SPOT Festival | Communication Arts

Responses by Lasse Sehested Leth, partner and client director, Ruby Studio.

Background: SPOT Festival has been spreading new music throughout the city of Aarhus, Denmark, since 1994. The festival promotes Danish and Nordic musical artists and helps them pursue their dreams of conquering both local and international stages. This site targets both the public interested in new music as well as the music industry through its specialized festival platform SPOT+.

Design core: What differentiates SPOT from other festivals is its extensive number of acts and venues. Based on experience from prior schedule layouts, research and user feedback, we added a category filter for better navigation; a music player for each act that gives visitors a quick, ideal impression of an artist; and a one-size-fits-all artist page that makes content management super easy for the client, even including a translation tab.

We also made the decision to split the focus between SPOT’s audiences. Historically, it was a challenge for the client to clearly communicate to both its targeted audiences. Now, with simple styling, we divided the website into two areas: the SPOT+ audience of industry professionals can find valuable information easily, and the public audience doesn’t wander off onto the wrong pages and get confused.

Challenges: As with many other festivals, SPOT gives each yearly iteration a new theme and visual identity. For SPOT, this has also been the case for its website, building each iteration with a new WordPress theme. This practice came with a lot of constraints and didn’t allow its creative team to be super ambitious. So, since the client has been around the block and had internal tech and design skills, the pressure was on us to create a new visual identity and flawlessly integrate it with its management system as well as hit its ambitious deadline—all exciting challenges!

Time constraints: The website’s deadline coincided with the actual festival kickoff on May 5, 2023. The process with the client was a brilliant and rare experience of professionalism and dedication. Having an ambitious deadline made the product even stronger.

New lessons: We approached the client as a cold lead—simply because the website was obviously struggling. With Aarhus being our hometown, we felt passionate about having a legendary name in our portfolio and knew we could be a great partner, so we just picked up the phone. This project will actually be a three-year agreement and a collaboration meant to evolve, so we are looking forward to next year!

Navigation structure: The main call to action was to make people buy tickets; an animated top bar made sure that was always at hand.

The menu is simple but divided in two, making it easy for the client to focus communication based of season: before, under and after the festival.

Through an anchor point link, SPOT highlights its impressive festival archive.

The schedule got a lot of attention in development and in testing. It’s incredibly important in the navigation, therefore as an impression of the website, the festival and ultimately the brand.

Technology: The website is created on a custom WordPress theme. The back end comprises PHP; MySQL; a WordPress theme based on object-oriented programming; Composer, a dependency manager for PHP; SimpleXML for parsing responses from a third-party API; and an integration with the Mailchimp REST API. The front end comprises JavaScript, jQuery, AJAX requests, History API, Web Audio API, GSAP for JavaScript animations and a SASS preprocessor.

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