Theatre by the Lake is a beautiful two stage theatre in a stunning location: the Cumbrian town of Keswick, beside Derwent Water.
Like so many interesting British arts venues, the theatre came into existence thanks, in part, to post-war investment in the arts and culture. The Century Theatre was a mobile theatre which toured towns and cities that didn’t have their own active theatres. It regularly visited Keswick, and eventually settled there after it failed its MOT, where it became known as Blue Boxes.
Blue Boxes became rundown over the years and by the nineties it was clear that the building wasn’t really fit for purpose any more. After an energetic fundraising process, championed by Dame Judi Dench among others, the money was raised to build a new, more permanent, theatre in Keswick and Theatre by the Lake was born.
The Theatre by the Lake team have moved from strength to strength since then. Their new artistic director Liz Stevenson was keen to boost the theatre’s profile further, and firmly establish it as the jewel in the crown of Cumbria’s cultural sector. A new website would be an important tool to achieve this goal.
The discovery process was really important to us and a very valuable part of the project, not only helping the Cog team to get a real sense of who we are and our audiences’ needs, but helping the TBTL team to focus on what our website is for, what it needs to achieve and who it serves. They were also not afraid to challenge us, which we have really valued.
We took on this project during the covid pandemic. However fortunately, thanks to eased summer restrictions, we visited the theatre in-person for a workshop.
It was really important for us to understand Theatre by the Lake, so we spent a couple of days in Keswick. We toured the building, and we got a good sense of its beautiful surroundings.
Through workshops and conversations with the Theatre by the Lake team, we got to know the organisation better. And we developed our understanding of their audiences and the needs of those audiences.
We talked about some of the big challenges that the website should address. And we found out the small but crucial details that stick in the minds of audiences.
The clearest theme to emerge from the process was how important community and place are to the theatre. Showcasing its stunning setting with great imagery would be key to the new website. As would be emphasising the theatre’s place in its community of locals and holiday-makers.
We took these ideas and fed them into the design process.
Our focus was to design a site that spoke to locals and tourists alike. Local audiences needed to feel like Theatre by the Lake is their theatre and tourists needed to be excited about visiting the theatre as part of their holiday.
We used video footage of the exterior of the theatre and of past productions, to create a welcoming homepage. The video homepage has a strong sense of place, showing off the theatre’s stunning location. But it also ensures that people and audiences are featured prominently in videos.
Designing for mobile, tablet, and desktop screens we worked on the whole site, marrying clear, professional design with striking local imagery.
Across the broad range of audience personas we discussed at the discovery phase it was clear that visitors wanted to access the information they’re looking for quickly. So we added a wide range of filters to the event page of the site.
Tourist audiences often book their holidays far in advance. To accommodate these sorts of bookings we designed and built a date picking booking system that’s clear and easy to use.
One of the key requirements for the new website was to make it easier for Theatre by the Lake to sell tickets and membership. They switched to ticketing provider Spektrix to achieve this goal.
Building on our wealth of experience with Spektrix integrations, we worked closely with the Spektrix team to make the most of all of the available functionality. This included playful slider donation blocks integrated through the site to encourage donations.
During the pandemic theatres all over the country released digital work in order to stay connected with their audiences. We developed some of the first Spektrix integrations that allowed this kind of work to sit behind a paywall. We added this functionality to the Theatre by the Lake site too.
When it came to launching the new site we were back in a restrictive national lockdown again. Nevertheless we overcame the challenges of being apart from one another to get the site live.
We designed the project timetable to launch the website in two phases, enabling us to continue to add features and functionality. And we have an ongoing relationship with Theatre by the Lake which allows us to continue to update the site and adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape.
We’re really proud of the site that we designed and built and we cant wait to return to Keswick and see a show by the lake.
We’ve loved working with Cog. The discovery process was really important to us and a very valuable part of the project, not only helping the Cog team to get a real sense of who we are and our audiences’ needs, but helping the TBTL team to focus on what our website is for, what it needs to achieve and who it serves. They were also not afraid to challenge us, which we have really valued. Cog have continually made improvements to the site and the speed and hassle free approach to making these updates and responding to requests has both surprised and delighted me. I would recommend them heartily to everyone.
Rachel Swift, Head of Communications
Content Management System: WordPress
Launched: December 2020