The Basics of Event Website Creation and Optimization
Posted in Spotlights on May 31, 2018
Creating an event website is an important step to take in creating a strongly branded experience. However, getting a good website up and running can be incredibly difficult. You have to consider the website URL, hosting, who is going to design it, what it will contain, and the attendee experience. This isn’t even considering the time cost. In this post, I will discuss the different options available in creating your event website, the pages your website needs, and how to best optimize your site for attendees and ticket sales.
Step 1: Why Use An Event Website?
There are a lot of reasons to have a website for your event. Three big reasons could be:
- Sell Tickets
- Market Your Story
- Acquire Sponsors
There are others, but these are three that I want to focus on since these are the challenges that most event organizers will be facing. The great news is that using an event website will help you with all of this, and more. Having a site enables you to educate people about your event, your goals, your mission statement, and more.
Step 1a: Determine your brand. Before you even look into a website, think about your brand, and what you want your site to look like. This will help a lot with the next step. For more information on creating event branding assets, read our post here on event branding here.
Step 2: The Different Website Options Available
So you’ve determined that you need an event website, and you have the goals in mind. Now, you need to get your website built out! The three options that will make sense for you are a website builder, a website designer, and WordPress. I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each of these options.
Note that WordPress is technically a website builder, but there are a few different steps you need to take, so I have split them out for convenience.
Website Builders have become extremely popular in the past few years. Instead of having to pay a designer to build everything out, you get access to templates that you can customize. Furthermore, you don’t need to host your site or handle anything else except by getting a domain name. The two builders I’d recommend looking into are Squarespace and Wix. Each of them has their own upsides, so it’s really up to you to find which one aligns with your goals the best. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend using a website builder.
Inexpensive. Most website builders charge $20 or less a month. As an event organizer, that’s just a ticket or two, and sometimes much less than that. You'll make your money back quickly.
Able To Make Updates As Needed. Did someone just point out a spelling error? Or do you need to update the speaker list? You have immediate access.
Must Make Site Yourself. You will be spending a decent amount of time building out the pages and getting the website to look good.
Limited Options. Because you’re dealing with themes, there is really only so much you can do with them.
If you’ve been around the block a few times and your event(s) are bringing in significant revenue, you might like to look into a website designer. Designers are great because they can really execute on your vision, and offer their own input.
Great Looking Site. Generally speaking, a professional will be able to do a much better job than you at creating a website that will bring in conversions.
More Optimized Site. Designers are aware of best practices regarding websites, and they’ll be able to build a strong website without the trial-and-error you would experience otherwise.
Slow Set-Up/Response Time. Because designers are building your site from scratch, it will take them more time than using an out-of-the-box builder. Furthermore, they may not be able to implement changes quickly.
Cost. The big one - building a website is not cheap so you will be paying at least $2,500 or more. Again, this is why I recommend only hiring a designer if you are confident that the sales would override the cost.
You May Not Control Your Site. Just because a designer built your site, doesn’t mean that you have total control over it. The agency or designer that created your site may host it on their platform, meaning that you don’t have full access or control.
WordPress is the premier blog platform and has been since its inception. There are countless templates, applications, and add-ons for every conceivable scenario. I chose to differentiate WordPress from Website Builders because there is some manual work you will need to do yourself. In particular, I want to point out that the Ticketbud blog is a WordPress blog with a (Free!) theme courtesy of Builder Society and is hosted on WP Engine. I personally prefer using WordPress because of all of the theme options and add-ons. In order to get started on WordPress, you need to get a domain name and hosting, and that’s about it! The rest is up to you.
More Options Than Website Builder, More Customizable. WordPress has been around for a while, and with that comes a deep base of options.
Inexpensive. You really only need to pay for hosting (see below) and get a theme, which can be as little as $5 to $10 to the $100s. There are also free themes out there, as I mentioned above.
Need To Host Yourself (Or Use A Service). Now, this isn’t really so much of a downside as it is a little bit of extra work on your part, compared to the out-of-the-box experience for other website builders. You can use a dedicated WordPress hosting solution such as WP Engine, or go for something more general like Bluehost.
Need To Update/Vulnerable. Again, not a huge downside, but WordPress installations can be targets of malicious attacks. You can minimize any sort of attempt by keeping all of your apps and WordPress versions updated to the latest version.
Step 3: Building Site Pages
Every good website has pages that help build trust and turn visitors into customers. These pages are:
Here is the opportunity to not only sell your event, but your event’s brand, and your event’s story. People love reading about how events got started, and the mission behind them.
Very few people are going to want to attend an event that doesn’t have any method of contact. You might be worried about getting phone calls all the time, so at the very least set up an email for attendees and sponsors to contact. It would be wise to have one email for attendees and then separate emails for other visitors so that you can respond to them promptly with the correct information.
Have you ever been hesitant to purchase something or go somewhere because you had no experience, and didn’t know of anyone else who had done the same? This is the core of social proof - you are showing visitors how great your event is through the feedback you have on your event. If you want visitors to get interested in your event or companies interested in your sponsorship packages, you need to have something that shows how valuable you are. For example, if you are a nonprofit or you have sponsors, you might have a special sponsor page on your website showcasing them. You might include them in your logo’s banner. For attendees, put in reviews from past years. Or, insert press releases and other news information showing that you are trustworthy.
Finally, we’ve arrived at the page that really matters! Here’s where all of the hard work from all of the other pages funnels in. Your events page can have your event information, a calendar, tickets for sale, speakers, and more. Ticketbud has both a Calendar Widget and an Event Ticket Widget, so you can quickly convert anyone who enters your ticket page. https://help.ticketbud.com/hc/en-us/articles/216106328-Embed-a-widget-on-your-website-
-Other Pages You Can Include
Depending on your event, you will want to include other pages that showcase everything that you’re about. This could be Speakers if you are a Conference. It could be Musicians if you are a festival. In the social proof section, I mentioned Nonprofits. If you are a Nonprofit, you should also have a page dedicated to Sponsors for your event.
Step 4: Optimizing Your Website For Ticket Sales
Once you have all of the other necessary pages up for your website, there’s one more step that you need to take - making your site user-friendly. Now, by default, most of these themes and website builders are user-friendly, but you should always go the extra mile to confirm that.
-Easy To Access Ticket Page
If your goal is to sell tickets, then making this page as easily accessible as possible should be at the top of your priority list. Have a tickets page be in the main navigation bar, the bottom navigation, and consider adding a link to your tickets page on all of your other pages, as well. In commence, you always want to be reducing the number of clicks and time that it takes to purchase. If your page is easily accessible, then you’ll see a stark increase in ticket sales.
Note: When you’re promoting your site - whether it be on Facebook, Google, or anywhere else - always link people directly to the ticket page. This also builds directly into reducing the number of clicks from a visit to purchase.
-Mobile Optimized Site
Most themes for WordPress and website builders are going to be mobile optimized. Any site designer worth their salt will also make sure that your site is mobile optimized.
-Quick Loading Site
A slow loading website will more negatively affect attendee purchases than almost any other factor. Your goal should be to have a page that loads in 2 seconds or less. I recommend using Pingdom’s free website speed test here: https://tools.pingdom.com/ . You can also purchase a full page tester subscription and have Pingdom test your site out every minute. This can be a really valuable tool when you are anticipating heavy traffic on your site so that you know it is still up and running. I have heard of event sites that were not able to handle the traffic, causing tens of thousands of lost dollars in revenue. Another good free page speed tester is Google’s PageSpeed Insights, accessible here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
The buying experience is sometimes called the “customer journey”. When you create a website, you have a vision of how someone might interact with it. Just like anything, though, intended use doesn’t always end up being the actual use! This is why “heat map” software is so valuable. You can see recordings and screens of how real visitors interact with your site. You can see an example of clicks here, on a Ticketbud page. Each point shows a click, and the redder it is, the more it’s clicked.
In terms of recommendations, I have a lot of experience with HotJar, and it’s really easy to set up, too. You can check them out here: https://www.hotjar.com/
There are also some cool features such as “exit popups” that trigger when someone is about to leave the page, and you can ask them why they are exiting. I have gotten some really interesting comments over the years, and it’s almost always valuable information that helped me improve my site conversion rate.
There’s a lot that goes into creating a good event website, but it all comes down to having a plan in place. This means having strong branding, the right pages to engender trust in your audience, and the ability to optimize and make tweaks. Once your event is over, you’ll also have the opportunity to post photos from the event, and get your attendees ready for next year!