The new What’s On

Digital Media
May 10, 2017

Today we launched What’s On, a key product in the V&A’s digital portfolio and the latest to get a UX and brand experience overhaul following the launch of our website last April, the online shop in November, and print on demand in December.

The design and user experience

The never ending ticketing panel had to go.

We knew that the user experience of the old What’s On wasn’t as good as it could be. It prioritised today’s events, and it was hard to discover future events. Feedback from visitors wasn’t great. We knew the balance between image and text was a bit out of kilter (it’s hard to sell a blockbuster show with a small thumbnail image) and the never-ending ticketing panel had to go (see right).

We also knew that mobile views were on the increase, and our stats revealed more people are buying tickets on mobile on their way to visiting the V&A. It was vital to have a more responsive solution. 

We began by conducting some user research which revealed the not unsurprising fact that our visitors are divided into planners and browsers. Planners know what day they’re coming. They might be tourists in town for the weekend wondering what’s on this Saturday or people interested in an exhibition and who’ve got a particular date in mind. Browsers are less interested in dates and times. They just want to see what’s on offer and will book something if it’s piqued their curiosity.

We wanted to design an experience that works as well for planners as it does for browsers. Users are now able to simply search by day, week, month or pick a specific date, and to toggle back and forth with ease – a useful feature whether you’re browsing or planning. We’ve also prioritised some of the most popular event types at the top of the page with a simple drop down to search for more event types.

The design of the What’s On landing page now shows more events above the fold (if that’s still a thing – discuss) and is far easier to browse and scan with the use of labels such as ‘selling fast’. It’s image-led and highlights much better the rich range of events the V&A puts on. Where else will you find a talk by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams featuring alongside a display on post-Soviet printmaking and a conference on the impact of Brexit on British theatre? We now have a promotional area at the top to call out some of the key events on at any given moment, or to give a push to events that might not otherwise be so visible. This works well for the browsing visitor (as well as the marketing team).

Individual events now have a well-designed, structured page which does a far better job of selling each event and we’ve improved the ticketing flow. The business case for revamping What’s On included the opportunity to cross- and up-sell tickets and merchandise. Ticket sales, gift aid, and merchandise are a vital way for us to drive income for the museum. And so we’ve introduced an interstitial page through which we can up-sell related merchandise for each ticket purchase.

Before and after…

What’s On homepage – before.
The new What's On
The new look What’s On.

It’s been a complex undertaking. What’s On is a product that now straddles three systems (Galaxy, our ticketing store, Magento, our e-commerce platform, and our new content management system). What began as a front-end refresh, has led to a complete re-engineering of the back-end processes and systems that support What’s On. We’ve used a service design approach to unpack the (many) steps behind event set up, management and marketing to define and improve the overall process.

The bookings flow – it’s complicated…

Our new website is powered by a powerful and intuitive content management system (CMS) we’ve christened Tycho (after one of Sir Henry Cole’s dogs). It made sense to use this new CMS to improve the way we market our events. And I’m pleased to say our colleagues are finding that using the CMS is a far more efficient way of managing and promoting events.


The full story behind what we’ve done with What’s On, how and why is an interesting one and we’ll be blogging more about it soon. In the meantime, we’d love to hear what you think…

2 comments so far, view or add yours


Excellent. Very helpful.
How can I get this by email regularly?

The new What’s On will make booking tickets, where necessary, easier; but for the visitor who is planning a visit on a specific day and would like to know exactly what events and tours are on, on that day, it seems far less helpful than the previous website.

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