Field Notes: Dark Stages and Changing Business Model Leads to New Website

long center website case study

Welcome to "Austin's Front Row"

The Long Center for the Performing Arts is more than a physical place for the community to gather. The Long Center offers diverse programming so that everyone in Austin can experience remarkable live arts and entertainment together. From performances, music, movies, hangouts, festivals, and countless other events, the Long Center unites the community. Located along Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, Texas, the Long Center is the permanent home of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, Austin Opera, Ballet Austin, and countless other performing arts throughout the year.

Building upon our close relationship, Seventh Scout worked with the Long Center team to overcome systemic issues with their existing website. These challenges were made worse with the dark stages during the pandemic and a shifting business model relying on growing venue rental and membership revenue streams. As the Board Chair of the Long Center Board of Trustees, our owner, Lynn Yeldell, had a front-row seat to the challenges facing “Austin’s Front Row.”

Courtesy: Long Center Facebook

Changing the Perception From Venue to Community Asset

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Long Center had committed to a new business model shifting focus to serving the community as a community asset, not just a building for performing arts. Then the pandemic shut down all venues and stages. The Long Center staff sprung into action, supporting the Founding Residence Companies and the community of Austin artists. Unfortunately, the website was built around ticket sales and events. The team was forced to create event cards to simply prioritize content on the home page. With venues closed and stages dark, the staff had to rely on a stronger digital presence and social media to share critical information with the Austin creative community.

As a pro bono project, Seventh Scout completely rebuilt the Long Center website – starting with the most important aspect in mind, the connection, and communication with the community. 

I love that we were able to be part of a project that has a direct impact on our local community - especially one focused on the heart and soul of Austin - the arts! The Long Center is a renowned event center and it deserves a website that would amplify that.

Emily Dennis, Seventh Scout

Our goals included establishing the Long Center website as a destination to highlight ways to support Austin’s creative community while demonstrating the organization’s value to the community through compelling content and mission-driven storytelling.

It was essential to provide an informative and intuitive user experience. Reimagining a website with easy-to-use templates allows the Long Center’s internal team to create, edit, and adjust pages and content quickly and efficiently to better serve the needs of the moment better.

Previous Long Center Website

From screen captures of the previous Long Center website, you will see it prominently started with “Give Me Chills” on the homepage. Unfortunate messaging for entering a pandemic, and the Long Center team had no way to remove nor change the header. One of the many assets that the existing architecture essentially locked the Long Center staff from revising and editing.

In addition, the previous Long Center website was built around the calendar of events focusing on selling tickets to live shows. It neglected to tell the story and effectively convey the organization’s mission. The previous website also did not feature the full array of offerings, including memberships and rentals beyond ticket sales.

Although the website was built in WordPress, its templates were so restrictive that it was difficult, if not impossible, for the Long Center’s internal team to make any necessary changes or edits without developer support.

When the pandemic hit, live events disappeared suddenly, rendering our website irrelevant. It was more crucial than ever that the website correctly conveyed the Long Center’s story and value to the community beyond ticket sales in ways that would engage stakeholders and allow the Long Center to be agile in the face of an ever-changing environment.

Long Center Team

Scope of Work

  • Information Architecture (sitemap and navigation scheme planning)
  • Wireframes
  • Visual design of website templates to align with current Long Center brand guidelines
  • WordPress website development with Elementor Pro website builder
  • Integration with a third-party event ticketing system, including branding of ticketing page templates
  • WordPress and Elementor Pro training for Long Center staff

Deprioritize Events & Emphasize Membership and Venue Rental

The website redesign process began with a collaborative meeting between the Long Center and Seventh Scout teams to outline clear articulations of the purpose and desired outcomes achieved for users and the organization. 

High-level planning included collaboratively reviewing template options, plugins, and potential site maps with the Long Center team to ensure the site was built to grow and change with the organization and community. It was important to build flexibility into the site so it can transform in the future while still accomplishing current goals. Our teams dug in cross-departmentally with internal stakeholders to ensure content and functionality would align with goals across all business lines. We strategically placed crosslinks to help find people where they are to engage and bring them further into the funnel.

I really enjoyed working closely with the folks from the Long Center to help shape the vision and purpose of their new website, and it’s been so rewarding to watch the creative team at the Long Center make the site their own and enhance and evolve the website.

Eve Molnar, Seventh Scout

Eve's Early Website Designs

The Long Center felt strongly about integrating compelling photos and graphics while prioritizing videography for the first time throughout the site. Seventh Scout implemented and optimized all digital assets to ensure the high level of visual media did not slow the new site.

“The Long Center has really been going through a kind of evolution at hyperspeed, whereas Austin’s changing, we’re really trying to change to reflect the demographics and the needs in the ecosystem here for the arts. We’ve been working internally about thinking of ourselves as a community hub and really a service provider and an asset that belongs to all of Austin. But when you looked at our website, it was so heavily focused on performances. And performances are certainly a piece of who we are, but it’s almost a tactic of the strategy to get all of Austin connected and the creative field supported.

“So to really be hyper-focused on that tactic rather than telling the story of our mission, it really just wasn’t doing us justice. And the spark really being Lynn Yeldell, who is part of Seventh Scout, and has been on our board for many, many years and was Chair at the time. She more than anybody, really understood how we were making this pivot and this evolving into this community space. With her brilliant marketing mind, she saw that there was this disconnect between who we are and who we are striving to be, and how we are portraying ourselves specifically online. 

“The approach from Seventh Scott was very unique because it really was so high level about ‘what emotions do we want to evoke’ or whether, you know, again, ‘what is the mission?’ What are we what do we want people to think about and feel about the Long Center? And then they were able to build beneath that. But they really started from that angle. Having Seventh Scout work on this, I mean, having an in-kind donation like this is massive. It’s a game-changer for the Long Center. Every single team member was there for us and over-delivered and you could tell was just really passionate and cared about it and cared about us and what we were doing.

“I just never expected that. They’ve already given the gift of this wonderful website. But how we were treated and made feel, it was just so appreciated and such an amazing experience. I mean, especially for our team members that got to work alongside such incredible professionals. So we’re just so grateful for that.”

– Cory Baker, Long Center

Empowering the Long Center

The website received positive feedback and immediately saw an increase in traffic, memberships, venue rental inquiries, and overall audience retention.

0 %

Increase of Monthly Page Views

0 %

Increase of Monthly Users

2x

Nearly Doubled Monthly Pages Per Session

&

Significant Increase in Venue Rental Lead Generation

The pandemic hit us all, and the performing arts were among the hardest. We created space for ALL audiences, from event attendees, to donors, members, and corporate partners, to unite while evolving to the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new Long Center website reflects more than the events happening but the people who make it happen and the community that unites because of it.

Lynn Yeldell, Seventh Scout

Relaunched Long Center Website

Seventh Scout

Seventh Scout

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