If you are reading this on the Houston Press Web site, you automatically understand the value of the Internet to deliver information. It's important if you have a business to do your best to get information about your business to people online and communicate yourself clearly.
I have worked in Web site development for more than a dozen years in Houston and have occasionally given my opinion of sites both good and bad.. Today, it's time to focus on live music.
Admittedly, it was kinda slim pickings. Most of the sites I found have substantial flaws, including the ones on this list. On the whole, live venue websites in Houston need a lot of work...a LOT.
Before I get into the list, a few notes. First, I excluded places that were not independently owned (House of Blues, for example) because they often are just extensions of their corporate web sites or places that are predominantly restaurants (Armadillo Palace) because the sites were mainly about food.
Finally, I omitted the big places like Toyota Center and the Woodlands Pavilion because the comparison just didn't seem fair.
The individual ratings are out of a possible ten. And I didn't grade these against the rest of the Web; none would've scored highly. Rather, I graded these based on what exists in Houston for live venue Web site -- in essence, on a curve.
Lastly, for the love of God, Scout Bar, please turn that damn auto-play advertisement on your site off... at the very least, don't have it repeat over and over!
Look and Feel: 5 Ease of Use: 4 Calendar: 7 Updates: 1 Mobile Friendliness: 6 Overall: 4.6
The Warehouse Live website is about what one would expect to find from a typical live-music venue in most cities. It's dark -- a little too dark -- and heavy on shows. It scores low on updates as the front-page news is four years old. It also gets low marks for difficulty in locating directions. It's not on the home page and not under "contact." It's actually under the "about" section, requiring two clicks. Not good.
On the plus side, the calendar is well-maintained and the site looks basically the same on a mobile browser as it does on a desktop -- no Flash or weird code. It also has good access to the venue's ticket vendor, making that fairly easy, though they might want to update the site's template on the vendor page because it is out of date.
Recommendations: Get that address and map onto every page of the site. Update your news or remove it. Consider going with a white background and dark text instead of the inverse. It would make it a lot easier to read, particularly on a smartphone.
Look and Feel: 4 Ease of Use: 7 Calendar: 6 Updates: 1 Mobile Friendliness: 6 Overall: 4.8
The overall design for Firehouse is dated, but adequate compared to other Houston club Web sites. The content is a bit hard to read, particularly on a smartphone screen, but pretty much everything you need for a venue is there. The front page and the calendar are basically identical making them a bit redundant, but fine.
On the plus side, everything is easy to find. The address, contact information and directions are right there in the left column on every page. Points taken off for only one news update from three years ago. Gotta update those news feeds.
Recommendations: Similar to Warehouse, consider going with white background and dark text. Update the design a bit and widen the overall layout to fill more of the screen. Update the news or ditch it. The front-page calendar is redundant -- just highlight special events on the entry page.
Look and Feel: 6 Ease of Use: 4 Calendar: 7 Updates: 8 Mobile Friendliness: 5 Overall: 6
The height of simplicity, the Nutty Jerry's Web site is basically a big calendar with giant dates and links to tickets. For the most part, it works even if the overall look is just meh. It's obviously updated often and it looks decent on the phone.
The big issue is the ticketing system. It is ugly and awkward to use. Anytime a Web site uses either a different vendor or a separate website for something like this, the look and feel should match and, when it comes to buying things, it should be super easy to use.
Recommendations: Fix the ticket system so it is easy to use and matches the look of the main website. Add a map link to the directions page so those on a phone can easily use mapping technology.
Look and Feel: 6 Ease of Use: 2 Calendar: 9 Updates: 9 Mobile Friendliness: 9 Overall: 7
Mucky Duck's Web site does a lot of things right and one thing terribly wrong. It is a nice-looking site that is well-maintained and updated regularly. There is good information and an outstanding calendar, as well as a printer-friendly version, which is handy. They even have a full-blown mobile version of the site that makes ordering tickets a snap on the phone.
The big problem, however, is that the desktop version's order system doesn't work. I tried it in multiple browsers and on both Windows and Mac and no order button ever appears where it should -- and as it does on the mobile site -- on each show page. This is clearly a significant issue for purchasing tickets online, which is a shame because the site, overall, is pretty damn good.
Recommendations: Fix that ticket-purchasing system immediately. Add a map link on the contact page for mobile users. Put your phone, address and link to directions on every page, particularly the entry page. Also, may want to check the site in other browsers as it looked pretty funky in Internet Explorer. As much as I hate IE, I recognize a sizable group of the population still uses it and, as a result, programming around its flaws is necessary.
Look and Feel: 8 Ease of Use: 8 Calendar: 9 Updates: 9 Mobile Friendliness: 8 Overall: 8.4
It's been a good few years for the venerable music establishment in the Heights. New owners have gussied up everything and that includes the Web site. Wisely, it is short on flair and long on the important stuff like shows and news updates. The calendar is great and the ticket system goes right to their vendor, quickly and easily. The site is obviously well-maintained and updated regularly.
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The one quibble I'd have would be with the layout's overall width. The desktop version is too wide even for larger monitors. It would help if it were slightly narrower. The first time I opened it, I had to increase the size of my browser window to keep from scrolling left to right.
Recommendations: Fix the desktop width. Change the words "Coming Soon" to "Upcoming Shows" so people don't mistake it to mean "Under Construction," since that is commonly used shorthand on the Web.