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How do you quadruple a site’s traffic in less than 8 months?

Through smart design, partnered with some savvy
front-end development decisions

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Background

Move the technology forward a decade to increase traffic

MovieTimes.com had last received a major design update around 2006 and was in need of a serious overhaul if it were to remain competitive.

Demographics & Use

Before the redesign, the average MovieTimes user skewed older (around 50+) and utilized the site primarily for informational purposes, rarely purchasing tickets during their visits or clicking on any relevant advertisements.

old-emac
The website homepage as it looked in 2016 before taking over the project.

Objective

In early 2016 when I was approached, the directives to drive the site forward were clear:

  1. Boost traffic and attract new advertisers
  2. Lengthen the time users spent on the site and increase the average number of pages visits, and
  3. Differentiate the site design from major competitors to encourage user loyalty and direct sales

Here's what we did to get there:

responsive-collage

SEO Strategy

In order soak up more of the market share and to compete with major competitors' (Fandango and others) considerable resources, we had to rely on smart, effective technology-driven solutions. We employed an SEO strategy that helped us capture the long tail with new, enriched site content, raised our popularity in specialized local searches for movie tickets and increased the site's overall popularity.

By populating the site with strategic content, our search ranking improved dramatically over the course of 8 months. This example shows the results when searching for movie showtimes in specific locales.
Chicago SEO Strategy
Denver SEO Strategy
Miami SEO Strategy
Chicago SEO results
Denver SEO results

You are definitely on a small screen.

You are definitely on a medium screen.

You are definitely on a large screen.

device-collage

UI and UX:
Indicators of trust and quality

The most apparent change to the site was how the site looks and behaves. Today's sophisticated users expect professional visual design as well as a flawless, bug-free experience. Meeting these expectations is essential in cultivating their confidence and habitual use of a website.

four-iphone-screens

The Growing Mobile Audience

As our audience began to grow with our successful redesign, we noticed that more than 60% of organic searches by our users came from mobile devices, specifically Smartphone users. While we had already incorporated responsive design in the MovieTimes reboot, our approach hadn’t necessarily been mobile-first. Now, with the numbers showing the greatest growth among mobile users, we knew we had to make all pages look remarkable on mobile screens, with enhancements available on the desktop site.


Intuitive and modern visual design patterns convey predictability, fluidity, and dependability; and ultimately garner trust from users during their visit. While redesigning MovieTimes, we strove to provide a frictionless ticket purchasing, given our constraints. Through partnership with MovieTickets.com, we were able to condense the experience for most users down to two clicks from discovery to purchase.

Visually speaking, the overall design of MovieTimes had to be simplified to allow for content to pop. Vibrant movie posters, film stills, press images, and videos are center stage as the surrounding design elements are only seen when needed. You could say the best design of this site is the design you don't see.

two-iphone-screens
amp-logo instant-article-logo

Connecting mobile users to content faster

Accelerated Mobile Pages &
Facebook Instant Articles

Just as we were rolling out our mobile redesign, fast loading pages like Google-backed Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Facebook's Instant Article's were becoming popular and guaranteed higher placement in search and feed rankings. We jumped at the opportunity to follow their guides and build MovieTimes AMPs and Instant Articles. Adopting these fast-loading pages not only boosted our rankings overall, they also primed us to better compete with much older sites.

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The AMP search results and AMP page in full effect.
MovieTimes Instagram Feed

Social Media Strategy & Plan of Attack

In addition to the site, we beefed up our social media presence with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in order to cover all bases for SEO and feed discoverability. Each social network works differently and the treatment for each account had to reflect that. With ongoing, concerted effort, MovieTimes' social media presence continues to grow. Facebook alone has grown from 100 to nearly 2500 likes in the span of 4 months.

MovieTimes Twitter and Facebook Feed

“You could say the best design of this site is the design you don't see.”

Advertising

hbo leftovers take over advertisement

In order to attract more premium advertisers, we optimized the location of current ad slots and created more premium, integrated ad opportunities. Page takeovers, section buyouts, and custom integrated backgrounds were just a few of the new avenues available to new advertisers.

iPhone Advertisement
iPad Advertisment
Clockwise from top left:
Leftovers full page advertisment takeover;
Star Trek: Into Darkness iPad index page takeover;
iPhone Ad takeover.

Accessible and Easily Navigable on Every Page

Due to the nature of the site, the homepage is rarely the Landing page. Because of our long tail seo strategy, we anticipated that it was more likely for users to first land on specialized pages like movie detail pages, movie showtime pages, theater overview pages, and studio profiles. The homepage was still important, but would not be as crucial to the first-time visitor likely coming from a Google/Yahoo search or a Facebook post.

Four Staggered iPhones

In the end, the new changes have resulted in:


Better Traffic Flow Icon

Better Traffic Flow


Easier Navigation Icon

Easier Navigation


SEO Ranking Improvement Icon

SEO Ranking Improvement


Easier Decisions Icon

Easier showtime- and movie-making decisions

Josh was an invaluable partner in strategizing and recommending solutuons to carry Movie Times forward. Not only does he provide stellar design work, but his coding expertise helps him enact his designs out in a way that the development team loved.

—Stephen Gotlieb, Chief Marketing Officer, Boulevards Media