In 2015, we were delighted to be appointed as digital supplier to Hull UK City of Culture. Our first task in the partnership, was to design and develop the official Hull 2017 digital platform.
From the outset of it’s City of Culture bid, digital was at the heart of the city’s cultural strategy. Hull needed to deliver an experience that used digital technology to enhance people’s experience of culture and learning as well as broadening access to the year itself.
As the cornerstone of the city’s digital offering, it was essential the platform embodied the city’s digital ambition, acting as a single, front door for all that Hull 2017 has to offer.
It also needed to help the Hull team deliver on its wider strategic objectives, including capturing the hearts and minds of the local community, building engagement from Hull arts centres and businesses, driving footfall to the city’s events and delivering a legacy impact for Hull that extends beyond 2017.
When working with Hull to develop and refine the scope of the project, the above objectives were considered and built into our design and development approach.
What we did
Look and feel
It was important to the Hull team that the site felt distinct, whilst giving the people of Hull a sense of ownership of it as a platform. Therefore the site’s visual design needed to be bold, beautiful and inclusive for all.
Building on Hull 2017’s brand guidelines, we implemented a modular, image led design that visually showcases all of the events and happenings across the city. By doing this, it gave us flexibility when adapting to different types of content; such as editorial versus event listings.
Technical approach and challenges
From a technical perspective, the scale and complexity of the challenge was huge. To our knowledge, there are no previous examples of platforms allowing visitors to buy tickets from so many different venues and for so many different events in a single transactional process.
To tackle this challenge, we worked closely with ticketing partner Spektrix and Hull to integrate the city’s venues and arts organisations into the Spektrix ticketing API. This allowed us to create a single, unified experience that brought all of the city’s venues and arts spaces together.
Throughout the integration process, it was important we always kept the audience front of mind, ensuring that, despite the complexity of the backend, the experience for the end user was engaging and as simple as possible. Early ticket sales events demonstrated the need for refinements to some of the user journeys, particularly in cases where there were peaks in traffic and ticket demand.
Widening the experience: merchandise shop
Following the ticketing integration phase, our focus was on widening the experience beyond a programme guide and ticketing platform.
The major addition to the site’s functionality in this next phase was the merchandise shop. From a user experience perspective, this was an interesting challenge as we had to consider the ways in which different purchasing journeys could work together and deliver the desired single basket experience. Since launch, we’ve seen items flying off the shelves, and we’ve been delighted to spot ‘Everyone Back to Ours’ bags and ‘Made in Hull’ t-shirts in locations across the country.
Digital and physical
After the success of the shop launch, we turned our attention to delivering something that gave the project a sense of physical permanency. Working collaboratively with kiosk specialists Scoop Retail, we designed and developed an interactive payment kiosk experience that was launched in Hull train station. Taking all our learnings forward from the Hull 2017 website design, our objective was to create a joined up experience, that seamlessly translated the digital experience into a physical environment. The kiosk launched in January this year, allowing visitors to explore all the events and happenings by touch, and collect or purchase tickets, which are printed for them instantly. If you’re passing through Hull station, why not have a play?
As the platform has grown and it’s functionality has evolved, we have continued to review and refine the platform’s design and functionality to ensure it continued to meet Hull’s objectives and serve the needs of its audiences, with the ultimate goal being to deliver an experience that leaves a lasting legacy for Hull and it’s people.
We are extremely proud of our work on Hull and are pleased to say the engagement figures have been staggering; with more than 8 million page visits from 1.2 unique users since launch. On the Season 2 / 3 launch day alone it was amazing to see over 5000 tickets and merchandise items purchased, many of whom were Hull and Humberside residents.
It’s fantastic to see other potential Cities of Culture looking to Hull as a blueprint for a city wide cultural experience. We’re looking forward to sharing the unique set of learnings we've gained with cities and companies looking to complete similar projects in the future.