Heaps Gay Qweens Ball during Vivid Sydney 2019

Vivid Sydney: Light, Music & Ideas

Vivid Sydney is the largest event in Australia, bringing together light artists, music makers and brilliant minds across 400 events for three weeks in May.


Vivid Sydney has been integral in cementing Sydney's position as the creative capital of Asia-Pacific, and instrumental in stimulating the city's visitor economy. In its 11th year, we needed to work with Destination NSW to re-invigorate this spectacular festival, and give it the brilliant digital experience it deserves.User research helped us to reimagine how users interact with Vivid Sydney’s touchpoints, and continuing our work from 2018, in 2019 we pulled the site apart, re-imagined the UX and design and overhauled the tech stack.


14% increase in site visits26% increase in leads48% increase ‘buy tickets’159% increase in events added to ‘My Vivid’137% increase in personalise 'My Vivid’41% increase in database signups22% increase in ‘My Vivid’ profile creation29% site traffic visited ‘Vivid Live’ programs pageAll major events sold out

Vivid logo showcasing the new colour palette blurred in the background

How could we create a personalised and immersive digital experience that excites, engages, and encourages repeat visitation throughout the festival?


Vivid Sydney is a huge festival of over 400 events and can be overwhelming for people to find a music gig, an inspiring talk, or a light installation that will suit their needs. Confusing navigation meant large drop-offs, and search was not being used to its full potential. How could we create a personalised and immersive digital experience that excites, engages, and encourages repeat visitation throughout the festival?

Having started the personalisation journey with the Vivid Sydney ecosystem in 2018, we wanted to take it to the next level in 2019. Our challenge was making the Vivid Sydney festival meaningful to a target that is extremely broad and varied in their tastes, needs, and budgets.

For the first time ever, we also had the opportunity to integrate ticket sales on the platform, which would keep users on the site after transacting, encouraging further exploration.

Vivid Sydney website homepage hero, overlaid on top of an image of a girl

A website that personalises the user’s experience based on their preferences, and guides them to uncover new interests, plan visits, track events and puchase tickets.


Always seeking improvement, 2019 preparations started in late 2018 with a team retrospective, to reflect upon our successes in the previous year, and what could be improved. A tough act to follow, seeing as 2018’s results featured a 95% decrease in bounce rate, an 81% increase in engagement, a 40% increase in leads and 37% growth of database.

Kicking off with a workshop bringing together marketing, UX, design, and development from Nightjar and Destination NSW, we agreed objectives for 2019.

We first tackled the IA of the site, adding more context and ensuring the ideas and music programs were allowed to shine as brightly as the light program of the festival.

Three mobile screens showcasing vivid sydney website pages

Accelerated search for dazzling speed and relevance

From user research, we understood that the 400-strong event festival was overwhelming in its breadth, so a strong emphasis was placed on upgrading search. We created filters to guide the user by topic of interest, location, price and accessibility. We also decoupled search from the backend for lightning speed, knowing that users will leave a site if they don’t find what they’re looking for almost instantaneously.

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Vivid website search highlighted over a brand colour blur effect
Vivid Sydney website search filter elements
Three mobile screens showcasing the vivid sydney website search
Vivid Sydney desktop screen showcasing search

Decoupling Drupal

To overcome some of Drupal’s limitations, we delivered a React-powered frontend and the DestinationNSW’s developers delivering API-driven backend, all with an upgrade from Drupal 7 to 8 at the same time. (We love a challenge!).

Multiple Vivid Sydney desktop screens arrayed in a grid

Polishing the Vivid Sydney gem

Now in its 11th year, and with research showing people are tiring of Vivid, thinking it ‘same same’, we refreshed the iconography and visual language, taking inspiration from the logo. This digital-first branding was applied across all Vivid touchpoints.

Vivid Sydney website design elements arrayed over a colour blur background

We refreshed the iconography and visual language, taking inspiration from the logo.

Vivid Sydney website key design interaction states

Delivering a personalised homepage experience, every time

In 2018 we introduced a preference centre and onboarding process, where users selected topic areas of interest, music genres, and locations to be served relevant content, as well as save favourites. In 2019, personalisation was increased by integrating these preferences into the live site for users, giving them a unique homepage and suggesting events they might enjoy.

Vivid Sydney website desktop login overlay

Users selected topic areas of interest, music genres, and locations to be served relevant content, as well as save favourites.

Vivid Sydney website desktop screen showcasing an event page

Embedded checkout to maintain momentum and drive ticket sales

After an audit of ticketing partners, we selected Eventbrite due to their API, which allowed us to access real time ticket sales so we could alert users to events sold out, or when their favourites were selling fast. We also had the ability to embed their checkout directly into the page, creating a seamless transaction for users and increasing sales for Ideas events.

Migrating our user data to Salesforce, we were able to close the loop with our comms, and form a more complete picture of our user.

Two mobile screens showcasing mobile event page and integrated checkout

“Show me all the light installations in The Rocks”

Knowing that many users hit the site looking to plan their trip route prior to attending Vivid, we focussed on a clean map experience - the user could toggle their search results which would then show each installation and event in a map view, with cards for each event popping up on the map, to encourage further exploration.

Main precincts were shown on the map, and then the user could zoom out to understand context, and zoom back in to specific program or event pages.

Desktop & mobile screen showcasing search with the map overlay

Streamlining the total Vivid experience, from planning through to on-ground attendance

The website is now a valuable tool to guide users to uncover new interests, plan their visit (from choosing events to transport and logistics), keep track of favourite events, purchase tickets, personalise the site based on preferences they’ve set, and find their way around on the ground when visiting Vivid Sydney.

Desktop screens showing the Queen Garnet partnerships sign up

Nightjar’s innovative approach to tech ensures we are continually delivering results that exceed our KPIs.

Janine Hutton, General Manager, Marketing, Destination NSW

Four event cards from the vividsydney website
Desktop screen of the Vivid 2019 website homepage
Two mobile screens showcasing the vividsydney.com account creation flow
Open menu of the 2019 vividsydney.com
Vivid Sydney Event page, calendar dropdown

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