organizational calendar of campaigns – during ticket sales seasons, the Pillow focuses on the Festival performances, and during other months, they can easily shift the homepage to highlight events at The School, community programs, co-presentations, Creative Development Residencies and other artist opportunities.
In Just 2 Months Following Their Launch
Increase in Overall Session Duration
Increase in Pages per Session
Decrease in Overall Bounce Rate
With proper planning, prioritization and a great team, miracles do happen.
In Phase 2 this Fall, many sections of the Pillow’s site will be evaluated, reorganized and refined. I can’t wait to see the improvements in store!
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Written by: Amy Jacobus
the brains of the operation
I strategize, consult and manage digital marketing and communications for small businesses, individual artists and nonprofit organizations.
I’m an independent contractor based in Brooklyn, because I have a thing for exposed brick and cozy, local coffee shops. Because I work with small businesses, I get the chance to really know my clients – what makes them tick and how and why they should stand out in a crowded marketplace. This leads to marketing strategies and solutions tailored to each company’s unique needs and actual capacity.