One of the most important choices you can make for your meeting, conference or event is the website design. Seriously, this can make or break your event and most event marketers screw it up.
I have already mentioned that everyone should use WordPress for their event or conference website but after making that decision, many event marketers drop the ball and get themselves into a pickle. They simply choose a theme based on aesthetics rather than functionality for the info puter-inner or the attendee.
Most event marketers opt for pretty over functional. They tend to go for something like a magazine style theme.
Magazine layouts are some of the most gorgeous themes out there but they are typically not for events because like CNN or a true magazine, they need constant attention and constant content to keep them looking fresh. I am not sure that you really want to be updating your site three times a day.
Now, there are exceptions to the rule of course, but I have found that for my money, you want a theme that is functional and meant to be used as a CMS (content management system) rather than a flashy conference version of People Magazine.
ElegantThemes is a company that designs professional WordPress themes. Unlike many designers that cater to the blogging side of the map, ElegantThemes devotes a lot of their resources to companies and groups that are looking to use WordPress as a CMS rather than a straight blog or magazine platform. This is good for event and conference marketers because you can choose from many themes for one low price (you get all of their themes for something stupid like $39.00).
ElegantThemes has some amazing designs that I have used successfully on not only my websites but on client websites as well. The most recent was for an event with 1400 people. ElegantThemes creates such user friendly designs that we were able to build the event website, install all of the needed plugins including EventEspresso for registration and TopQuark for sessions and speakers and enter all of the site content in less than four hours. FOUR HOURS……
We actually built the conference website on a Saturday morning over coffee and bagels while tunes jammed in the background.
Even though all of ElegantThemes designs will work for a conference or event website, you will be psyched to know that they now have a theme designed exclusively for events. In fact, the name of the theme is Event………go figure, amazing simplicity.
Here are some of the features of Event Theme:
All browser compatible
Although all themes should be compatible with all browsers, it is amazing how many are not. Using ElegantThemes you are assured that all people will be able to see your kick ass website on whatever browser they are using.
Five Color Schemes
One of the things that I love about ElegantThemes is the ability to switch colors on a whim or to make the site a little more to your liking by “flipping a color switch”, they really make it easy and sometimes that is all it takes to makeover a site.
Many folks do not know the benefit of threaded comments and it is actually easy to understand. Threaded comments allow you to view an individuals comments and the replies to that comment together. It moves more like a conversation and makes it easier to follow. For those that want to use their own preferred comment system (I like Disqus), ElegantThemes designs are ready for that as well.
Optional Blog-style Structure
Don’t want to use WordPress as a CMS, you can switch “Event” to a traditional blog structure with all of the core features intact. That is good, not really my cup of tea but whatever, it might be yours.
Gravatars are those little pictures that you see next to peoples comments… with “event”, it is ready to go out of the box.
Many event marketers will go “WHO CARES”.. why should we care if our event website theme is ad ready, we don’t have ads on our website.. and to those folks I say “boy, you are missing an awesome opportunity”. If you overlook this, you are a dope (no, I am not kidding).
Ad ready themes come with the ad spots built in and ready to go. I use these spots for sponsors, exhibitors and others and allow them to run banner ads on conference websites. This is an amazing up-sell point when someone is considering a sponsorship or exhibiting package.
Widget ready Sidebars
All ElegantThemes are Plugin ready, meaning I have never had an issue screwing up the site with any plugin.
This is huge if you have ever installed a plugin and had a site explode and melt-down while you were working on it. Really, some of the free themes that you can get hit the ground like a flaming Moldovian airliner the second you hit the activate switch and that can lead to a WORLD of hurt and crying and sobbing and head banging and teeth pulling and back to the sobbing and repeat the head banging.
Theme Options Page – ePanel
ElegantThemes uses their own “admin panel” called ePanel. With ePanel, anyone to build and maintain a WordPress website with authority. You will actually look like you know what you are doing and that is always a plus.
What can you control with ePanel, I will let them tell you….I am grabbing this right from the ElegantThemes website because they describe it better than I can (my comments are in here too).
Choose between different pre-made color schemes, change the layout of your blog, control your featured articles slider and more. The General Settings tab gives you control over the basic functions of the theme.
Enjoy having complete control over your navigation menus. Choose which links to display, adjust their display order, disable top tier links for purely organizational dropdown menus and more.
This tab gives you the ability to modify what info appears in the post-info section, the option to enable/disable thumbnails on posts, pages and index pages; the ability to change the dimensions of your thumbnails and the option to enable/disable comments on posts and pages and more.
Here you can input the destination URL and the banner URL for each ad, as well as toggle them on and off at any time. Most themes now come with a 468×60 and 728×90 slot, however this may vary depending on the structure of the theme.
See my comment above about not being a dope.
Using the quick and easy jQuery color selector, you can easily customize the colors of various elements of your theme a the click of a button, without any previous web design experience.
Search Engine Optimization
With ePanel you are given full control over your meta elements. You can add custom meta titles, descriptions and keywords for every section of the theme individually. You can also enable canonical URLs to avoid duplicate content filters.
They created the integration section to make it easier for people to implement third party scripts into the theme. For example, if you want to include your Google analytics tracking code you no longer need to add it to footer.php. Instead, you can just add it to the body integration field in ePanel.
Right now, say CHA-CHING! They include the Photoshop files for you with each theme…. that means that you or your designer can make additional customizations to the theme with ease. Not many theme developers give you this.
The last section is the Support Documentation tab. this is added this to make it easier for user to find the installation instructions and troubleshoot guides that relate to each theme. Included is the readme file for each theme, a troubleshooting guide as well as links to the video tutorials section.
My thoughts on ElegantThemes support Docs
One thing I will say about their help files is that they have done a copy and paste job and not cleaned up the copy. Sometimes, the name of the theme in the help file may not match the one you are working on. This is not a huge thing because all of their themes work the same, but this does bug the shit out of me. I feel that to be the top of the pack you cannot have stupid errors like that…. this is my opinion and this is no way reflects the functionality of the themes but come on, do a little copy editing…. people notice that crap.
My Conclusion About Event Theme
If you are looking for a great theme for your next conference or event, I really think that you should take a look at ElegantThemes and the Event Theme. Event Theme is stable, good looking, easy to use and great for the attendee experience.
As I have said before, I only recommend products I use and like and I only become an affiliate partner of products that I feel are superior or one of a kind. Although they are not good copy editors, they can build the shit out of WordPress Themes.
They have created a product that is beautiful and stunning and will WOW your attendees. For the right event and by adding the right plugins, you can rock the house and have people wondering “what the hell, I though she/he was an event planner, not a web designer” and you can just sit back and laugh……
Click here for more information about ElegantThemes and Event Theme