Ask the Expert: Creating an Event Website

I’m excited to share another installment of our “Ask the Expert” blog series. This week, we will dive into the world of website design. Jess Freeman is an Atlanta-based freelance graphic and web designer. She was named 2015 Gwinnett Chamber Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Jess is a great resource for designing event websites.

  1. I’m planning a retreat for the first time. I want to have a website to share with those who are interested. Where do I start?
    First, you’ll want to decide if you want to use Squarespace or WordPress for your website – there are other platforms, but these two are the most reputable and the easiest to use. Squarespace comes pre-loaded with themes you can choose; you would need to buy a WordPress theme. Then, you’ll need to choose a domain name. This should be no more than 15 characters long.

    The content of your website needs to be organized and flow in a way that makes sense. I always recommend having one to two buttons on each page that will direct the user to the next right step. The buttons will save users from having to scroll back to the top of the page and guide them through your content.

  1. I don’t have pictures from previous events, but I think pictures are important. Where can I find quality stock images at a moderate price?
    Images are indeed very important because they help convey emotion and connect with the viewers. One of the most popular stock photo websites is istockphoto.com, but you will have to do some searching to find photos that aren’t too cliché. CreativeMarket is also a popular resource with more affordable photos but less selection.

    Depending on the type of retreat, you may be able to use free stock photos. Now, to be clear, this does not mean going to Google Images and grabbing pictures – that could get you in a lot of legal trouble. However, there are royalty-free websites like Unsplash.com that have hundreds of great photos that are totally free to use.

    You could also try to work with a local photographer and do a little photo shoot for your website. It’s unlikely they would be able to (or want to) do it for free, but they may be up for a trade! For example, maybe you could list them as a sponsor and put their business card in a swag bag in exchange for some discounted services.

  1. What tips can you give when creating a website name?
    Names can be tricky because it can really set the tone for the event. It’s always best to keep it clear and simple rather than trying to be cute and clever. For example, my church has a “Walking Wisely Weekend” for middle school students. The alliteration makes it fun but still easy to remember. If they ever wanted to create a separate website, it would be easy to leave off “weekend” for a shorter domain.
  1. Is it possible for guests to register and pay online for the event? Any tips on how to do that?
    Thankfully, it is easy to have people register for events right on your website! For Squarespace users, you can set up a “product” as the event registration and get the names and emails of all customers. For WordPress, there are many plugins that can handle this – Event Registration, Event Espresso, Events Manager and many more.

    Another option is to use Eventbrite, a third-party platform. Some prefer Eventbrite because you can send “invitations” to people, you can enable specific seating at your event (like concert seats) and you can integrate it with Facebook. But, of course, they do take a percentage of your sales.

  1. How can I link Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media to my page?
    Squarespace lets you connect your social media profiles and pages seamlessly. You’ll just need to “login” through Squarespace and an icon will appear on your website. For WordPress, it’s also very easy to integrate your social media with the help of plugins. Most of the time, however, your theme will have a spot for you to put links to your social media.

    I don’t recommend displaying social media feeds (like Facebook and Twitter) on your website. This was a popular thing to do many years ago, but it generally makes your site look cluttered and dated. Instagram is one exception, since it is pictures only – but this should be considered carefully, as you want to make sure the photos don’t clash with your website.

    Something I do recommend is having share buttons on your website. This enables people to share your site or your blog posts with just a click of a button. SumoMe and ShareThis are popular plugins that I use with most of my clients.

  1. What are some of your best tips when creating a website?
    One of my favorite tips to tell people is to limit yourself to three colors and three fonts. That doesn’t mean you have to use all three of either, but limit yourself! This will truly help your site feel more cohesive and look professional. Having fewer choices will also speed up the design process because you won’t feel as overwhelmed with options.

    As far as events and ministries go, it’s always important to make sure you’re not too insider-focused. Even if it’s a women’s retreat that you think only current members will want to come to, what if they decided to share it on Facebook and invite friends? The messaging is going to influence whether or not they feel welcome at the event.

A big thank you to Jess for sharing some great information about event website design. You can learn more about Jess and gain even more graphic design wisdom at jesscreatives.com.

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