Case Study

Sydney Opera House

Asset reference
150 %

reduction in page load times



The organization’s marketing team needed to revamp its website to meet higher customer expectations in the increasingly demanding digital world.


The organization’s previous CMS and ticketing system were incompatible, frustrating customers and making high-volume ticket sales difficult.

Our Solution

Drupal, Acquia Cloud Platform


Open source Drupal with Acquia Cloud Platform met the organization’s requirements for power and flexibility without a hefty price tag by removing CMS license fees and reducing the total cost of ownership. Additionally, site speed has improved, with average page download times reduced by 150%.

The Client

Sydney Opera House (SOH) is a World Heritage-listed masterpiece of “human creative genius” that belongs to all Australians. The country’s number one tourist destination and its busiest performing arts center, SOH welcomes more than 10.9 million visitors a year on site and hosts more than 1,800 performances attended by more than 1.4 million people. Deloitte has estimated the total cultural and iconic value of the Sydney Opera House to Australia at $6.2 billion. 

The Situation

The SOH marketing team recognized that in an increasingly demanding digital world, customer behaviors and expectations had evolved — and the Opera House’s business goals needed to rise to meet those expectations. The team wanted to provide visitors an engaging online experience that kept audiences updated about upcoming Opera House events. But, the team’s top priority was to provide a frictionless pathway to purchasing tickets. 

Additionally, as a government-backed cultural institution, SOH’s executive team needed to demonstrate effective budgetary decision-making — meaning they needed to prove the increased ROI of any digital investment they made. 

Other project goals included:

  • Reduced ongoing licensing and maintenance costs
  • Improved user experience
  • Support for a high volume of concurrent website users
  • Increased discoverability of events, enhancing the visitors’ propensity to buy
  • Improved ease of transactions
  • Improved opportunities to upsell and cross-sell experiences, like tours and food and beverage packages

The Challenge

The connection between SOH’s content management system (Adobe CMS) and Tessitura, its CRM software, made it impossible to sell high-volume tickets reliably. The team had tried to optimize the connection with custom-built, third-party middleware, but the solution still fell short — transaction failures remained high, increasing demand on the contact center and frustrating customers. 

It became clear that the organization’s increasingly complex and rigid website code made it difficult for SOH to meet its business requirements. And with its CMS subscription renewal looming, the timing was critical.

The Solution

Partnering with Sitback, the teams tackled the project to replatform on Drupal, preserving SOH’s visual design while refining features and functionality. The teams implemented a custom integration with Collaboro, a third-party digital asset management (DAM) tool, allowing all media assets and associated metadata to be managed from a single location and surfaced natively through Drupal’s media browser. 

Sitback’s Experience Design team also worked with the Opera House team to refine elements of their digital style guide while applying best practice UX design to create wireframes for the new transaction path. Previously, payment pre-authorization and processing was complex, due to the need for communication between Windcave, the payment gateway, and Tessitura. Now, Drupal now serves as the go-between, determining if tickets are available and then allowing the customer to view and reserve them until a successful payment is completed, the tickets secured, the transaction finalized, and confirmation provided.

Bespoke functionality now allows customers to apply vouchers across multiple transactions, with a “balance remaining” calculation shown, encouraging repeat purchases and ensuring maximum value for the customer. And upgrades, such as food and drink or tours, are now content that can be managed via the CMS. A single item can be shared with one or multiple events and shown conditionally based on the event date and time. For example, if a food package is only available for a Sunday matinee, it only shows when that specific variant is chosen. This feature was designed to be as flexible as possible, providing virtually limitless possibilities.

Similarly, the SOH team can create custom content for deals and packages and prevent users from checking out if they still have an incomplete package. And Sitback developed the ability for SOH content creators to add custom messages per individual event, tour, or package. This means that if there is a special event on a particular night of a show, the SOH team can add an alert message to the event.

“The new Sydney Opera House website brings together the events, performances, and other special opportunities unique to the Opera House as an enjoyable and seamlessly connected experience,” said Paddy Morgan, Website Specialist at Sydney Opera House.

The Results

By showcasing the power and flexibility of Drupal, SOH and Sitback were able to demonstrate that the open source software met the organization’s requirements without a hefty price tag. This has completely removed CMS license fees and reduced the total cost of ownership.

Site speed has also improved. Thanks to caching enhancements, average page download times were reduced by 150%. “Book Now” buttons on event pages are instant, whereas previously they took up to three seconds to appear.

“Our intention was to provide the public with an exceptional online experience — and we’ve succeeded in the delivery of a stable, future-proofed site that is far superior to what we previously had. We’ve also reduced our maintenance costs and our technical debt. We are confident we have the right solution to meet not just our customers’ needs, but also support the business goals of the Sydney Opera House,” said Krystal Nolan, Program Manager, MarTech, at Sydney Opera House.

Load testing of the site on the Acquia Cloud Platform proved that performance was considerably better. The website can now easily facilitate 300+ people concurrently checking out. This means tickets to a popular event can sell out within minutes of release, customers are happier, and SOH has greater ownership over ticket sales, with fewer customers opting to purchase via third-party vendors.

With enhanced logic and workflows, users are prompted to interact with their cart every step of the way. This ensures packages are complete, promo codes are correctly applied, and transactions are successful. Pre-authorization functionality ensures reliable purchases, preventing tickets from being released prematurely. And customers can apply gift vouchers across multiple transactions, giving buyers a level of flexibility rarely offered within standard e-commerce sites.The improved UX has significantly decreased phone and email inquiries, lightening the load on contact center staff. 

And tagging allows content to be quickly surfaced, encouraging customers to spend more time on the site consuming relevant articles and videos. Previously a manual task, content managers can now promote lesser-known events or products with just one change, promoting content to the top of pages based on predetermined rules.

The WCAG-compliant website provides an accessible experience, allowing SOH to reach a wider audience and ensuring everyone can access the cultural experiences available, regardless of ability.

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