5 Lessons From Theatre You Can Apply to Web Site Design

Theatre CurtainsI just finished a run with my local theatre group (I played Golde in Fiddler on the Roof), and I couldn’t help but make comparisons between putting on a theatre production and designing products, web sites, or anything where a team needs to create something together.

1. It takes a team – In order to put on the show we had an entire team of people. Obviously we had all the actors, but we also had musicians, people to work on props, lighting, a stage manager, director, etc. If you are doing to get a web site or a product out the door on time you’ve also got to have a team of people. Large endeavors rarely get finished if you are the only person working on it. A great team appreciates that it really is a team.

2. Everyone has a role to play – And I don’t just mean a particular character to play, although that is true too. But more than that, we needed people with different talents. In the production I was just in, people appreciated each other for the unique gifts they brought to the group. Some people sang very well, others were great actors, others could dance, there were some excellent violin players for the orchestra, there were good set builders, and a person who knew how to work the lights in the theater. No one had to do it all. Bringing one gift, talent, skill or knowledge to the group was enough. The same is true of a team that is putting out a web site or product. The individual members of the team don’t have to be “equal” to teach other. Everyone can bring their own particular skill or talent to the group and whatever they bring can, and should be, appreciated. One person is a great content writer, another is good at graphic design, another is a psychologist that can guide the group on design, another is an efficient programmer… A great team appreciates all the players, even those who have a small role.

3. You need a director/leader – Although the cast and crew were critical to the success of the show, we needed a director to create the vision of what the show was to be, to communicate that vision clearly and appropriately to the cast, the set designers, the costumers. The director guided us when we were going astray, and inspired us when we were getting tired. The web site or product team also needs someone to be in charge; someone to go to if you are unsure what to do, or which alternative to choose, someone who can communicate with others outside the team, and someone who will lead the team through the project.

4. You need a deadline – In a theatre production the deadline is very clear. It’s opening night! And there is no such thing as changing the deadline. This means that every part of the work from the start to the end is planned out. Exactly what will be rehearsed each night is planned out, with some blank space to work on “problem scenes” as they crop up. A good director has experience putting on a show and knows, for example, that if we are going to be ready to raise the curtain on opening night we have to have had a certain number of rehearsals of the whole show. A good director decides the date that all lines must be memorized (called going “off book”), when costumes need to be started, sets built, etc. The web site or product team also needs a deadline. Everyone on the team needs to feel that the deadline is do-able with hard work, and that there is a firm plan in place for all the activities and interim deadlines along the way that ensure the final deadline will be met.

5. Practice, practice, practice – Our first night of rehearsal was nothing like our opening night. We didn’t expect to get things right the first time. We all knew that it would take lots of practice, both individually, and then as a group, before we would be ready. We understood that we didn’t have an infinite amount of time to work on the production. This is community theatre, and we are volunteering and involved on a part time basis while we have our jobs, families, etc. But we also knew that we had to put the time in if we were going to create a quality production. The web or product team also has competing priorities – other duties at work, personal and family time, etc., and all of that must be juggled. Yet there has to be a commitment to the project, a willingness to do one’s part on one’s own, and also to spend time together to create the final product. Quality products require iteration and the wise team member will be tolerant of themselves and others when mistakes are made.

Do you agree? Can you think of any other parallels that I’ve missed?


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6 Replies to “5 Lessons From Theatre You Can Apply to Web Site Design”

  1. Thank you, Susan, for this post.
    You have stated thoughts that may seem general and simple truths for an experienced manager or a web-design team leader. But those facts worth mentioning, because THESE SIMPLE things are those really hard to find when you’re lost in a search for a solution to a problem. There basics are always to be remembered.

    Murmansk, Russia.

  2. Thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts with us.

    I myself is a theater artist as well as by profession I am a web designer :) so I am 100% agreed with you. Both these areas needs you dedication, efforts, creativity, impulse and time frame. I think these are the main pillars.


  3. Crucially, for a play, you need an audience and the type of audience you present your play to will dictate what kind of stage/auditorium you need. Niche artisan play, small cult play versus Broadway. Know thy customer!

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