If you google ‘biggest film festivals’ TIFF will be referenced in most of the top ten results returned. It may not be the largest or most influential festival in the world, but the combination of over 300 films, and the automatic Oscar-bait tag that can be attached to the Cadillac People’s Choice winner makes TIFF a destination for filmmakers and film lovers around the world.
When it comes to web browsers, that’s another story.
I checked out the tiff.net against some of the other ‘big’ festival landing pages using a selection of free web tools and confirmed what the decidedly sluggish response times my Mac, Macbook, PC laptop and iPhone have been telling me for years. The site is not optimized for the web. While this adds weight to my previously posted conspiracy theory (see Why Lines and Not Online) I take no pleasure in having one more reason to deplore the poor performance of the TIFF site. We are just six months away from TIFF 2011 and I for one hope that the powers decouple the entrance point for festival attendees from the bloated .net landing page. With the advent of the Lightbox the previously (and in hindsight blessedly) disconnected web experience for the festival customers has become more integrated, with more cohesive branding, but has trapped visitor and film lover information in the miasma of the corporate homepage.
TIFF please think of your audience. I understand the importance of a unified web identity, but if you can’t fix the entire site in time for the festival, break off the TIFF film listing and schedule portion and try to make some basic improvements for fall 2011. I shudder to think what it is like for visitors to the city trying to access the site on a personal smart phone or tablet using sketchy hotel wifi.
Compared to Venice, Telluride, Sundance and Cannes TIFF.net is the slowest to load – and when compared to the fastest of the bunch (Bella Venezia!) the TIFF site takes more than twice as long to load. Using one of the measurement tools TIFF.net was the only site to generate the message “Processing was stopped because maximum objects size exceeded”. The site was actually so bloated and slow it exceeded the threshold set so that the tool would not erroneously measure time to download video files. Loosely translated – TOO BIG. FAIL.
Suggestions below in no particular order. Note these will not fix all of the problems, but it’s a start.
Either go back to one image per film or engage a service for hosted content management, if only for festival content. Cannes is using Akamai and while their homepage is the only one of the sites I measured that is as image-heavy as the TIFF landing page their pages still load MUCH faster thanks to image caching. And really if I want additional pictures or a trailer I’ll go to tofilmfest.ca.
Separate the web experience for people who know nothing about the organization, and those who just want to give you their money if they could just get to a page showing them what movies are showing that day. No need to take ‘not for profit’ so literally.
Mobilize the nerds. The Lightbox is in the middle of what once was the garment district, and now is home to many large and small agencies and vendors of online solutions. Many of these people attend your festival, follow your twitter, like you on Facebook and eat lunch at Canteen when they can get a seat. Just ask for help.