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Testing SmartSeat’s Usability Improvements

The Adage Product Team recently conducted usability testing on an updated version of SmartSeat — our home-grown seat selection platform. Over the course of two weeks, we tested our demo site with a diverse group of 10 users on both desktop and mobile devices. Each participant was asked to complete a series of tasks and answer a set of questions. The following are our results.

Why Test Usability Improvements

The Adage Design Team proposed a series of updates that would help declutter the seat map and improve the cart experience. After these revisions were designed, it was clear that this would be a fairly large change to SmartSeat. We wanted to get these updates in front of real users, so they could test our assumptions and help us improve the product before release. Usability testing provides a range of benefits and can help us:

  • Test our own assumptions and biases
  • Receive candid feedback from users
  • Save time and money by surfacing problems early
  • Minimize the risk of launching larger updates
  • Provide our clients with a better end-user experience

The Usability Improvements we Tested

Venue images as a level map

Users wanted a better understanding of what the venue looks like and where each level is located. Using an image as the level map helps people picture themselves inside of the venue.

Level Map Updates

Updated the date, time, and venue placement

The performance date, time, and venue were moved out of the main header in order to better highlight that information.

event details - before


event details after

New legend overlay

Our team created a new legend button that is optimized for mobile users.

legend before and after

New cart experience

The user’s cart can now be accessed using the links in the top right corner. This makes it easier for people to view their cart whenever they want.

cart before and after

New filters

In order to declutter the interface, the level controls have been moved to the filters tab.

illustrate filters before and after updates

What’s Working Well

When conducting usability testing, it’s important to note what’s working well along with what needs improvement. To do this, we noted which tasks were completed without comment and also asked users if there were any features they appreciated. Here’s what we found:

  • 10/10 users were able to successfully reach checkout!
  • 10/10 users were able to change their seat quantity, select a level, and edit their price range
  • 10/10 users were able to remove a seat from their cart
  • 9/10 users understood that seats were being added with one click (when it was available)
  • 9/10 users understood that stars were recommended seats
  • 5/5 users who wanted to see the seat map legend were able to locate and open that legend

When we asked people if anything stood out in a good way, there was a clear winner; imagery of the venue. Our testers appreciated seeing the venue image within the level selector and many were genuinely excited to see the view from seat.

“Oh! I like that there’s a picture here and it shows you where the seats are. That’s fun.”

View from selected seat

What Needs Improvement

During our testing, we also found a few things that needed improvement.

“Add to Cart” Confusion

Combining one-click seats with seats that require additional inputs is causing a lot of frustration. If people saw seats being added to their cart on click, they assumed all seats would behave that way and they often missed the “Add to Cart” button.

“Oh wait so nothing happened. So I clicked it and it didn’t put it in the cart. So what was that about?”

Depending on the participant’s screen size, that button could also be hidden behind the upsell panel which added to the confusion. We need to keep this experience consistent and be very obvious about any deviations.

Filters panel

The redesigned filters panel within the seat map needs a clearer label. There was also some confusion with the close button so we will explore alternative design patterns.

  • No one knew where to find these at first
  • 3 people were unable to find the filters on their own
  • Only 1 person recognized the filter icon

filters icon to select seat

Best available

After asking people what they thought “Best Available” would do, it was clear that this means something different to everyone.

“Best available could just be the be the back row in the orchestra level. Maybe I want to go to level one and be farther forward.”

Some assumed it would ignore filters and just pick the best (and probably most expensive) seats. Others assumed it would pick seats closest to the front, but show you the seats within a seat map in case you’d prefer something else.


Most people understood what the upsell overlay was offering. Some were even excited to see this option, especially if a slight price increase led to a much better seat.

“I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If it’s only like $10. I would be like ‘oh for $10 I can get front row. Okay!’”

However, once people selected the upsell, they weren’t always sure what changed. When we edit their seat map to only show the upsell tickets, we need to spell out what they’re looking at and give them a way to return to their original filter preferences.

Selected Seat State

Our most surprising result, was that 6 participants found the selected seat state confusing. In our demo site, we use a red/orange color and they assumed that meant something was wrong with their selection. Some even struggled to clear the selected state.

selected seat indicator

After explaining the selected state to one user, her response was just, “Oh. Oh yeah. Don’t do that.”

For Future Consideration

Based on our findings, we have some clear first steps to remedy any existing usability issues. Adage has already moved forward and completed the fixes we learned from this usability testing. In addition to these improvements, SmartSeat clients and end-users can look forward to additional updates. The Adage Design Team is currently in the initial research and discovery phase for the following:

  • Controls to ensure that users can reserve adjacent seating
  • Controls to reserve aisle seating
  • Further defining pricing sections within a level

Interested in learning more about SmartSeat? You can read more here. Or contact us to discuss.