Eventbrite is a two sided marketplace for live experiences that attracts millions of daily users looking to either discover events to attend, or as a complete platform for event organizers to host, promote and sell tickets to these events. Reserved seating events are typically seated events where an attendee can select a desirable seat at the time of purchase. There are many benefits to reserved seating events over general admission events. Attendees are generally more satisfied as they have greater control over the event experience, and feel more confident knowing a seat is waiting for them upon arrival. Organizers benefit from being able to optimize revenue from tiered pricing based on seat location and experience smoother operations on the day of the event itself.
The Eventbrite Reserved Seating product is a multifaceted design lead ecosystem that enables event organizers to create, host, manage and sell tickets to their seated events. Within the system there are numerous UI touch points that allow the event organizer to perform the tasks and actions needed to run an event of this type. The entire product is self service which is quite unique when compared to other service providers operating in this space. Organizers can use the Seat Designer to design their venue seat map, this seat map is then reused in the attendee purchase experience, when visualizing sales and managing the event itself. The Reserved Seating feature set can be found within our browser based core product as well as in our organizer centric onsite native apps. The seat map itself is the primary design artifact and acts as the lynchpin unlocking a myriad of event operational needs.
The design team at Eventbrite set out to create an on brand, elegant, simple and cohesive user experience across both organizer and attendee features. The end product is highly interactive and visually delightful, which reflects the fun and playful nature of the Eventbrite brand. Our mission is to become the world's most recognized marketplace of live experiences.
Attached video is of V1 of seat designer, V2 uses the latest designs.
Until now there hasn't been an elegant and simple way of creating, selling and managing reserved seating events in a self service fashion. Reserved seating solutions are usually expensive, hard to use, visually uninspired and simply out of reach for many event organizers. Eventbrite now offers a suite of products that are free to use (if the event is free) or charges a small fee when tickets are sold to paid events. Reserved seating was traditionally in the realms of large incumbent ticketing providers and other fee for service companies. By launching a self service product with a simple, no contracts pricing model we have enabled many smaller organizers to take advantage of this event format as well introduce a disruptive element within the larger industry. The team at Eventbrite set out to create a unique platform of tools and features that facilitate every aspect of the event lifecycle.
The project faced many challenges not only from a solution and UI design perspective, great care had to be given to ensuring it was as simple to use as possible for millions of potential users. The need to deliver a fully self service product drove this need for simplicity, which was extremely challenging given an event can range from 100 to 100,000 seats in size or capacity across a myriad of event types and venues.
From a design and user experience perspective our goal was to make the software an extension of the Eventbrite brand and embody aspects of our visual and voice identities. This meant it had to be simple and fun to use, bright and engaging, supportive and nurturing. Simply put our seat maps had to be sexy and distinctly Eventbrite - seen on their own there had to be no mistake as to where they originated.
Another major consideration was accepting the fact that rich interactions and computer based drawing tools aren't for everyone. This presented inherent cognitive challenges for certain types of users. With this in mind we had to incorporate solutions and features to support less savvy or technically literate users. Features were developed to avoid the necessity of creating new seat maps from scratch. All seat maps created are linked to a venue and can be reused by the same organizer and shared with other organizers using the same venue. Additionally the user can quickly generate a layout by using the quick start wizard feature, avoiding a blank canvas altogether. A number of these concepts have lead to patent applications.
Prior to launching our Reserved Seating solution a lot of thought and analysis went into why Eventbrite should launch into this space to ensure it made sense for our core product and larger business. Once a need was established within the larger market and in our existing base of organizers Eventbrite set out developing a multi year roadmap to build out all the elements needed in the Reserved Seating platform. Early on we identified a key gap with our existing product where users would mature to a point of needing greater flexibility in how they sell their tickets and start hosting events at larger venues with specific seating arrangements. Reluctantly our organizers had to look elsewhere for a solution when they became more successful and started hosting these larger more complex events. This was a gap we had to fill.
A team of experts were brought together to solve this problem, the team comprised of product managers and engineers with decades of experience at other ticketing companies as well as a core design team of UX, interaction and visual designers.
Many hours were spent talking to organizers, venue managers and internal sales and customer support individuals to uncover truths, insights and to develop a deep empathy into the problem space. During research a core truth was found that simplified our target audience profile, this was... in a reserved seating world seats are either fixed (bolted) to the ground or flexible (stacked, moved, positioned as needed). When considering every conceivable type of event and venue, this simplified model made the design task infinitely simpler to execute on. It was a true AHA moment in our design process making what felt impossible, possible..
Once a set of requirements was established the design team lead by UX ran a series of collaborative sessions with stakeholders. The aim of the sessions included unpacking the problem space via a constraint's free mind mapping exercise, discussion was had around the requirements and goals, once themes were established focus was given to these. Next up time was allocated to sketching out ideas and concepts so they could be presented back to the team for discussion. At the end of the ideation sessions a set of guiding product and UX principles were created and the strongest concepts identified and flagged for interactive prototyping. Numerous walls were taken over in the office to present design artifacts, which included research outputs, many examples of seat maps, early design sketches all the way through to high fidelity visual designs. The wall became a talking point and acted as a means of keeping the company apprised of our progress and design direction.
One of the biggest challenges early on was deciding on the appropriate core interaction design model. Initially we were undecided about how advanced the seat designer app needed to be and how much functionality we needed to support. So we did a round of testing where we asked participants to design a seat map (based on a paper based equivalent) in both Keynote and Adobe Fireworks and observed the challenges and issues of working with these different interaction models. This round of testing clearly illustrated that an overly simplified approach like Keynote was the best way forward. As our prototype went through its rounds of iteration we tested regularly to ensure the UI and visual design was finding the right balance between being visually elegant, approachable and as simple to use as possible.
Designing and building a product of this scope and complexity is a multi-year endeavor, with numerous releases at various times.
Our road map kicked off with V1 of the seat map designer app in early 2014, allowing our organizers to start creating and seeding our event inventory with seat maps and reserved seating events. Since then we have been releasing other core features regularly including the attendee seat selection and ticket purchase feature set, fondly called internally as "Attendee Pick-A-Seat". The goal of this release was to unlock the power of our seat maps for attendees in a responsive way across desktop and mobile. Given a choice attendee's nearly always prefer choosing where they sit at an event, this release was a game changer and provided the duality needed in our marketplace product.
Next up was providing tools and features for our organizers to manage their events using the seat map as a focal point for related tasks and activities. These tasks included understanding and visualizing sales patterns, performing customer support activities like order refunds and seat transfers. Another core aspect to running an event is onsite box office management which include tasks like ticket sales, managing holds and customer support. Onsite we provide all this functionality via our organizer focussed native apps in both IOS and Android.
At no point during our ideation and research phases did we see our product being used to sell allotments to artists for a sidewalk chalk art festival or as a seat selector for a bus coach service between Dallas and Houston. We are now scaling into larger theaters, convention centers and sporting arenas around the globe. These unexpected use cases bring much delight and joy to the Reserved Seating team and further illustrate the power of enabling the long tail, a segment of event organizers who Eventbrite has built its business around.
We loved how the Eventbrite team clearly spent a ton of time understanding their users and their users’ needs in order to build a tool that addresses those needs in a very elegant way.
It is also flexible enough to be used in new, unexpected ways. It makes me want to host an event.