Just imagine stepping into the historic world of George Washington's Mount Vernon, a museum and landmark steeped in rich heritage.
Now skip ahead to 2015, when the museum's ticketing system was a long way from its glorious past. It was outdated, too expensive to maintain, and offered an outdated user experience. At that time, Dmitry Drozdik, who would later become COO of Five Jars, was actively involved in the project.
In 2018, Dmitry Drozdik and his team at Five Jars took the reins of the project, bringing their expertise and vision to the table. With their passion for delivering exceptional user experiences, they decided to extend and add more functionality to the ticketing system that would transform the visitor experience and finally breathe new life into the Mount Vernon ticketing process.
That is why we are happy to share our experience here, with all of the insights we heard from Dmitry Drozdik, COO of Five Jars, at the recent Tessitura Developers Community Meetup.
Beginning: Mount Vernon's Ticketing Project
George Washington's Mount Vernon is a historic landmark and museum with a big history. Despite that, the existing ticketing system was outdated. It was expensive to maintain and offered a limited user experience.
The State of the Project in 2015
When Dmitry joined the project in 2015, Mount Vernon's ticketing system faced several challenges. The decision to build a new system was driven by the need to select a new CRM (Tessitura), high maintenance costs, and the limited capabilities of the ticketing system they were using. The team realized that developing a new ticketing system would provide the flexibility they needed to improve the user experience and optimize performance.
Here is what the solution looked like: At the heart of the ticketing system was a popular microframework called Silex. This meant focusing on creating three key user flows. The first flow was a dedicated page that allowed users to donate, while the second flow allowed users to select and purchase memberships. The third flow was a customized ticket purchase path consisting of four steps designed to guide the visitor through the ticket purchase process. We also implemented different components per marketing requirements, using the marketing site CMS as a central hub for the management of all integration settings and configurations.
To ensure efficient communication between our platform and Tessitura's system, we also made clever use of both SOAP and REST APIs. This seamless interaction with Tessitura enabled a user-friendly experience throughout the ticketing and membership transaction process.
The results of this comprehensive integration were nothing short of impressive:
Increase in tickets purchased
The percentage of people that purchase tickets online has jumped from around 15% to 45%–50%
More than 75,000 transactions processing every year
Saved hosting budget
Saved around 50% of the budget by migrating a website to AWS hosting environment
Website views have increased and gained 2,000,000 more followers
The Ticketing Purchase Path: Delivering a Seamless Experience
The CMS was an important part of the ticketing structure. Instead of building a separate interface to manage configurations and marketing materials, we integrated it with the existing CMS of the marketing website. This provided a seamless experience for the Mount Vernon team, enabling them to efficiently manage and adjust the ticketing system within the administration panel. We set up dedicated pages to easily manage marketing content, including text and pictures, and included specific fields to configure Tessitura, including keywords and seasonal IDs. This integration improved the overall user experience for Mount Vernon visitors by streamlining the ticketing process and allowing for efficient management and customization.
The core of the ticketing system was initially centered around three key user flows:
- A dedicated Donate page, which allows visitors to choose how much they want to donate and where to donate to.
- A membership page offering various membership plans easily managed through the CMS without any knowledge of Tessitura.
- A multi-step ticket purchase path that enables visitors to select their desired date, and add-ons, and even consider membership upgrades.
As a result, CMS integration with the ticketing system has become a critical part of enhancing Mount Vernon's user experience. The customized path to purchase provides exceptional flexibility and unique end-user solutions that set Mount Vernon's ticketing system apart from many other organizations. Therefore, the intelligent integration of the CMS with the ticketing system gave visitors a more personalized and efficient journey, boosting their overall user experience and digital presence.
Migrating to TNEW: Taking the project to the next level
In 2020, strategic decisions led to the migration of some functionality to TNEW, which took almost a year.
TNEW is designed to improve the customer experience and provide organizations with a powerful and flexible ticketing system. It is an advanced web-based platform offered by Tessitura Network, a leading provider of ticketing, fundraising, and CRM solutions for arts and cultural organizations.
TNEW is a powerful tool, but integrating it required creativity and workarounds to maintain certain features and user experiences. Despite these challenges, Mount Vernon successfully migrated to TNEW with the help of Five Jars. Now, they're enjoying improved security and a new authorization workflow.
During the migration process, the team implemented customizations to preserve key features and functionality. These included Apple Wallet integration, ID.me authorization, and advanced tracking in Google Analytics, among others. Through these adjustments, Mount Vernon Museum was able to maintain a consistent user experience. Furthermore, it helped them to adapt some specific aspects of the ticketing system to meet their unique needs.
Introducing Drupal: Current and Future Developments
The Mount Vernon Museum and Five Jars teams made a strategic decision to use Drupal, a robust content management system known for its seamless integration capabilities, to overcome challenges and ensure the longevity of their ticketing system. Drupal's "headless" approach and decoupling of the front end from the back end allowed the team to gain more development autonomy and significantly improve performance optimization.
But the plans are not limited to using Drupal as the backend for the ticketing system. In fact, Drupal is seen as the core of the entire future digital ecosystem that will replace the outdated CMS previously used on the Mount Vernon Museum site.
It serves as a central integration point for various systems, streamlining data flow and increasing overall workflow efficiency. Mount Vernon Museum plans to leverage Drupal's flexibility and extensibility to easily integrate other functions, including marketing initiatives, fundraising, and customer management.
By using Drupal as the backbone of both the marketing site and the ticketing system, the Mount Vernon Museum team is able to create a smooth, well-organized digital ecosystem. This strategy ensures consistent branding, better interactions, and a deeper understanding of visitor behavior, which enables personalized experiences and targeted communications for their audiences.
Developing integration between Tessitura and Drupal may require a substantial investment of time, resources, and expertise. While it offers numerous benefits and opportunities for organizations like George Washington's Mount Vernon, it's essential to acknowledge that this solution might not be suitable for every entity. The decision to embark on such a development journey should be carefully considered, taking into account factors such as the organization's size, budget constraints, technical capabilities, and long-term strategic goals. Organizations must conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis and engage in strategic planning to determine if a Tessitura-Drupal integration aligns with their vision for a new level of user experience and operational efficiency.
New ticketing system for Mount Vernon: Optimized user experience and impressive results
The key to the success of the system is the streamlining and optimization of the process. Each step is designed to load only what's needed. This ensures a smooth and fast user experience. To increase performance, we added a caching layer. This reduces redundant server requests and speeds up the entire system.
Users begin by selecting the date of their visit. The system pulls prices from Tessitura's data in real time, keeping the information accurate and up to date. This way, with all the information they need at their fingertips, visitors can plan their trips wisely.
To enhance the museum experience, we also offer add-ons such as tours and events. Users can easily select tours according to timeframes, representing different zones within the museum.
Finally, we offer users the option to upgrade to membership, encouraging long-term engagement.
Once all selections are made, our seamless integration with TNEW takes them to a secure payment process where they can enter their credit card information and complete the transaction.
George Washington's Mount Vernon journey to integrate Tessitura and TNEW speaks to the team's passion for delivering a seamless and personalized visitor experience. The journey began with its share of challenges. However, it evolved into a sophisticated ticketing system with custom integrations that significantly improved the user experience and business adaptability. The decision to move certain features to TNEWs opens up new opportunities, and the move to Drupal promises an exciting future, providing Mount Vernon visitors with a modern, secure, and full-featured ticketing platform. In addition to improving the overall user experience, this custom path significantly increased online ticket sales and engagement, proving the power of a well-designed UX and personalized journey for cultural institutions like Mount Vernon.
Overall, the successful collaboration between George Washington's Mount Vernon and Five Jars demonstrates the power of innovative technology solutions for digital cultural institutions. The strategic integration with Tessitura, TNEW, and Drupal is a testament to how carefully designed custom pathways can increase user satisfaction and drive business success. As organizations continue to explore ways to improve their digital presence, Mount Vernon's example serves as an inspiring testament to the potential of integrating Tessitura into websites to deliver a new level of user experience.
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