Category Archives: Non-Profit

5th Avenue Theater’s Mobile Site Fail

This is a guest post from Kim Sklar, a student in the University of Washington’s Masters in Communication in Digial Media (MCDM) program. Here original post can be found here. She recently attempted to use the mobile site of Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater.


 disclaimer: I only say these things as helpful suggestions and observations because I love the 5th Avenue Theatre…Broadway gods please don’t smite me or take away my season tickets discounts for the criticisms I am about to make. Love, Seat 4D).

Big fan of musical theatre here (did I mention that yet?)…not a big fan of the 5th Avenue’s total lack of mobile savoir faire. Here is a comparison of their regular web site and the mobile web site.

5th Ave's regular web site vs. mobile site

As far as I can tell, the only differences are:

    • the layout
    • there are now three navigation boxes to choose from, instead of six
    • any of the buttons I might have clicked on before (buying tickets for an upcoming show, renewing subscriptions, subscriber benefits) are now gone. Only donate, summer program discounts and info for one show remain…only one of those I’d need from my mobile phone.

Maybe they used a auto-mobile convertor? The real mobil-emma (mobile+dilemma, wait for it, it’s gonna catch on) is that neither set of navigation areas actually direct me to where, as a subscriber, I need to go.  The site takes nearly a minute for all the pictures to load, and the menu button (which is most likely the button that you’ll need to use) is about 3 pixels wide and shoved in the upper left corner of the screen where you can’t actually tap it very easily. I know that season ticket holders are not the only business, however, I do feel like they are the one that would be the main mobile users.

Le sigh. This is a organization that could really benefit for a mobile site redesign.

As a subscriber who often accesses the 5th Avenue’s site at least one a month, I would love to see the mobile platform focus on:

  • Directions, contact info and
  • Parking information (the 5th offeres free parking to season ticket holders, but I can never find out which garages are participating)
  • Show information (dates, start time, cast, description, etc. I’m not looking for HD picture slideshows on my phone).
  • Subscriber perks (restaurant discounts, special events, renewal information)


What could have saved this campaign?

Well, Kim is right. The 5th Avenue Theater needs a separate mobile site. Their full site contains too many rich graphics for mobile and the content of the full site is not organized around the needs of the mobile theater goer. The theater needs to understand who their mobile customers are and define the experience they want to provide.

It appears their site is attempting a form of ‘responsive design’ or ‘graceful degradation’ – techniques used to alter the way a web site displays based on the device/browser that is accessing the site. Typically, however, these approaches use the same web content (images, copy, etc.) and just use style sheets to change the way the content is displayed by hiding certain things and changing their location on the screen. From purely a display standpoint this can work but it is nearly impossible to use these techniques to affect the  changes in IA (information architecture), content quality and UI (user interface) required for a good mobile user experience.

The 5th Avenue Theater needs a separate mobile web site.

Salvation Army Needs a Helping Hand With MS Tag

From Monique Priestley (edited):

Okay, I feel guilty for picking on the Salvation Army, but geez…

image: SAL Bus Ad

Salvation Army Bus Ad

On the 74 Express bus from Downtown Seattle to Sand Point. There was a Salvation Army advertisement with a small Microsoft Tag. (Yes, that’s right, a small Microsoft Tag on a banner that was along the roof of a moving bus.)

The ad was one for the Salvation Army of Seattle — you needed to scan a small Microsoft Tag (with an MS Tag Reader of course) and you could donate money. It didn’t tell you how much or give you any other options.

Personally, I think it would be a great idea if companies advertising on the buses attempted a mobile ad or two. Of course, as I mentioned before… these things are moving — and the ads are on the roof. Something like SMS is a good idea because riders could put a code into a phone and receive a quick message back. But a QR/Microsoft Tag? On the ceiling of a moving vehicle? How exactly do they expect users to hold the phone still, up in the air above their head, close enough for the scanner to read a tiny 2D barcode? I can barely keep my hand still enough and close enough to scan those pesky MS Tags when they are on a stationary piece of paper right in front of me (they are really fussy). The bus never held still long enough for me to try it (plus I felt like an idiot holding my phone up to the ceiling, trying to hold on as the bus rocked all over the place).

It was the saddest excuse for a mobile ad that I have tried so far.


It Gets Better…Once at my desk I did a quick search for “salvation army qr.” I got one result that looked promising, I sent the site to my DROID and the YouTube video played but I didn’t dare enter my number to test [donations] because it NEVER says ANYWHERE how much you’re about to donate. For all I know they set the figure to $100 or $1,000,000 (it could happen).


What could have saved this campaign?
Salvation Army gets credit for trying but this portion of their campaign is really poorly done.  You may not have noticed but the advertisement is promoting donations and yet the video that plays as a result of scanning the tag is promoting volunteer-ism.  The only thing that would have saved this campaign is to use SMS instead of MS Tag. This simply is not a good place for a 2D code. The organization already has an SMS donation option (text “SAL” to 50555) and bus riders can participate simply by reading the call-to-action from where they sit. Optionally, the SMS could trigger the exact same URL at which the MS Tag is pointed.  Additionally, and less critically, the video should support the ‘Donate Now’ theme rather than trying to layer in a volunteer pitch.