Whether you run a venue or events, the web has become an indispensable part of doing business. However, many event industry marketers report that they are not satisfied with their organization’s current website. As a matter of fact, as part of its VenueDataSource industry data collection project, a new International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) survey found that nearly 9 in 10 venue managers were considering overhauling their site in the short-term. For event organizers, this has become an almost annual exercise.
The challenge then becomes keeping up with the latest best practices in web design while it is evolving so quickly. One current hot button is mobile web. It is now the most frequently asked question / topic Ungerboeck’s Web Services group gets (displacing the former champion, social media integration). And no wonder – mobile devices that can surf the web have more than tripled in the last three years.
Bad event or venue website design could be costing you business
More importantly, a recent study from Compuware finds that 57% of consumers will not recommend a business if its mobile site is poorly designed. For an industry that by its very nature operates in a “mobile” environment, it is even more critical.
If you are planning an event or venue website redesign, you are likely either considering creating or converting a current mobile version of your website. The new best practice, however, is not a mobile stand-alone version of your site, but a single site that is “responsive.”
Responsive designed sites are websites created to resize and reorganize themselves based on the dimensions of the screen viewing them – sometimes converting over to more simplistic, icon-based layouts. But there is a lot of confusion about mobile site formats, so for clarity’s sake, here are a couple rudimentary definitions:
- Traditional website: HTML that adjusts to browser window size, but essentially just shrinks or expands to fit. There’s no change to layout and it gets REALLY small on any mobile device tighter than a full-size tablet resulting in a very poor mobile user experience.
- Dedicated mobile site: A separate duplicate version of a website that is designed specifically for a mobile device, usually a smartphone configuration.
- Responsive site: Looks like a traditional site, but intelligently resizes and reorganizes content dynamically to fit to the size or shape of the device it is running on.
The rewards of responsive design
This shift to responsive sites instead of dedicated mobile versions is becoming more and more necessary with the proliferation of devices. It’s no longer enough to have a version that runs correctly on an iPhone – now it must work on multiple different mobile browser types and a whole range of screen sizes – from different smartphones, to phablets, to full sized tablets. This complexity makes it more and more difficult to engineer “mobile sites.” Responsive techniques deliver the right experience for the right screen size, regardless of the orientation of the device being held.
In addition, Google strongly favors responsive design and rewards those sites in search rankings. In a recent SEO roundtable, three primary drivers explain why:
- One site vs many: Optimizing content for search engines (SEO) on one site is challenging. Optimizing for a main site and multiple mobile versions is beyond challenging and often does not happen.
- Reduced canonical URL issues: Or, in plain English, web content that has more than one possible URL confuses and hinders SEO.
- Eliminating redirects: Google announced that single-URL websites are favored in mobile search, preferring sites that work on all kinds of devices.
Embrace the mobile monarchy
Unfortunately, less means more. Responsive design takes more time and forethought than traditional sites to design. In addition to good responsive functionality within your content management system, smaller screens require more discipline in prioritizing what and how information is displayed.
The good news is that more and more event organizers and venues are embracing responsive design and clearer best practices are emerging. And regardless of whether we like it or not, the shift to mobile won’t slow down anytime soon. Gartner predicts that of all the connected devices to be sold in 2014, only 10% will be computers. So creating the best possible user experience for your key audiences – likely through responsive design techniques – is going to be a vital and growing part of your marketing strategy moving forward.