“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to receive.” – with a little twist to an old saying, this statement is oh-so-true. Special Event websites can get so tangled and convoluted when everyone in an organization starts having their say on what should be included. So, I want to take a look at what your GUESTS are looking for and how to give everyone else a piece of the pie without clutter or confusion.
A quick lesson in my terminology…
- Main Navigation Pages: 5 – 7 items site visitors are most likely to click on. These typically appear in some stylized manner, like buttons, tabs and larger font.
- Secondary Navigation: typically display as links in the header or footer and tend to be smaller and less stylized than the Main Navigation.
- Sub-navigation: usually displayed when a site visitor hovers over or clicks on a Main or Secondary Navigation item; typically give more details or fall under the “umbrella” of the main navigation item.
- Homepage: first page of your site. When you link to your site through emails, Twitter, Facebook, etc. this will be your default “go to” page.
- “Every Page” area: portion of your website framework that will appear on every page allowing you to repeat certain elements easily and effectively.
Main Navigation Pages:
Based on experience and website analytics, I can tell you these truly are the top 5 items visitors are looking for on an EVENT website. (Please note, this does not necessarily include charity runs…that’s a different post.)
- BASIC EVENT DETAILS
Tell them as many specifics as you can, but don’t give paragraphs of information. Think of your event details like a paper invitation you got for birthday parties as a kid – they laid out the Date, Time, Location, What to Wear, What to Bring, and How to RSVP. Some of the cleanest examples of this kind of page are those that use a basic table layout with the label on one side and the details on the other just like those kid invitations. The most effective use of this page is to then make it interactive; appropriately link to separate pages about the entertainment, directions, accommodations, sponsors, parking, etc. If people want/need more info, they’ll click-through to the appropriate place. Try to put it all in one place and your guests could miss an important point because they never get down to it.
First, photos & videos are separate entities, so give them individual spaces. The easiest way for site visitors to appreciate the photos is to give them thumbnails where they can view larger versions of the photos and/or in slide shows that they can stop and select. If professional photographs were taken and they don’t want to offer them for free on your website, ask for a couple dozen sample pictures that can be watermarked and then link to the photographer’s website. Videos can cover a multitude of topics, but should focus on one or two points at a time and be in ‘bite-size’ chunks no more than 2 – 3 minutes each. Pre-event multimedia should focus on the attire and the atmosphere; people want to know what to expect at your event. Post-event multimedia should focus on the attendees and the entertainment; people what to see themselves and the memory of what they witnessed.
- TICKETS (AND SPONSORSHIPS)
Provide clear instructions on where to purchase tickets or passes. Be sure to explain all costs and if portions of the cost are tax-deductible. If there are sponsorship opportunities, detail exactly what the sponsorship includes (# tickets, special pre-party, valet parking, etc.). This is a computer age and people expect to be able to purchase things online. If you have the ability, create an online registration/purchase form. However, with or without an online form, consider adding a PDF order form that guests can fill out and fax or mail back. Some people will not want to give their credit card information online, even in this day and age. Go the extra mile and give guests a way to donate even if they can’t attend.
- BASIC BENEFICIARY INFORMATION
The beneficiary is simply who or what receives the money at the end of the event. Try to make this as specific as possible. Let people know the dollars from this one event, this one year, are earmarked to help develop a specific training program, to create a new wing, to bring a new animal, to provide scholarships, etc. Also, try to equate dollars to specific activities as Operation Breakthrough does on their donation page. Putting it in these terms, people can think “I helped buy a pair of glasses for a child today” or “I gave 50 children a wonderful field trip today.” Avoid going into detail about the history of the organization or giving pages and pages of what the organization provides. The organization should have their own website to which the event site can link. Remember, you’re selling the event, not the organization, with this website!
- CONTACT INFORMATION
Be sure to give site visitors a way to contact you. There will be questions even if you include a full book of information on your site. On the contact page, include a phone number, fax number, email address, Twitter handle, Facebook page, mailing address, and/or carrier pigeon homing location (ok, that last one was to see if you were still reading at this point…). Again, if possible, include an online form that guests can fill out and submit for faster and more reliable comments and questions. However they contact you, be sure to respond in a timely manner! If you’re not actively monitoring a specific area (Facebook, Twitter, faxes, carrier pigeons posts) be sure to note that and tell people the BEST ways to contact you with questions.
Considerations for Secondary and Sub-navigation Pages
Secondary or Sub to the five Main pages can be underlying and additional details. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, the entertainment, food and beverages, additional donation and purchase opportunities, sponsor listings and complete benefits, volunteer opportunities, additional beneficiary details, event and organization history, steering committee, and auction information.
It’s up to you to decide what’s Secondary and what’s Sub at this point – there’s no hard and fast rules on this one and there’s no rule that says a page can’t be both!
If one of these areas is deemed more important for your specific event, by all means move it up to Main Navigation, just try to avoid having more than 6 or 7 main items.
The homepage and ‘every page’ areas:
For a truly user-friendly and non-confusing site, consider specifically and carefully your Homepage and “Every-page” areas.
On your homepage, place relevant updates, quick overviews and visually appealing elements. Twitter feeds, Facebook fan boxes, rotating graphics, videos and Beneficiary logo/name are some important elements to consider.
In your “every-page” area, consider the elements that will get visitors to act and will give them the most commonly needed information. Commonly included are the Date/Time/Location, Share links for social media, a Print option for graphic-free printing, Contact info/link, Beneficiary Logo/Name, Presenting sponsor name, event Social Media links, a Purchase link and a Donate link. Remember, not every one comes to your website through the homepage and you don’t want to lose them because they couldn’t find even the most basic details.
Please check out these three websites to see how the associates at Digital Evolution Group helped our clients focus on these elements and de-clutter their sites.
- Jazzoo for the Kansas City Zoo,
- Treads & Threads for The University of Kansas Hospital
- The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party benefitting Operation Breakthrough.
Remember who the website is intended to reach and what you want to accomplish with it. Focusing on those points will really help you develop the most clean and user-friendly site and stay out of unruly entanglements.