I decided to go to a movie tonight. I also decided (quite incorrectly) that the easiest way to find out info and book would be online. I think the first part (info) was easy enough, but online booking was both difficult, had a surcharge and overall quite unprofessional. Here’s why:

1) The site layout is VERY cluttered. Click on the image on the left to see what I mean. There is WAY to much going on here. (Btw .. there is more to the main page that shown – it wont all fit in on my screen even!)

I just noticed there is a banner ad, and a large ad at the bottom right that’s not even for their products!. There is even a “dating” link at the top right – WTF?

What marketing school did these guys go to? Ads work to help generate revenue for sites that have CONTENT, but generally not a thing to “sell”. In this case ANYTHING that distracts the end user from their products is counter productive – I think they need to ask the question “Whats the objective of the site” coz it’s not clear they understand. In my view the objective is to provide info on movies, and allow bookings. Not sure what they are thinking.

(2) They charge a $1 per ticket surcharge. Again what are they thinking? The whole ideas is to ENCOURAGE people to book online, not discourage. Web sites are primarily fixed costs media (ie whether or not 1 or 100,000 people view a site it costs the same to code it, host it and update it) as opposed to personal service via staff which has a far higher variable (in this case labour) cost. So the way web sites PAY for themselves is to AUTOMATE them, and get ECONOMY of SCALE. If Hoyts ran a supermarkets is appears they would charge people MORE to use the self checkout kiosks – CRAZY!

(3) Actual bookings are clumsy and awkward. After clicking on a movie, I had to search for the “buy now” button, and then it takes me to a screen where it asks me what movie I want to buy. Clearly the persons that designed this never tried to actually USE it. There are only two things to get right here – info (movie details, times etc) and BUYING tickets (and the later, IMO, is far more important coz it helps make them MONEY).

(4) The final bit is just amusing, and at the same time unprofessional: I received an email after I booked (took me several tries to get it to accept my seat request, and booking). The email refers to “Vista Cinemas” even though I have no idea who they are, there is no address or map, and the “instructions” are clearly from a stock piece of software with the “edit this” notes still there! Click on the image to the right to see what I mean.

Black and White Version: Get your act together Hoyts! Know what your web site’s purpose is, and then at least TRY to achieve it!

Post to Twitter Post to Delicious Post to Facebook Post to StumbleUpon