Heartland website problem "not a glitch"

October 19, 2010
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At first I thought it was just me. But then others reported the same problem to me.

Over the weekend, I considered catching a Heartland Film Festival movie or two and went to the organization's website to try to see what was playing at Castleton.

It wouldn't tell me.

Yes, there's a button that offers "search by venue," but it just leads to a grid of the films (101 of them!) that have to be searched individually in order to find out when and where they are playing.

In other words, the site is fine if there's a movie you want to see and just want to know where and when to find it.

It's worthless if you have some time on your hands on a specific day and want to see what's available to see.

When asked about the problem, a representative of Heartland responded:

"This isn't a glitch, just a part of our functionality that is not in place yet. Because this is a brand new website, that is how the site currently functions. We did not have time to create the functionality to host a calendar, etc. Those will be in Round 2 and will start in 2011, in addition to our online ticketing. The best way to do this would be to download the guide."

I'll save you a step on the frustrating site. Just click here for the guide.

Now go see a movie.

Your thoughts?

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  • Website
    I actually didn't attend a movie Saturday because it was so difficult to find out what was playing at the time I wanted to go. I am amazed such a large organization could lack such basic functionality, that other festivals with much smaller budgets manage to have.
  • Movies
    I saw several movies and thought that the staff was extremely helpful and very patient with me. I am sorry that you don't have something nice to say about this organization.
    • Website
      That is pretty annoying -- I tend to plan my film fest experiences around what is playing when I'm available to see the movies, not necessarily when a particular movie is playing (this is especially the case when a festival includes multiple screenings that are during weekdays when I'm unable to attend due to work).

      Heartland and other festivals should also consider how this kind of issue could effect how easy it is to navigate their sites via smartphone browsers -- most of my internet access for non-work activities is via my phone, so if I were to try the "sort by date" option and kept getting a screen that didn't do that, especially for a fest with multiple venues where I would need to plan not only when but where to be at a certain time, I'd likely give up like the other commenter.
    • get the IndyFringe app person!
      I can't remember off the top of my head who developed the iPhone app for the 2010 IndyFringe Festival but it was a PLEASURE to use! I think someone (Justin Brady?) said here on Lou's blog that it was a local app developer. Maybe that person would do something good for the Heartland folks, too.

      Hope Baugh
      Indy Theatre Habit
    • Heartland
      John,

      I'm glad you enjoyed the films. Feel free to share which ones, here or on the any of the other blogs and columns in which I've discussed the Heartland Film Fest offerings.

      It is my hope that a better executed website will help patrons like you have those quality experiences.

      --Lou
    • Our Amazing Staff
      I just want to rise to the defense of our team who created the website. If you had any idea of where the site was not very long ago and where they have taken it, you would be able to appreciate all of their hard work. Certainly next year it will be even better because of the amazing team that is working to improve the site it all of the time. Our staff works very hard and I want to commend and encourage them for pulling off such an incredible festival so far. I hope everyone will come out and experience the amazing diversity of film we have this year before it ends on Saturday.

      -Ray Mills, Heartland Film Festival Programming Coordinator
      • Frustrated
        I was similarly frustrated when I first checked out their site back in September. I think that's probably the most important feature they could have - I am baffled as to why they would launch without it.
      • simple solution?
        Mr. Mills,

        No one is doubting the work put into the site. But there is an obvious problem making it difficult for potential audience members to find out what's playing where and when.

        Have you considered adding a simple tab on the front page (or functioning from the already existing "by venue" button) linking to a PDF of the films-by-venue chart that is already in your guide?

        That would be a big help. Remember: These comments are all coming from people who WANT to see Heartland films.

        Respectfully,

        Lou
      • Just a suggestion...
        I agree with you, Lou. A PDF file would be more helpful than no information at all. I, too, didn't go to a movie one evening because I couldn't get the necessary information online. The Heartland website has been sub-par for years, and this is an improvement. Just not the information that's truly helpful.
      • not all bad
        At least the Heartland volunteer registration site worked well. It was easy to use and they used it to send me updates and reminders. They got that one right.
      • more of the same
        My wife and I had the same problem. We wanted to plan out the whole festival so we could see all the movies we were interested in. I ended up going to Castleton to pick up one of the guides.
      • agreed
        I spent considerable time last Friday & Saturday trying to navigate the site, not only was it a pain to find schedules/ films but the HFF web site would lock up while trying to go from page to page or back again and every time it would take several seconds for it to 'unfreeze'...it was so annoying and frustrating to deal with that, besides the Opening Night premier at IMA, I haven't been to a single film this week when in years past I'd have seen 4 or 5 by now...very disappointing, if I can't the information easily than I won't be going!
      • website
        Ray,
        While I love the Heartland Film Festival, like any business today, making it easy to "do business" is essential - especially for a not-for-profit arts organization that is dependent on raising funds from the community.

        Unfortunately, Heartland may not get a second chance with people who have come away with a poor experience whether it be the website or the ticketing process (which has been difficult again this year).

        How many potential supporters, sponsors and volunteers has Heartland lost due to these issues?

        I know how hard the staff works to put on the festival and other events throughout the year. But until the leadership and board of Heartland recognizes that the infrastructure needs to be fixed NOW, we will continue to have this conversation every year.
      • freeloaders
        I also volunteered again this year. The HFF is a great concept and I love seeing all of these movies together, but they have to fix the web site navigation and not just whine about how hard they worked on it. The earlier comment someone made about professionalism in these events is right on.

        I do agree the volunteer software was fine.

        I know I saw volunteers who didn't do anything, and I had the impression from conversations I overheard that they were buddies with some of the committee chairs or people on the board. They "volunteer," but really just go see movies for free. Worthless. This has to stop.

        I knew about the ticket problems -- there were some pretty angry people -- and i wondered if it was these non-volunteering slugs taking up the seats and causing ticket holders to not get in. Just a suspicion. There has to be some reason there was a seat shortage.

        Ultimately, these are not fatal flaws. This is a great event, it is good for the city and these are fixable problems. I'll be back next year.
      • Now about those movies!
        I printed out the PDF early last week and plotted out my plan of attack. No big deal.
        I've seen 10 movies so far and have seen some great ones. I really recommend "Thundersoul," especially if you are a music director. "Mister Rogers and Me" is great, and even better for those of us who grew up watching him. What an amazing guy. I enjoyed "Wasteland," "Bouncing Cats," and "Bilal's Stand." What Heartland movies do for me is to show me that the world is way bigger than I ever realized, and people are overcoming problems and dealing with situations that I would have no idea how to survive. This is my 10th year of attending films, and I learn something great each year. And for something completely different, check out "Dumbstruck." Another good collection of films, another great festival.
      • Boy, have I been here before!
        As a former web developer, I have only one thing to say... Actually two:

        1) To the users: Please, count to ten (10) then express your frustration to the web developer(s), not the Web. This will help speed resolution and nix resentment.
        2) To the web developer(s): Usability studies. Frequent usability studies during development using volunteers representative of the community you intend to serve. A pain? Yes. Necessary? Nonetheless, "Yes!"

        Actually, three:
        3) Kudos to all who produce and present this remarkable festival for Indy!
      • Website usability
        I have no doubt Heartland's staff is amazing, and I appreciate the mission and vision of all who work there and will continue to support the organization. But, they've taken a step backward with this website--both aesthetically and from a usability standpoint--at the most critical time of the year for their organization. It's unfortunate.
      • is it that hard?
        haven't any of you ever ridden the bus?
      • Part 2
        I just wanted to respond to my earlier post and add that I am a huge Heartland fan. I have even volunteered in the past. When an event is a greatly executed as Heartland you come to expect all aspects of it to run smoothly, that includes the website. With that said I took a non-schedule approach yesterday and just went to the theatre at a specific time and choose a movie. I ended up going with the Short Program 1, knowing shorts are always splendid at Heartland. This was no exception - varied from quirky love comedy to documentary on the loss of island due to global warming. The Butterfly Circus short's actor was there and spoke that it may be expanded to a full movie. Cool stuff. Looking forward to seeing the Closing Night movie Saturday thanks to the now discounted tickets.
      • Extremely Disappointed yet Very Proud
        Lou,

        I'm proud to say that I am the person you quoted in this article. I'm disappointed that you took a personal email and posted it publicly, but I am not at all ashamed.
        '
        As Ray and I have explained already the staff worked incredibly hard on this website and we are proud. We did it in less than a year because we felt it was necessary to have before the 2010 Festival. The staff spent many hours outside of normal office hours to accomplish this for our Festival goers. With a small staff, a small non-profit budget we were able to pull off an amazing piece of work thanks to the hard work of the staff and developers as well as their incredible generosity. I am not ashamed at how far we've come in less than a year and I refuse to allow pieces of the puzzle that are not there yet derail this piece of work that we have worked so hard at. I stand behind our work and the work of our web design team 110%.

        As anyone who understands the development process of websites, it is a absolutely a process that continues over time. We knew going into this project there would be a few things that we would have to work on developing after the 2010 Festival because of time and budget. The functionality that you mentioned is more than just "a simple tab". With as little time as we had this year and the complexity of pulling everything together seamlessly it would have been foolish to try and develop this type of functionality in addition to everything else. I strongly believe that quality is better than quantity and once the Festival is over it's time to jump back in head first and make it even better.

        The Heartland website is unique in that is it meant to serve many different programs and many different lists of films that are searched in a large variety of ways. We are doing the absolute best we can to display our films consistently on the site as a whole yet serve the Festival audience individually which can be very different from our Truly Moving Picture Award audience as well as our Heartland Institute audience. This website is not your typical website and much time has been spent on how to best support all of the wonderful things we do as an organization in the best, most clear way possible. If you take some time to look at the other things we do as an organization, this reality will become clear.

        As much as IBJ has been a partner of Heartland's I am extremely disappointed in the way this article represents Heartland. As not all projects are perfect, we as an organization have the capability to do our own research and collect our own feedback. This article was unnecessary for us and brings nothing but a bad light to Heartland rather than trying to help us understand what needs are to be met as implied.

        In regard to your comment - "No one is doubting the work put into the site" - that is absolutely not true considering you decided to post this article.

        To anyone that is hoping to search the site in this manner I suggest you download the schedule grid from the Festival homepage and look up the films that you are interested in to purchase tickets. In addition, we appreciate your feedback but please respect the time and passion put in to this and our drive for the advancements our team will make in the future.
      • Also..
        To all of those people out there that have come up to us at theaters, sent numerous emails and made phone calls to tell us how much they appreciate the new website site and how much they love it, thank you. It is your voices that motivates us to do even greater things.
      • response
        Ms. Pellerin,

        Please allow me to address some of the points in your note:

        1. Your quote did not come from a personal e-mail exchange. It came as a result of a request from a member of the media (me) for an explanation of the problem.

        She, as a PR professional, provided me with an answer, which I used in the piece. To imply otherwise is to misrepresent.

        2. Another point of clarification: IBJ is editorially independent. My coverage of Heartland--in print, online, on radio, and on television--is not a product of a partnership. It's part of my coverage of arts and entertainment in Indianapolis. As with any group I write about, that may sometimes include content that the organization is not happy about.

        3. Never did I state a doubt that work went into the website. Am I to assume that, by your thinking, we should we never offer criticism of movies (or theater, dance, art, sports, etc.) because the participants are working hard?

        The fact remains: Whether or not you are proud of the website and stand "110% behind it", it did not work for what I believe is a very important function--helping interested audiences find out what films are showing on the days they are interested in attending.

        I was interested in attending. Others were interested in attending. And the website--for our particular (but reasonably common) purpose--did not provide useful information to help make that happen.

        Respectfully,

        Lou

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