Stephenson Music

web design | e-commerce | advanced shipping functionality | lead generation

Leading American orchestras, instrumentalists, and wind ensembles around the world have performed the music of Chicago based composer James M. Stephenson, both to critical acclaim and the delight of audiences. The Boston Herald raved about “straightforward, unabashedly beautiful sounds,” suggesting “Stephenson deserves to be heard again and again!” A formal sense of melody and tonality characterize his music, each embedded in a contemporary soundscape. These qualities, coupled with the composer’s keen ability to write to each occasion, have led to a steady stream of commissions and ongoing projects.

Most recently, Charles Vernon, Chicago Symphony bass trombonist, asked Stephenson to write a new concerto, a work to be premiered in their 2018/2019 season under the direction of Riccardo Muti.

With more than 250 works in his music catalog and a rapidly growing career, Stephenson needed a new website that highlighted his three primary career activities (composing, conducting, and academic residencies) as well as providing an enhanced online ecommerce solution for his self-published works.

Venture performed a comprehensive review of the existing platform and metrics to help determine project scope.

The result is one of our most striking achievements to date that introduces several first-of-its-kind ecommerce tools to the world of self-published classical music composers.

The project focused on automating previously laborious content management tasks, enhancing and updating more than 1,500 meta records for each work and variation, and creating a powerful custom ecommerce filter to manage the extensive music catalog.

Website Highlights

Comprehensive Music Catalog Archetecture Redesign

  • A brand-new taxonomy structure provides improved content management and organization.
  • Each work is organized using a series of categories, tags, and attributes which, in turn, are used by frontend users to filter and search.
  • Since many works are available in multiple arrangements and purchase options (print, digital download, and rental), the entire catalog is designed in a parent/child group relationship. The main title functions as the parent and each respective arrangement and/or purchase version exists as a child. This allows customers to select every option they wish to add to their cart from a single screen; no more back-and-forth rubber necking to add an extra score or parts.
  • By listing all versions of a work within a single parent product, customers have a much easier time locating versions they want.
  • Parent/Child structure improves product management for site admins; adding, removing, or editing details takes a fraction of the time compared to the previous variation or mutually exclusive product configuration.

First-Of-Its-Kind Music Catalog Filtering Functionality

  • With more than 250 works (and growing!) across dozens of categories, finding a work inside Jim’s music catalog can be challenging. The solution was introducing traditional online retail product filtering tools to the complete music catalog.
  • The reconfigured music catalog taxonomy provides eight different ways to search and filter results:
    • Ensemble/Solo Type: these contain all of the traditional ways to categorize music; i.e. Chamber Music, Chorus, Orchestra, Solos, Band, etc.
    • Type of Work: arrangements, concertos, fanfare, features soloists, holiday, humorous, original works, overtures, pops, and etudes.
    • Featured Instruments: this will filter works that either present an instrument(s) in a solo spotlight as well as the primary instrumentation for chamber and small ensemble works.
    • Type of Purchase: this category provides a fast and easy way for organizational visitors to identify rental works. You can filter results by works with printed/shipped parts, those available as digital download, and those with rental options.
    • Duration: The provided slider allows users to set minimum and maximum lengths of time for filtered results.
    • Number of products to show per page: everyone has their own view on how many results they want to see at a time. By default, pages show up to 25 results but users can use this option to set that value to 20, 40, 60, or 80.
    • Featured Works Only: these will always include Jim’s special picks; they’ll include recent releases along with the most popular works.
    • Keyword search: sometimes users already know what they want and this will be the fastest way to find it. They can also use it to help drill down to a work where you remember some, but not all, of the title.
  • Search results list works with up to date cover images, price ranges, instrumentation, short descriptions, links to preview scores (when available), and audio clips (when available).
  • Users can display results in list (default) or grid formats.

Enhanced Checkout Process

  • The Parent/Child product structure allows users to add multiple variations of a work to their cart from a single page. This decreases checkout process time and increases conversion rates.
  • The cart now includes regular and express shipping options with real time shipping calculations based on the buyer’s address.
  • Sales tax is automatically calculated for any shipped products with Illinois based shipping address.
  • The system automatically calculates which shipping box is best to use based on works selected. Admin inputted values for LxWxH and weight improves accuracy of shipping charges while simultaneously protecting the client from inadvertent losses on under-calculating charges.
  • A direct, real-time connection to the US Postal Service API means shipping rates are always up to date, regardless the destination or service a customer selects.
  • A direct payment gateway connection means users never leave the site and enjoy a faster, more secure buying experience.

Landing Page Focus

  • Dedicated landing pages for each major career activity (composing, conducting, and academic residency work) create an intuitive user defined navigation flow.
  • Each landing page contains information and schedules for all related activity while master calendar page allows users to view all activity on a single page.
  • The homepage design reinforces each landing page by including dedicated content sections for each area of career activity. In turn, those link through to the corresponding landing page.

Cutting Edge User Interface and Mobile First Design

  • 100 percent responsive design.
  • Large, tap friendly buttons carry through desktop, tablet, and smartphone layouts.
  • Smartphone tap functions maximized for one-hand use.
  • Optimized CSS and JavaScript files help maintain Google friendly load times.
  • Media is equally engaging across all device types.
  • On desktop and laptop devices, the main nav menu remains visible at all times thanks to sticking to the top of the page when users scroll.

Omnipresent Social Engagement

  • All social share functionality exists in a bottom navigation bar that floats in as the user scrolls down page content.
  • The social nav menu includes both social share buttons for respective page content but links to the institution’s social media platforms.
  • Negative social proofing prevents social share counters from engaging until they’ve reached a value set by the admin.
  • Admins can easily create custom share messages for each major social media platform. No more one-size-fits-none social share messages!
  • Social share messages can integrate multiple hashtags and @ mentions.
  • A fly-in message overlay provides site visitors with an unobtrusive newsletter subscription notice.


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