The Best of Both Worlds

Written by Sarah
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14th December 2020

The Best of Both Worlds

Redeveloping a website during the pandemic.

A screenshot of new China Plate homepage, alongside a screenshot of the old China Plate homepage. Each image has a title and arrow next to it.

In 2019, China Plate were in a fortunate position to start redeveloping our website. However, like everyone else we had to pause the project when Covid-19 took hold; in order to take stock, re-assess and look at how we moved forward.

Although originally intended to transition alongside our move into mid-scale touring, the website was now needed to support the company’s pivot towards more digital work, as we adapted during the pandemic. Given that a website could be an infinitive number of things in terms of purpose, it has been important to find a balance between what it can do and shouldn’t try to do, unless done properly. Especially, as many other distribution channels are best placed and built to platform specific types of work, e.g., YouTube, Vimeo and SoundCloud.

It was a bit like baking a chocolate cake and then suddenly being told a lemon layer is required. How do you manage expectations and turn something which could throw off the whole design into a bonus?

The simplest way we found to assess its ability to act as a platform to directly view, support and distribute work, was to test the built-in functionality (in ways which weren’t intended), against the embedding and options of other external channels. This allowed us to identify where small tweaks or changes could aid the platforming and distributing of digital work. Including adding ‘online’ to our location search filter and enabling closed captions to play automatically within our video blocks.

A screenshot of the location filter options, alongside an image of the Romeo & Juliet trailer with subtitles. Each image has a title and arrow next to it.

Although we anticipated and would actively look to further develop areas once the website was up and running, it has been advantageous to make these adjustments prior to launching. The challenge now is how we remain flexible to future work, whilst not compromising or over developing the website’s design.

For All of Me: The Audio, we have directly embedded the Soundcloud link into our website, so it can be experienced without having to click off or open another window. Whereas All of Me: The Twine links directly to the game on ‘a simple way to find and share games online for free’. As a suite of work, these two new digital versions are linked to the stage production through our ‘You might also like…’ block at the bottom of each page – creating a clear connection and story between them.

A screenshot of the All of Me Twine tab block, alongside an image of the All of Me Audio Soundcloud block. Each image has a title and arrow next to it.

For Where I Go (When I Can’t Be Where I Am) and Boats On An Ocean it was crucial we provided a clear signpost and navigation to where audiences could view these works, whilst still offering the incentive to engage with our website; despite knowing they would ultimately leave once they clicked to watch the film on BBC iPlayer and listen to the audio on the Coventry Creates website.

As the producers of work, we are often the central gateway between artists, audiences and partners. Therefore, we have consciously linked to the Where I Go and Boats On An Ocean project pages via our Hero slide block on the homepage, in order to provide the context to the work, alongside the links to experience them. This approach to joining up the dots means the website can optimise the chosen form of production and distribution in specific and individual ways for each project.

It’ll be exciting to see what other possibilities or potential the website holds, as we continue to navigate our current Covid orientated world; particularly, as China Plate has grown to include new strands of work and will continue to do so.

Here are some Top Takeaway’s:

  1. Ensure the user journey is easy to navigate and access – offering incentives and reasons to engage with content.
  2. Assess and instigate the appropriate form of production and distribution – taking into consideration the intended audience.
  3. Take the time to research and consider pre-existing options, which can eliminate steps and work and ultimately best cater for the job in hand.

A massive thank you to Sixth Story, who have designed and built our website.