Thank you to the readers who sent a copy of an email they received from the ROH Friends earlier this evening. This email explains why the seat-choosing functionality has been removed from the site for next-season booking.
It appears that the ROH's earlier claim they haven't part-launched the new website is not exactly true. They have in fact already implemented a new seating plan for next season's productions, which they hoped to run together with the current booking process.
Unfortunately the two are incompatible, a fact they only found out yesterday. Incredible as it sounds, "despite testing", nobody bothered until then to check the one basic function the booking system is designed to perform - booking tickets.
Here is the relevant text from the email in full:
"Back in October 2011 we set the target launch date for our new website. Our reasoning for this date at the end of April was to wait until the early Friends’ booking days had taken place, and then have five clear weeks before the next on-sale day so we could iron out the inevitable issues. Our planning was done with the aim to have no impact on any booking days. Yesterday however, we discovered a problem with the old website: the ‘choose your own seat’ tool was not working for the new Season. We had changed the seating plan for the new Season to make a number of improvements, including how boxes are sold and access purchasing. Despite testing only discovered late in the day that the current ‘choose your own seat’ tool will not work with the new seating plan. There is not time to undo the changes for the whole of the autumn, so we have taken the difficult decision to put the Season on sale with only the best available seating functionality available. We are very sorry for the disruption and inconvenience this will cause to you as our valued members; we certainly had not planned to launch our next Season this way."