Mobile is here to stay, is your website mobile friendly?

It’s official. Check the analytics for your last event and mobile traffic probably provided the lion’s share of visitors. Over the last few years internet traffic has evolved dramatically from a place where mobile and tablet traffic was a growing trend that needed careful consideration to a business critical channel.

Your target audience is likely to be the more mobile section of a company - they actually get out and attend events after all! - so their use of mobile devices, need to consume information and to perform tasks on the move is even greater than most. Their first visit is likely to be on a mobile device while travelling or between tasks and based on some social media recommendation or trusted editorial source.

Creating a responsive design or mobile friendly website for this audience should not just mean that the content resizes and is readable on a mobile or tablet device without having to pinch and zoom. It should mean that the website editorial, calls to action, and layout have been optimised for the device at hand, dropping un-necessary content and focusing on the key information that a mobile user would need to complete their task.

We’ve put together some tips to ensure that in a mobile-first world, your event website is as accessible as possible.

1. Test that key tasks can be completed

List out the key activities that your website users will want to do and check how each of those activities feels to complete on a range of different devices. In a mobile first world, “friendly” means that every interaction a visitor has with your website should be achievable without your website or the device format causing navigation or task completion to become uncomfortable for your website user.

How easy to use the website is will have a massive impact on the perception of your event. A powerful brand with loyal follows will be able to retain its audience even if the event website has some serious usability challenges. However, if you are trying to pitch your event at a new audience or luxury/business market, then you need to ensure that the online experience is seamless.

Ultimately it will be the little things that trip you up. When registering visitors, you like to segment your audience into clear sections but asking them to select from 40 different industry categories becomes unworkable or frustrating on a mobile device. You may need to rethink your processes - could you collect this information later and in doing so boost uptake on mobile?

There are typically a number of areas behind the homepage which need to be considered carefully when building a responsive event website such as:

Registration
Timetables
Results & Tabular Data
Exhibitor lists
Exhibitor and speaker profiles

For each of these types of information it is best to have the content built using a dedicated CMS tool so that the output of each can be styled in such a way that it responds effortlessly across devices.

A classic example of where this goes wrong is tables. You might be able to add a table in the wysiwyg editor of your website that looks fine on your desktop but which is cramped and practically unreadable on a mobile. Generic tools don’t work on mobile. A custom CMS tweak would have allowed table fields to be entered separately and pulled them out in a mobile friendly format for all users to enjoy.

Where content loaded onto a website breaks the design of the site on mobile and tablet devices, it can have a damaging effect on the level of trust that visitors subconsciously associate with your brand, event, and other online services such as event registration and online payment. Ultimately, by travelling the extra mile and making your content more accessible you are reducing the barriers to entry for your event, showing you value your visitors’ time, and ensuring a full and vibrant exhibition hall.

2. Keep the navigation simple

Website navigation is not the place for creativity. Instead, it is a necessity to be accessible quickly and efficiently across devices. If your event is a classic exhibition or conference then your website visitors will be keen to quickly locate the list of exhibitors, sessions, or speakers so make sure that these are clearly labelled, ideally as options in the top level menu for quick access (Don’t hide them under other heading such as “Visiting” or “What to see” at this level.)

Having a tailored set of related content teasers for each page can be a great way to guide users around your website so that they can perform key tasks more quickly and encourage them to visit areas that they might not naturally head to. It also reduces the need to constantly refer back to the main menu and so makes the browsing experience feel more fluid.

Above all, keep your logo and Book button visible at all times in the header - for the vast majority of visitors who just want to register or re-register, this is key information and it’s a useful call to action for everyone else too.

3. Revisit the home page

When it comes to the home page you still need to sell the benefits of the event but for a speedy, mobile style of browsing you probably need to rethink how you do it. When you are lucky enough to get desktop or laptop users paying a visit then you want to be making the most of rich media such as video or audio content to give them a taste of the event. But on a mobile device this needs to be distilled down to the essence of the event - you have neither the space nor the data allowances to do otherwise. Remove the large scale images and pull in the product or speaker teasers, the testimonials, whatever explains the value of your event in a nutshell.

4. Consider alternative downloadable formats

We’ve stressed the importance of mobile-friendly content in this guide but the value of offline content should not be underestimated with this audience. If your event engages internationally and people travel to attend, that’s an ideal time to get to grips with the speaker timetable. It can be reassuring to have the location information available offline. And on the day itself, there are 100 reasons why they may not be able to connect to the event WiFi. The more expensive option of creating and populating an event app is a possibility, but for events with a smaller budget or where key pages of information still need to be easily accessed offline a simple PDF alternative of key content is useful.

If you are willing to make the effort, it could be useful to provide two formats of your PDF document: one which is formatted for a mobile device and a second which is more suitable for a desktop or tablet screen.

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