The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at
The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at

The Next Phase

Over the last few months we’ve been working on getting our booking journey just right – making it perform better on mobile, updating the look and feel and adding improved functionality for customers. Having done that, we’re now moving onto the next stage of the project: tackling the main website. This will comprise of two main areas of work:

1) Building a new content management system (CMS)
Our current CMS is over 10 years old and while it still does the job, it lacks a lot of the functions that web editors have come to expect from their back end of the website. We’ll be working with a technology partner to help us build a new CMS with a new data architecture and workflow. But this isn’t just about how we work, it’s equally about how we can improve the online experience for our audiences so we’ll be looking at how we can best make recommendations that feel more tailored and personal.

2) Implementing a new front end design
As well as improving the system behind the website, we’ll be designing a new look and feel, bringing the brand up to date,using bigger, bolder imagery and improving the overall user experience.

Updating our current website while we work

mock-up of web project

These two workflows will be happening in tandem, with our ambitions for the CMS impacting design choices and the front end user experience defining how we structure the back end.

We imagine this next stage will take at least a year to complete so in the interim we’ll also be making some changes to the existing website – what we’re calling ‘quick wins’. We have two main criteria for quick wins: firstly, that they are changes that can be implemented easily on our existing platforms without substantial amounts of technical work; and secondly, that they will be a notable improvement for a significant portion of our users, whether audiences or staff.

There’ll be a range of technical changes that will be largely invisible to users but that will  improve the overall experience. There will also be some much more visible changes to branding and images. We want to be really clear with our audiences that these changes don’t constitute a new website, but rather, are the first small steps in the direction we want our digital platforms to go; so, switching to our house font Futura, updating the logo and header navigation, adding in a breadcrumb trail, and moving towards larger image formats. We’ll be making the design changes incrementally: changing an aspect of the site’s design, letting it bed in for a couple of weeks, and then moving on to the next element – we’ve already made the change to the fonts (which you may or may not have noticed)!

We hope that for you as our audience, these interim changes will mean you’ll enjoy a better experience  but that it will be clear that this isn’t a new website yet. Instead, this is just the first step in an exciting move towards fulfilling our ambitions for the Barbican online.


Simon Cope

Interested to know why you’ve opted to build your own CMS rather than e.g. Drupal or WordPress?

Nicholas Triantafyllou

Hello Simon

We have decided to use Drupal as the CMS for the new website. We’ll be working with a technology partner to help us to implement this with a new data architecture and workflow.


Nicholas Triantafyllou – Barbican Technical Lead

F Simons

I hope you won’t be making the images more important than the information about the event. Too many sites give us pictures that tell us nothing and we need to do multiple clicks to get to the text. Simplicity is good. Currently the site is very good in that we can see a number of events and the key info on one screen. Most of us can and do read!

Also will you restore the old feature (much missed by me) whereby one could see a history of our bookings.

Roland Zollner

Fully support the above comments. It is an absolute pain to have to click on every event to get the details when there is sufficient room to enter the full concert programme to be seen at glance; having to go into each puts me of browsing and is a waste of time.

Also booking history is useful.

L. Hill

Absolutely agree with the two comments above.

Unfortunately, this site looks as if it is dispensing with information and prioritising colour photos of artists instead. I nearly always know the artist and do not need a superfluous photo taking up valuable space on the screen!!

We need event information, simple as that – who, what, when, where and how long. You have all the information for each event, so why spin it out into multiple pages/clicks? It makes viewing and booking very very tiresome indeed.

natalie g

One of the most frustrating issues at the moment is the My bookings page – it shows 3 entries for each single ticket I’ve booked, and is generally not easy to navigate. The tickets I returned show as booked. It just states the basic info about the booking and the titles aren’t linked to the event pages.

N Girard

Came across this as I was booking two of the last few tickets for the James Holden & Maalem Mahmoud Guinia show.
Great to know you’re tackling the visual aspect soon, you’ve got great content strategies, I’m sure they can come out better on an improved version.

Let me know if you need help, I updated the website of a multidisciplinary space in Paris and would be happy to lend a hand. In any case, best of luck!

David A

Simplicity, transparency, direct presentation of key information are important to me. The website is already good so please beware the designer’s frequent error of removing key functionality…

Contrast the present clarity of the Barbican website with the truly terrible South Bank site. Please don’t take a single step in their direction!


No, I do NOT want to register BEFORE I know how much tickets cost.
I’d even prefer not to register at all (there are _far_ too many registrations in my name and in various other names I have started to invent), but it seems impossible in this day and age, just to purchase as ticket for a concert without giving away one’s whole Life story (cf big data).
Your new website is a step in the same [wrong] direction as everybody else seems to be taking.

David L

Please note the comments above about wrongly prioritising photos over text. I could not agree more with F. Simon, Roland Zollner, L. Hill and David A.

David A. really hits the nail on the head with his comparison to the South Bank Centre’s website. It looks good, but when I want to see all the events across the SBC in one go (most of the time), the scrolling is atrocious, even on a relatively high-powered laptop, no doubt due to the large volume of photos.

And yes, I just want to see all the information all in one go, in text, on one page, rather than having to look ‘below the fold’ or mouse over or click through.

That is all.

Sue H.

I hope the new website will be better than the current one. I have just spent more than 1/2hr trying to find out for a friend what is on in the theatre in Ocober and November. And I still am not certain. The main thing that the customer wants to know is what is on, where and when, and how to book tickets. Everything else is interesting, but not essential. So get the essential right first.

Frank Jeffs

Please don’t leave traditional desktop users behind in your quest for a greater mobile and tablet-friendly site. I’m really fed up with huge typefaces and photographs occupying the screen to the detriment of text and information.

Edward Kitchen

I agree with nearly all the previous comments, particularly on the desirability of prioritising information over photos and navigating multiple events. Also, having a fairly old computer and operating system I find difficulties on some sites which have been designed without backwards compatibility. Unfortunately, most surveys nowadays are merely pretending to consult the users and in reality the planned changes have already been decided. I hope that’s not the case with the Barbican’s site.


I would like a simple way of seeing everyone that is on under the heading Theatre and Dance, rather than have to go through month by month


When – soon I hope – are you going to fix the “print ticket” pages. Currently (at least on my printer) there are two pages printed – one blank. All I want to see are the tickets on the first page. I currently have to remember to print only page 1!


More of the same ….

Other classical music venues have ruined their websites by going down the route of prioritising images. The Southbank’s site is appalling to the point that I don’t bother with it any more. It may have affected ticket sales, as on the few occasions I have been in recent years, RFH has looked half empty.

Sadly, even Wigmore Hall has succumbed. Large, glossy pictures look pretty, but do not help us access concert information quickly when browsing. They take much longer to load and, unless we recognise the performer shown by sight, are meaningless. (Classical fans may have liked a performer on the radio without knowing what they look like!) And then there is the dilemma of whose photo to choose where multiple important performers are involved.

What we need is to get to as much basic information as possible with as few clicks or swipes as possible, otherwise browsing a whole season’s events can be a laborious, time consuming and irritating experience. PLEASE emphasis that to your website designers. They may not be concert goers and therefore may not understand our needs. Judging by the ruined classical websites, most designers seem to work from the basis of finding something to do on a particular date rather than making it easy for us to scan a whole year’s concerts quickly for concerts that appeal.

I would like to see performers, composers and works included for every concert on the concert listings, so that I could know instantly whether or not I would like each concert – without having to click for more detail. It is not very helpful being given just conductor and orchestra, for example, as often happens currently.

I would also like to find multibuy information with far fewer clicks; and to access seat availability without signing in!

Your website is, however, better than the others. Please don’t ruin it.

PS I like the font.

Penny Prime

I agree with so much of what has been said already. We want to be able to access information quickly and easily and then to book quickly. I gave up being a member of the South Bank when their printed diary of events was almost impossible to follow! I have just looked at their website – and have no intention of using it. I don’t know why website designers want to make websites complicated – it must be that the more complicated it is, the more time they spend doing it, and the more they are paid!


I like the direction you’re taking with your website, but I can’t understand why Theatre and Dance listings are grouped together. How do I only see your Dance programme please?

Irene Harding

I agree with many of the above comments and really cannot understand the need for change. I also find the new Southbank site horrendous and given up booking on line meaning far fewer visits. Please dont fall into this trap.


The new on-line ticket booking system is very disappointing. When booking tickets, the ‘default’ is now “By email” which is so easy to bypass because it is passive. One normally expects tickets from a reputable venue to be posted to the buyer, but there is no “By post” option, only “In person”. When presented with a choice of two options, and the one you don’t want is titled “In person” (i.e. collection at the box office), the other option might appear to be the postal option especially when “By email” is very similar to the words “By mail” (just one letter difference)

It is quite incredible that anyone would consider it an advantage to be sent tickets by email when there are so many disadvantages that one does not have to endure when issued paper tickets.

1) One must have access to a printer, or
2) One must own a smart phone
3) One must also bring the credit or debit card used to make the booking (not necessary when tickets are posted)
4) Multiple e-tickets are presented on a single page, with the presumption that all attendees are either conjoined, or are children, and will arrive and enter the venue at the same time. Every human being is an individual and most like to be treated as such. Having their own ticket that allows them the freedom to come and go is more dignified than what the Barbican consider to be an acceptable default.

Please reconsider the default setting on the website and give people a genuine choice, i.e. allow them to ‘actively’ click on one of the options before moving on to the next stage, and if one really must have e-tickets, put each ticket on a separate page.

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