Build a Great Event Website with WordPress

November 2, 2010   |   AUTHOR: Julius Solaris   |   POSTED IN: event technology

Event planners can now create a great event website using WordPress.
WordPress is without any shadow of a doubt a breakthrough in content management online. It is an open source content management system that relies on an active community of developers.

A great blogging platform, but what about my event?

WordPress outnumbers the competition in terms of flexibility, scalability and control. That made it become the platform of choice for power bloggers.

My view is that you can produce a spectacular event website using WordPress.

Let’s look at a scenario, where you, the event planner, want to realize an event website that delivers:

- Stunning visuals with out of the box cool effects
- 1st class Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for all the pages of your website
- Real social integration with one click Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube
- Best of breed blogging platform.
- You want to own the content you create
- Email Marketing integration with tools such as MailChimp
- Optimized mobile version of the website compatible with iPhone
- Integration with Ticketing either Internal or external
- Community with Groups, Blogs, Microblogging a la Twitter, Forums and Wikis

You have two options:

- Pay a vendor big money to buy a standalone, proprietary platform
- Pay a web designer to build everything mentioned in WordPress for 1/10th of the budget

Although most would think they can build an event website for free with WordPress – it is not always the case. WordPress is indeed a free platform and most of the features I mentioned come at no cost. Nonetheless I strongly suggest not embarking in the DIY option, unless you don’t have web design skills.

But let’s look the numbers:

twitter-for-event-planners Quick Tweet
Build a Great Event Website with WordPress http://goo.gl/fb/alc5W

Event website suppliers will provide a solution that accomplishes some or most of the requirements above. I am not aware of a platform that provides all the features I mentioned with 100% reliable and integrated performance.

I guess this is the limit of proprietary software. Brilliant marketing that explains how the platform is great but limited technology to back up those claims. Another factor to consider is that proprietary solutions don’t have a community of developers constantly releasing updates and integration solutions.

Disregarding technological limitation and partial integration there is a massive pricing hurdle. A serious all in one solution will cost at minimum $20K to $50K. Anything below that is not even worth considering

The Trick:

Most pitches from vendors will revolve around how they provide fantastic support. My trick: Buy just support.

Why?

Because you don’t need an outdated version of some rigid and Google unfriendly website platform. By developing your event website with WordPress you will get the best technology available on the market. What you need is just some support and brand customization.

Back to the numbers

You can get a skilled designer to provide a good WordPress implementation and basic support for £€$2000. That is at least 1/10th of what a good vendor would propose.

A no brainer to me. To substantially cut down prices you could look at Premium Themes. Paid themes offer extra features and support in some instances. In this scenario you could substantially drive costs down as the work of the designer would just entail crafting a logo and/or identity.

But let’s get you a list of the ten plugins and features you need to ask your designer for:

- All in on SEO – to optimize for rankings
- jQuery Lazyload, to improve the speed of the website
- Eventbrite Widget for externally managed ticketing or Event Ticketing for internal ticketing
- Buddypress if you want to host a community
- Wiki for Buddypress
- A premium theme – I work with both Studiopress and Templatic (affiliate links)
- Facebook Like Plugin
- Shaerdaddy for increased shareability
- Wp Touch for touchphones integration
- Mailchimp or WpMailing

When do you need to use this approach?

- Your current website is in Flash
- You are not getting visits from Google
- Your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube/Vimeo activities are disconnected from your website
- You don’t have an event website
- You don’t have basic functionalities such as Newsletter or RSS Feed

Bonus: Event Website Cheatsheet

How much budget do you have?
<500$: Use Eventbrite, amiando or refer to this post.
500-1000$: Buy Premium Them – Get a logo and identity on elance.com or crowdspring.com
1000$-2000$: Ask a WordPress designer to get you all of the above.
>2000$: Wasted money. Spend it on Facebook, Google or Linkedin Ads

What Community?
New event: Use Facebook and combine with ads, it will boost acquisition
Existing event with low engagement, no budget: restructure website and use wordpress+buddypress
Existing event with high engagement, small budget available: Use Ning or Collective X

Domain Considerations
Attendees from all over the world: buy .com (unless in USA)
Attendees from just one country (other than USA): but country specific domain (eg .co.uk, .it.de.nl.fr)

Hosting Requirements
<100$: Dreamhost or Godaddy
1000$-2000$: VPS
>2000$: Dedicated Server

Ticketing
Simple: Manage via WordPress plugin
Relatively Complex: Refer to this post about event registration and ticketing
Very Complex: Rely on major ticket vendors

Photo by teamstickergiant

  • http://twitter.com/NetParty NetParty.com

    Good post and I understand using WordPress as a CMS but if you host multiple events don’t you run into the reverse chronology problem (you’d want your next upcoming event on the top of the page but it will be pushed down the page if you publish another one)?

  • http://www.meetjulius.com Julius Solaris

    That is easily customisable. You can have a static front page with your latest event and leave chronology to the Blog.

  • http://www.countymarquees.com County Marquees

    Good and useful post – and the overall perspective seems a good one to me.I would questions some of the details though.Like – do you really need a dedicated server just because you are spending more than $2000? And wouldn’t a dedicated server pretty much double your costs anyway?And spending more than $2000 a waste – surely that depends. Might be roughly right if you want a totally standard site. But you may want something extra for one reason or another (eg to make a big splash). That would cost more and wouldn’t be a waste of money.Just worries me that you might be creating some unreasonable expectations for some people.

  • http://www.meetjulius.com Julius Solaris

    Thanks for your comment.No you don’t need a dedicated server. But if the event has large traffic you may indeed need it. It’s not in my suggestion but part of the Cheatsheet, ie it’s just for reference.Not sure on your comment on spending more than $2000. What I stated on the post is that buying a platform/system/cms for more than that is a waste. You certainly need to spend that money on looking good. But sending more than $2000 on looking good is definitely a waste. I see every day major websites with big budgets that are awful and not functional.Everything above $2000 is just agencies doing good marketing, in reality skilled designers come at substantially lower prices. I guess it makes us feel better to spend more, but we need to be aware of what we are buying.I also think most of us do have unreasonable expectations because we are bombarded by ludicrous marketing selling readily available systems for big money.If this post makes event professionals negotiate more when presented with absurd costs, I would be very happy.

  • http://twitter.com/EventEspresso Event Espresso

    Hey Julius,

    Great post.

    I guess you have not heard about Event Espresso? We feel Event Espresso is by far the best option for anyone using a self hosted WordPress website.

    Event Espresso has a built in WYSWYG editor, multiple pricing options, calendar, email manager and a recurring events. These are all things that most other plugins or services have to offer. Best of all there are no registration or per attendee fees attached.

    Please have a look at our website and maybe consider us for your next event related post.

    Thanks Julius!

    Seth Shoultes
    http://eventespresso.com

  • http://www.meetjulius.com Julius Solaris

    Seth,

    I found out about you too late. I will get you on the blog soon

    Julius

  • http://www.tradeshowseo.com Bruce Jones

    Lots of great tips there Julius, it looks like you put it all together nicely. I’m checking out BuddyPress now for my own site.

  • http://www.meetjulius.com Julius Solaris

    Thanks Bruce

    Glad you liked it :-)

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