Edinburgh International Festival

Employer: Whitespace | Role: Lead UX Designer | www.eif.co.uk


Edinburgh International Festival, not to be confused with the Fringe Festival, is an annual performing arts festival held in Scotland's capital every August. Whilst working at Whitespace, we won a pitch to redesign their website in 2017, I was part of the team that made this happen.


The Festival brings top class acts in Opera, Theatre, Music and Dance from all over the world who have been invited to perform by the Festival Director. Whilst being introduced to the brand, I learned that EIF is also a charitable organisation.

Objectives + goals
EIF set their brief to transform their website after becoming aware of their increasing competition, they were aware of some brand dilution happening as a result and they wanted to focus on the future, raising the bar and selling more tickets.

The current website was outdated and the CMS was clunky which in turn, made it frustrating for their content team to update the website. From a user's perspective it was confusing, when in the off season, what the goal was and during the on season it was not the easiest of journeys to purchase tickets with users often getting frustrated after being transferred to the third party ticketing system. There is a longer term goal to integrate the ticketing system into the new Craft CMS.

In short, we wanted users to:

  • have a ‘logged on’ experience being served with personalised content

  • encourage ticket purchase, becoming a Friend or Patron and ultimately increasing donations

  • integrate with campaigns to encourage year round conversations on digital/social platforms

My approach
Initially key stakeholders were engaged in a workshop to understand departmental and organisational goals and also to refocus their attention onto the users of the website. With this in mind, I undertook a vast content audit of the existing site which was home to a lot of archived content.

Whilst doing so, we also wanted to take advantage of the time of year - August! We created two sets of testing wireframes and took to the venues of the Edinburgh International Festival to speak with real users and get them to complete a few tasks using the wireframes on iPads. Taking these findings into consideration and working alongside the personas, I was able to progress with a first iteration of the new site structure and some user journey mapping to present to the client. The user journeys consisted of a comprehensive cross section of all site users including corporate stakeholders, international bookings and users booking at different stages of their festival planning process. These journeys helped us to identify key points in the users experience that required additional thought or streamlining to enable the process to be as simple as possible.


Upon sign off for the new site structure, I turned my focus to creating a mammoth set of wireframes detailing all aspects of user interaction and expected behaviour of the elements on screen.


Wireframes were further developed to meet stakeholder requirements as necessary and also refined to ensure booking processes were as lean as they could be, that content (and personalised content) was served to the right users at the right time by storing cookies and that the proposed layout had longevity for the future requirements of the EIF website.

I worked very closely with fabby Whitespace senior designer Adam Wilson on the look and feel of the site, referring to the brand's thorough guidelines throughout and developing the UI in line with the functional requirements scoped in the research and wireframing stages. Adam really did a stellar job; the EIF brand is disruptive and bold, and he brought this to life online in a very functional site. He reduced the amount of yellow, limiting this to primary actions only which aids users in understanding the key interactions on the site itself.

A large part of my role as a Digital Media Producer at Whitespace was to liaise between the developers, designers and the clients. I was lucky enough to work with two super talented developers on this site who understood the brief and technical requirements. They really pushed themselves to fulfil every aspects of the user experience - from the way the homepage tiles scrolled and extended based on the tickets available or categories shown, to working with the bespoke typeface and creating responsive lines with code to match - harder than you think!

The goal was to simplify the overall user experience of a very functional site. I revised the overall digital approach and reduced the amount of thinking users had to do when searching for a show during the on season, booking tickets or reflecting upon the previous festivities at any other time of the year. Launching for the 2018 festival, mobile usage increased from 32% in 2017 to 41% in 2018 on launch day. The homepage was 165% faster than the previous year. Performances are discoverable through images, and searchable by dates or tags. The power is now in the user's hands to build their own festival experience.

In 2018, the site was Highly Commended in the Best Website category at the Scottish Design Awards. I feel very proud to have been part of such a great team at Whitespace working on this project.