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Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) Website

In 2012, Prototype was appointed digital communications agency for the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), only two months before the 9th annual festival got underway.

Now a major international festival, DIFF had outgrown its website's capabilities and the site had dated, no longer reflecting the festival's objectives. Our first tasks included the re-design and development of the DIFF website, a touchscreen application, and digital marketing deliverables, such as banners and an e-newsletter.

The challenge

This project presented four different challenges:

Web Design

Time constraints

The entire bilingual (English and Arabic) website and database needed to be revamped and all creative assets delivered within 2 months.

Web Development

Upgrades and optimisation

The entire content management system needed upgrading, with significant optimisation required to ensure performance.

Web Agency

No down time

We had to perform the upgrade while the website was still live, without any disruption to site access in the lead up to the festival.

Dubai Web Design


We had to consolidate the work of multiple back-end & front-end teams into one single project.


The Concept

  • dubai film fest
  • film fest dubai
  • slide of the film fest

Some technical notes

The task of building the DIFF website was split into a further four distinct parts:

UI Design

UI Design

Web Hosting

Server setup and back-end development

UI Development

UI code implementation

HTML Development

Feature-development on an ad-hoc basis

At a technical level, the job involved improving site performance, including remaking design decisions from the previous site design, mainly because the design didn't follow the DRY principle (Don't Repeat Yourself). For example, templates which were split into 6 files for Arabic & English, in multiple instances throughout the CMS, were consolidated into a single file.

We had to re-factor a majority of the code – modules that were created for the screening schedule & film database were redesigned to perform faster, and be more customizable and robust.

A lot of the SQL code was rewritten to use proper indexing and reduce memory usage. This had the effect of reducing load on the database, freeing up CPU and enabling the website to handle more requests & users.

And it was crucial that we could deploy the website with one command so there'd be no disruption to the site. We used software development tools Capistrano and Git to manage the deployment process – with only three words at the command line, we were able to have a new version of the website up & running in a matter of minutes.


The Design

We designed all digital assets based on the supplied brand guidelines, for
a modern design that would allow users to access the vibrant and fast
changing information in a convenient way.



The touchscreen application was placed in front of cinemas for users to browse the film catalogue. The bilingual app featured a modern, HTML5 based touch interface. Using simple animations, and a thoroughly tested UX, the app received positive feedback from festival goers.



We enhanced site usability with a more user-friendly film schedule, and a new shopping cart so patrons could purchase tickets directly from the site. This year users could also create a personal schedule to plan their festival experience, and share and invite their friends.


Digital marketing material

In addition to the digital marketing assets we designed to help promote the festival online – the banners and e-newsletters – we re-designed DIFF's internal management system for cohesive branding, and improved usability.

How it works

We restructured the site to cater to three separate audiences – film goers, industry and media – so the splash page offers the site visitor three different home pages and entry points accordingly.

There are common elements shared across the three sections such as news, an archive of previous editions of the festival, and various other top-level pages.

Site users can now browse film information by filter, such as genre, language, country and programme, with detailed information provided, from cast list to film stills.

A tremendous amount of effort was put into making sure that the film list on the website could be kept up-to-date as new information arrived, that all systems were synchronous, that the screenings schedule was easy to read, and that from here film tickets could be added directly to a shopping cart.


See it live

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  6. 6. Message