Conference websites have notoriously bad UX and it could be losing you customers

UX is short for User Experience and if you’re running an event, your customers experience begins from the moment they first interact with some of your marketing and are driven to your website until the last piece of post event communication they receive. Every interaction they have with you, your team, your website and event content plays an important role in shaping the experience of your customer.

TLDR

  • Remember you are not your user – create personas
  • Design for mobile first
  • Ensure your online agendas offer your attendees the best possible user experience
  • Make sure your content is available in a way that is intuitive to navigate
  • Make sure the key information is easily scannable
  • Make sure users can easily filter agendas by category, keyword or speaker title
  • Allow users to see an overview of all of the content you have available
  • Company Logos and speaker photos communicate best
  • Constantly learn and evolve your sites

Failure to provide a helpful and satisfying user experience at any point along this path can lead to a drop off in users buying tickets in the first place or re-booking for future events. If customers become annoyed, bored or frustrated at any point on their journey with you, it could well end up affecting your bottom line.

Your events website is the critical, common interface, that will guide users all the way through their journey with you. It helps them to understand your offering; feel that it meets their needs, and be reassured and confident that they can spend money with you. But once it’s served it’s role as a sales tool the same site needs to work as an informative and engaging tool for your attendees, providing a wealth of information that can be constantly updated, helping them to understand everything they need to know about the events speakers and agendas; who they want to see and where they need to be.

This information is important to attendees before the event but is also critical at the event where most attendees will be on mobile devices and internet can be patchy. It can be tempting to reach for an expensive iPhone or Android App here but bare in mind that as well as costing you money and creating work you’d be offering a more consistent experience to your users if they could use the same platform throughout; checkout how progressive web apps can bridge this gap.

We could fill entire books and not cover everything that can help you design for a good user experience but for now here a few key tips you should be considering.

Who are your users? Create personas

Event sites are tricky because you often have different users with different needs. A potential sponsor will have a different set of requirements to an attendee. Consider writing up brief personas that capture the needs of a few of your key demographics based on previous attendees.

Remember you are not your user, you live and breathe your event and know it inside out. It can really help your team to try considering your sites through the eyes of these personas.

What are the typical user journeys through your site?

Once you understand you users needs you can lead them on a journey through your site. What steps do they need to take to reach a decision or achieve their goal? Could you reduce the number of steps. Here it helps to really consider the information architecture of your site. What content do you have? How could you categorize it? what types of information are you trying to communicate? Break down the information and ensure that as far as possible you only present people with what they need to see.

Is something only relevant for potential sponsors and exhibitors, or is it just for attendees? By keeping the navigation and content clear and distinct you can ensure users don’t get distracted from achieving their goals.

Keep your navigation simple and consistant

You want your users to be able to intuitively navigate through your site. Use the information architecture you have decided on to create a simple navigation that divides your content into appropriate sections. Keep this navigation consistent throughout. If a user does head off down the wrong path you want them to be able to recover effortlessly.

Keep it simple and scannable

Visibility is a key principal of UX design, ensuring the right information is what jumps out to users is not always easy. You have a lot going on at your event you want to shout about, amazing speakers, sponsors, conference sessions and much more. But you must be careful not to overwhelm your users, try to communicate too much at once and you will lose many of them. Keep you audience hooked with one thing at a time and let them flow through your site naturally on the user journey you have laid out for them.

It can be tempting to litter your site with “register now” buttons and have multiple navigation links to the same content but remember, providing too many options will just cause confusion. Keep your navigation clear and consistent throughout your site so when a user is ready to make a purchase they already know exactly where to go.

Most users will quickly scan a webpage and rather than delving deep into the content will decide within seconds to leave if they haven’t seen what they’re after. Use clear and consistent section headers to allow people to quickly scan lots of content and comeback to what’s important.

Agenda content is key

For a conference the agenda content is everything and you must ensure that users can quickly gain an overview of everything that you are offering to entice them explore further. If you are offering multiple conference streams at once make sure that your audience can easily see everything that is going on at a glance in a grid view.  Then link to a much more detailed version so that when they are ready to buy they will do with confidence in what they are seeing.

Expert speakers and brand names are often what attracts an audience so presenting these well is important. Teasing your key speakers on the home page and having them linking into their relevant conference pages can be a great way of leading people into exploring your agendas.

Similarly your speakers should be clearly presented within your agendas and clearly linked to unique speakers profile pages. Further links here to other talks and agendas they are taking part on and partners they may be speaking on behalf of can help to provide a natural journey through your agenda content for your users.

Displaying speaker photos is great, it helps to create empathy with your audience and takes your event from from a concept to a reality in their minds, but if you can also clearly present a company name or logo of a company a user knows you can generate an impression of recognition and reliability for your users.

Ensure your content is searchable and filterable

You may only have one conference track or you may have dozens but you almost certainly have a lot of content here. By making sure all of your content is properly categorized and can be searched and filtered you make it much easier for users to dive in to your content and discover the parts most relevant to them. Done right you can make this a fun exploratory journey for them rather than a frustrating experience.

Learn and evolve

Consider installing tracking plugins such as HotJar to allow you to view your users interacting with your site and see where they run into issues. You can also setup different versions of your webpages and run AB testing to see which pages perform best for your users. Try changing one thing at a time and track what happens with Google Analytics to see what works for your users.

Your site will never be perfect, you should always be looking for the next opportunity to improve it. The more you learn about your users and their needs the more you can create a site that will suit them. Talk to your customers get feedback on their experiences of your site and how it worked within the whole event experience; what could be improved?

The EventAbility plugins offer you a great headstart in creating an events website that offers a great user experience. You can download them here if you want to create your own WordPress site. Or if you’d like our team to craft you a custom website specific to your event and audience please get in touch.

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