The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is racing to fix problems with its new website while in the midst of selling tickets online to members for the 2013 theater season that opens in February.
OSF started selling tickets to patrons with memberships on Friday, less than a month after launching the completely revamped website on Oct. 15.
OSF will begin selling tickets to the general public, not just people with OSF memberships, beginning Nov. 26.
"Some people went through the buying process easily and they've had positive comments. For some, it's been a terrible exercise in frustration so they call the box office, where there have been long queues," said Amy Richard, OSF media and communications manager.
"The box office customer service representatives have been great, working to assuage and soothe people," she added. "Some people have been concerned they won't be able to get the seats they wanted."
OSF last updated its website eight years ago, she said.
The previous website had been patched together over the years and was becoming more fragile and outdated.
Among other issues, there were limited opportunities to post photos from plays, videos and blogs, Richard said.
OSF also wanted to improve the online buying experience, create a sustainable technological foundation to use for years to come, and facilitate donations, she said.
Although OSF recognized it needed a new website two years ago, the entire process to create a new one took longer than expected, Richard said.
OSF has been working with Portland-based The Swift Collective and New York-based JCA on the website, she said.
The new website launched in October with information from the 2012 season because the season had not yet closed.
Then there was a quick turn-around to post 2013 information when this year's season closed in early November.
There wasn't enough time to do all the testing that OSF wanted before the launch of the version for the remainder of the 2012 season or the version for the coming 2013 season, Richard said.
She said everyone has been working incredibly hard on the website, but patrons and website visitors still have experienced problems — especially those who have tried to buy tickets online.
"It was a bad experience for them. We felt terrible," Richard said.
She said OSF's website is extremely complicated. For example, there are different ticket prices based on patrons' membership levels and the days they plan to see plays.
"Our website is so intricate and complicated. It's not like buying a book online," Richard said.
The website also has to tie into OSF's Tessitura system, Richard said.
Tessitura software is widely used by art and cultural organizations for ticketing, Internet transactions and other tasks, according to the Tessitura Network's website.
OSF's website has a new look with a black background and white text.
Richard said The Swift Collective designed the website to be wider and to have an elegant, theatrical black background so that images would pop.
She said adjustments have been made through the design process to make it easier to read, especially for aging eyes that may have trouble with white text on black backgrounds.
Richard said everyone is still working hard to improve the website's design and to make it easier to buy tickets online.
She said OSF wants their patrons' online purchasing experience to be as good as their experience buying via the Box Office — a tall order, given that the Box Office employees are known for their excellent service.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.