Hanley Wood Exhibitions had 13 construction-related trade shows and each of them had three different web sites, for a total of 39. The goal was to consolidate all the sites as much as possible and connect them to a database that everybody involved with every show would have access to.
At the same time, each show should have its own web presence and, as Michelle Swayze, marketing manager for the International Pool|Spa|Patio Expo, says, “look fresh, be an easy navigation and user experience, and be effective in conjunction with other marketing programs.”
Hanley Wood Technology Director Edwin Gonzalez adds that they also wanted “something that a non-IT person can change, modify and maintain.”
Hanley Wood created a small but representative committee that started with a “pie in the sky” view of what it wanted and whittled it down to 160 “must haves” and “should haves.” Knowing that 70 percent of all web traffic comes from attendees, the interface was designed with an “audience first” mentality.
Nevertheless, at the same time, all the company’s web sites were intended to be integrated with a single database and utilize web services so that information would be housed in one location and flow to different pages of different show sites.
“Committees are great, but are also challenging,” Gonzalez says. “There were a lot of compromises and, in some cases, we had to say no to certain functionality.”
Swayze adds, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you don’t know it.” The process helped everybody realize that, while there is some information and some items that are relevant and necessary across every one of the 13 show web sites, each show, including PSP, has characteristics and information needs unique to them. So there was even more give and take to meet all the competing demands than some might have anticipated.
The new web site seemed to grow on people. Hanley Wood tracked traffic leading up to the show (typically held in November) in both 2012 and 2013.
In August 2013, traffic was up just a hair, just under 1 percent, over August 2012. However, by September, traffic was up more than 13 percent over 2012 and, in October, it was up 29 percent over the previous year.
By show time in November 2013, traffic was ahead of the previous November by more than 70 percent. What’s more, attendance grew 13 percent in 2013 over 2012, something Swayze and Gonzalez attribute at least in part to the new web site.
Gonzalez: “Don’t build a CMS from scratch! Find someone who has already done something and tailor it a bit to make it yours.”
Swayze: “Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at your current web platform!”
Here are some of the questions Swayze says you should ask of your current site:
• Is it putting your company’s best foot forward?
• Are your customers engaged in and with it?
• By using your web site, are they finding the solutions they need and can get from you?
• Does it look professional and is the user experience pleasant?