Building a modern website for an 80 year-old national treasure.
Recognized as a living national treasure since its founding in 1940, American Ballet Theatre (ABT) is the only major cultural institution that annually tours the United States. Over its 80-year history, the company has appeared in all 50 states and also made more than 30 international tours to 50 countries. Few ballet companies equal ABT for its combination of size, scope, and outreach.
As part of a broad rebranding effort, ABT needed a complete overhaul of their website to support their goals of showcasing their upcoming seasons, promoting their outreach efforts, and organizing their archive of 80 years’ worth of performers, choreographers, and composers. Ascender was tasked with auditing and reorganizing content, designing the new site using ABT’s refreshed brand guidelines, and developing the site using WordPress to allow the ABT team to manage the site efficiently.
With 80 years of content to sort through, the ABT website faced the challenge of showcasing its rich history without overwhelming visitors. Ascender began the site redesign with a thorough content audit. A new site architecture was diagrammed and reviewed to discover new opportunities to connect content throughout the site. ABT’s rich history would come to life through virtually any page on the site.
Since ABT does more than perform, Ascender highlighted those offerings at the top level, including an emphasis on supporting the arts. The site connects multiple facets of ABT, linking upcoming performances to their history in the repertory archive, and illustrating how current dancers have advanced through ABT’s training pipeline.
“The ABT website needed to contain a huge amount of information, with input and ideas from every department. [Ascender] did an amazing job of consolidating everything and fulfilling our needs.”
To create a site with over 1000 pages, Ascender used a modular approach to design and development. A total of 24 unique content modules were created, including biographies, calendars, donation callouts, and image galleries. Each page on the website is built by stacking and linking together multiple modules. Ascender provided documentation and training for each module to ensure the ABT staff could confidently manage the site.
Modules were all custom-built in WordPress, with most having the capability to connect to others, feeding in related events, dancers, tickets, and promotions. A robust backend tagging, filtering, and image crediting system was built to simplify the process of organizing the thousands of assets in ABT’s collection.
Rebuilding a website and launching a refreshed brand for an organization like ABT will turn heads, but how many? Ascender worked with the ABT marketing team to establish best practices for search engine optimization and analytics.
In the months after the site’s launch, traffic increased significantly, and ABT was ranking higher in search results for new keywords. Ticket purchases, email signups, donations, and program sign ups have all measurably increased since launching the new site.
“You were very respectful of our expertise, and were always receptive and responsive. We just really liked you guys!”
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