Thinking through a conference website

I’m involved with the planning of a couple of events at the moment and maybe not surprisingly I am obsessing a little bit over getting the web presence aspect right.

One of the events is relatively high profile and very much a topic that will mean it gets noticed by webby types so first and foremost I want the site to do justice to the conference.

I’m not worried about the design as I have someone talented lined up to take care of that and we’ll be building it with WordPress so no worries there. I do intend to make use of a couple of new plug-ins on this project – particularly Events Manager 2.0 and WPTouch plus maybe one of the SEO plug-ins which should be interesting. I would also like to use Eventbrite for bookings and just embed the form as well.

I do need to think through how I present the information to really ensure the highest level of usability though. One of the things that makes event sites a bit different is they have a very specific lifecycle; pre-event when the key actions are information gathering and booking, during the event where increasingly the site will allow people to follow the event live via streaming video or similar and then post-event where an effort is made to pull all the materials around the event into one place to offer a kind of ‘catch-up tv’ for the proceedings.

I’m a big fan of the Carsonified conference websites by @mikekus as far as getting the information out front and centre that is important to the visitor in an attractive way but they don’t have the middle issue of dealing with the streaming usually – not surprisingly the biggest call to action on their sites is to purchase tickets – the event I am thinking of is free.

What I was thinking of was having a pretty standard IA – something like; Home / Schedule / Speakers / Background / with key info like the dates and venue constantly in the header (and maybe the footer as well). There would/could be an additional navigation option that would evolve throughout the lifecycle of the event starting as Register Here then becoming Watch Live and finishing as Catchup Here – it would need to have a consistent URL for the page so that would require a bit of thought.

The web presence for the Repositories in the Cloud event recently has done this really nicely moving from a place to get the information about the event that helped you to decide to attend through to a ‘repository’ of all the collected content from the day (though on this occasion it wasn’t streamed live.)

Another thing I would like to do would be to make the event tag front and center in the design of the site. I’ve even considered that as this is likely to be a standalone site the tag should actually be the URL. That should make it considerably easier for people who come across the tag out of context to track down what people are talking about (on Twitter particularly this happens quite alot!).

It is amazing how many event or conference sites seem to hide the key information – often you find the date or venue information buried or can find no mention of actual speakers (and with people so time poor these days you need to give them a reason to commit to attend your event). I’m hoping I won’t make any of these mistakes but we’ll see!

3 thoughts on “Thinking through a conference website

  1. Have been going through a similar process while planning how we want to present event info on our new website. I’ll email my wishlist over or chuck it on Google Docs if that helps!

  2. Matt says:

    Yea that would be great…thanks!

    Luckily the things I am looking at are pretty standalone so I don’t have to worry about making it fit a larger IA – looking forward to seeing the shiny new Eduserv site soon🙂

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