In January at a #LDNTheatreBloggers meet-up I was first introduced to the SeatPlan site as they’d co-organised the evening. Looking back I’m surprised that this was the first time I’d heard of the site – I should’ve been on it sooner!
For those of you that have yet to hear of SeatPlan it’s a new website where you can sign up and leave reviews of the seats you’ve sat in at West End theatres, and the more seat reviews you add the more awards and points you get, these points can equal theatre vouchers! If you don’t want to leave reviews (why wouldn’t you though, did you not see that amazing incentive?!) it’s still a really useful site to see what other people have thought of various seats in many theatres and could help you decide whether you like the sound of a seat or not.
This site is definitely something the theatre community has been missing, especially now that they’ve made some huge changes to the site! The lovely team at SeatPlan asked for some opinions from us theatre bloggers so here’s a few of my thoughts on the new site.
Interactive Seating Plans
Those boring seating plans you’re used to will hopefully be a thing of the past if you’re on SeatPlan as they’ve recently updated their seating plans to be interactive, meaning you can see which seats have been reviewed throughout the theatre! I think this is such a brilliant addition to the site as it increases the user friendliness so much, and makes it a lot easier to check out a seat immediately especially if it’s one that you already have in mind to book!
Here’s a little look at the new interactive maps, and I’ve gone onto the Apollo Victoria page. On the seating plan you can clearly see the divide between the different levels of the theatre and as well as that by the saturation of the colour on the seats you can see how well reviewed it’s been – the darker the seat the more reviews! This gives you a clear indication of which seats may be more popular, or perhaps cheaper, if more people have chosen to sit there. Click on a seat and it’ll highlight it on the map, and show reviews that people have left on the left hand side. Here’s one of mine!
When leaving a review you’re asked to upload a photo of your view and the ticket for the seat, you don’t have to but it helps you gain more points I believe. More on that later! For those looking at seats it lets them see immediately what sort of view they’ll be getting if they decide to book the seat which is great as it’s not something they’d normally get to see beforehand!
Added History and Information
On the left hand side of the seating plan as well as reviews from users SeatPlan also offers the user some background history on the theatre and offers insight as to the layout of the theatre. I feel this will be particularly useful for those relatively new to the theatre scene or simply those who are curious about a theatre they’ve yet to visit!
Not only does it give a brief history of the theatre but it describes the seating itself, the architecture of the theatre and the general vibe it has. Overall this section of SeatPlan in my opinion helps to give a chattier description of the theatre to the user which just feels more relaxed and informal in place of the sometimes stiff descriptions you see on theatre websites!
As well as giving some context to the user, SeatPlan have now included a “Best Value” section which I think is brilliant. With theatre ticket prices on the rise you want to make sure you’re getting the best for what you’re paying, so this helps you decide whether you’re making the right choice!
Here you can see they’ve suggested the Dress Circle being a more comfortable view for seeing The Book of Mormon, and considering as their tickets are some of the priciest ones in the West End at the moment, you want to make sure you’re going to be comfortable when spending that much money…
Not only have they suggested which tickets are of a better value for you, they’ve included a “Bigger Budget” section which lets you know whereabouts the cheapest tickets are in the theatre, and what difference the prices of these will make to your theatre experience.
In most cases tickets are sold at a cheaper price under “Restricted View”, but if you’re not too fussed about missing the edge of the stage you could be saving a lot of money. With this description for Miss Saigon they’ve also advised that the midweek performances can be quieter and there’s a chance you could be upgraded – the same can be a said for a few more West End shows but it’s rare that the general public will know of this! One thing I’ve suggested to the SeatPlan team is that their dayseating and lottery information could be expanded to give more detail to users so this could be on the site soon too!
With the Budget section next to the seating plan it’ll then make sense to users as to why some seats have been sat in more that others. They’ll be able to find them on the map and read reviews to see just how restricted, uncomfortable or whatever they’ve been – sometimes these seats are classed as restricted but are absolutely fine if you’ve seen the show before or aren’t fussed about legroom, other reviewers are sure to let you know!
If you aren’t a user on SeatPlan you may now be wondering if the reviewing process is incredibly difficult or complicated. Spoiler – it really isn’t!
Personally I tend to make it harder for myself just because I like to talk a lot about my opinions (hello, I write a blog…) but honestly it could take just a couple of minutes if you’re straight to the point.
As you can see, all you need to do is type in either the theatre you visited or the show you saw (as you begin typing it the site will offer suggestions in a drop-down menu anyway), where you sat, the specific Row and Seat Number and then you have to give it star ratings depending on what you thought. Then you just need to leave a comment about what you thought of the seat and this can be as long or short as you’d like, chose from the drop-down list which show you saw and upload photos of your view and ticket. As I mentioned earlier you don’t need to upload these photos but the photo of your ticket helps the SeatPlan team verify your review to make sure you aren’t lying about your visit!
Then all you have to do is wait for the SeatPlan team to verify you review and that’s it! So simple. While I have a lot of praise for this site I always like to see if there are ways a site can be even better, and thankfully the SeatPlan team have welcomed constructive criticism with open arms. One thing I mentioned to them was to make it easier for reviewers to name a show in the “What did you see?” box if it was a one-night show or a short run, as only the long running shows of the theatre are listed in this drop down menu. I’ve been told it’s something they’re working on!
When you leave reviews on the site they’re neatly organised on your page by Theatre, Show and Reviews so you can see everything really clearly. If you visit the same show or theatre a lot SeatPlan very kindly call you an Expert!
One feature I really love is that if you click on Timeline SeatPlan has organised all your shows in a smooth sliding timeline so you can see all your theatre trips!
I’ve suggested that a Calendar running alongside the Timeline for users to digitally pencil in future theatre trips could look really nice, and would also allow SeatPlan to remind them to leave a review for their seat. This would increase the communication between the site and users, though they’re already really good at this anyway!
There’s a lot of room for SeatPlan to grow, I’ve mentioned to them that I think seeing fringe and regional theatres on the site would be excellent additions but it’s best they focus on the West End theatres while making sure everything is perfect. Many avid theatregoers don’t tend to stay purely in West End theatres so it makes sense for them to be able to voice their opinions on the rest of the theatres the UK has to offer!
In the future it would be nice to see SeatPlan develop into more of a little community, I think one way this could happen would be if users were able to follow each other on the site in the same ways as other social media. Users with similar interests could follow each other and help each other out with seat recommendations or just make friends! Most people would be surprised at how many times they’ve been to the theatre on the same day as other reviewers, they may as well get to know each other!
I would love to have a SeatPlan app on my phone and feel it would be the next natural progression for the site, fingers crossed this’ll happen at some point!
One more thing that I think could be nice on the site would be a ‘favourite’ function, so users could favourite reviews that they’ve found really useful and they could be saved for them to view again in the future, this saves them needing to note down the seat number that they’ve liked the look of, they can simply refer to their Favourites within their profile! These are all things I’ve suggested to the team and they may be implemented in the future.
Aaaaanyway! That was a lot wasn’t it. Just a few of my thoughts and feelings towards this site, but to sum it up I 100% recommend this site to theatregoers – I flat out tell people to sign up most of the time! It’s easy, fun and informative, plus if you put enough reviews up you’ll start getting theatre vouchers to fuel your passion even more, and what’s not to love about that :)