Festival Website Design – A Buyer’s Guide

Folk who know us, know that we do love a dance at Impress51, so it has been our pleasure to be involved with our very own local event, The Rock Oyster Festival for several years.  This has given us the opportunity to learn and grow with the festival over that period, with each year delivering a better and smoother visitor experience for people looking to find out about the festival and, ultimately, book tickets.  In this month’s extended case study we thought we’d share some of that experience with you.Head over to our website Portfolio to see some of the examples mentioned in this guide.

 

Branding – The Look or Feel of your Festival Website Design

No matter whether you are fun and funky, stylish and sophisticated or minimal and uncluttered, the branding of your festival is of course crucial to you marketing efforts, not just to your website.   No matter what approach to you take to your branding, this must carry through consistently to all of your online presence, including not just the festival website design, but the newsletter, any online advertising and beyond into printed materials, cups and wristbands.  All of it together is a core part of what gives your festival its identity.For Rock Oyster Festival, we were fortunate to be given the brief not just for the website, but for the complete branding package, which meant we could deliver that core branding from start to finish, with strong colours, funky designs and origin illustrations, which are conceived each year to fit in with the annual festival theme.

Calls to Action

Your website is there to look great and represent the festival from a branding perspective.  And of course it wants to be useful for those people who are already coming and need to know whether they can bring their dog.  But, most of all it needs to help you achieve ticket sales.  With this in mind, you must make sure you get a few key pieces of information in view immediately.  The phrase ‘above the fold’ is used to indicate those things you can see as soon as you navigate to a website, without having to scroll down first.  These things must be above the fold when you are considering your festival website design:

  • The dates and location of the festival
  • Buy Tickets
  • Sign up for information (newsletter)

Make it simple for your visitors to make the decision of whether they are available, and then to move the buying process forward.

Newsletter

This is the one thing that stays active on Rock Oyster Festival all year round.  Even before the details are arranged for the coming year, people want to sign up so they know what will be happening as soon as you do!It is possibly the most successful method of generating repeat visitors year after year the website has, keeping last year’s visitors in the loop and letting them know as soon as you release those much sought after ‘early bird’ tickets!

Festival Website Newsletter Signup

How to Present your Festival Acts and Attractions

We all go to festivals because of the acts and attractions.  This might be bands, it might be guest chefs, or perhaps food stalls, or workshops depending on the type of festival you are promoting.  One thing which remains constant among this is that browsing habits of your website visitors.  We are universally impatient, and we want to know everything NOW!Our advice when presenting your key festival assets is to make them easy to find, easy to determine how good they are, and easy to distinguish between the different types of act.  So, consider a page with all attractions, which is then filter-able between music, spoken work, food etc depending on what type of festival you are promoting.  Once you have that filter in place, it is worth considering whether  you want the info to ‘pop up’ for quick viewing rather than making your visitors navigate backwards and forwards.  It is also worth considering getting links to the acts’ own websites, and perhaps a comment from them to add to the descriptions (depending of course on just how many acts you have!).

Sound or No Sound?

Sound!  Definitely Sound!  Your visitors want to be able to hear a sample of bands to start planning who they want to go and watch.  But…do your visitors a favour:  Don’t Auto Play.  You never know where they might be browsing, and you don’t want them getting in trouble at work or, even worse, waking the other half up in the early hours.

Choosing a Platform for a Festival Website

Use a Content Management System

A CMS is almost essential these days, and there are plenty of strong contenders for you to consider.  We are not going to turn this piece into a comparison of whether Joomla! or Wordpress or A. N. Other is a better platform for your festival, as that is enough for an entire post on it’s own.  Instead, here are the things you should consider when making your choice:

  • You need to be able to add your bands / acts simply and easily
  • Availability of convenient plugins – this is good for things like playing audio or video
  • Capable of handling the traffic – this applies to your hosting package as well
  • Security – at all times, be secure!
  • The ease of being mobile friendly – absolutely essential that your design is multi-platform

Mobile Friendly

Not everyone waits for the comfort of their own home to browse and book events.  In fact, you can imagine friends wanting to find out about a festival while they are together, and potentially out and about.  So you have to make it easy for them to find the information they need on a mobile friendly website.  Having a website that displays well on smaller devices is an absolute pre-requisite, but here are a few other things to consider:

  • You still want to get the key information in front of people immediately – festival date and location, sign up and book tickets
  • Is the booking process itself still simple to complete on a mobile device?
  • Be data friendly – consider what is going to be seen on the home page on a mobile device, and eliminate the non-essentials
  • Can you still quickly and easily find out about who is playing or demonstrating?

Social Media Feeds

This is one of our favourite elements of being responsible for a festival website, and we recommend always including a feed that can be populated by your festival goers.  It does of course come with the proviso that you are not always in control of the content, and that may sometimes cause a little discomfort depending on the nature of the posts, but it is usually completely vibrant, and really reflects what it is like to be at the event in a way which you as the organiser can simply not do.  There are loads of platforms available, and you can take your pick from these among others:

  • Instagram (our favourite – it can be so visual and spontaneous)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest

Instagram feed on festival website design

Booking and Payment Gateways for Tickets

How you take payments and set out your prices is of course a business decision over and above your website design considerations.  Our tips as designers, based on the frequency of questions that come via a website relating to payments, is to make the process and pricing structure as simple as it possibly can be.Of course, you may have a veritable mountain of variations to present, from people to tents, to cars and vans, to animals and special offers, and activities during the event itself.  Just be sure to simplify it as much as you are able and present the fewest possible barriers to purchase.

FAQs – Save the Festival Organisers a Job!

Make a list of every possible question you’ve been asked when running your festival, the obvious and the obscure, and put them into a nicely searchable FAQ section of the website.  This can save a huge amount of time in responding to queries.  Although, we know from experience, it won’t stop them entirely!

Tick List of Things to Consider for Your Festival Website Design:

  • Decide on the ‘look’ of your festival – this gives it the personality
  • Choose a Content Management System
  • Are you selling festival tickets online?
  • Set out your prices simply
  • Place your calls to action in the right place
  • Create an account with someone like Mailchimp to send out newsletters
  • Have a newsletter signup on the website (using the code provided by Mailchimp) – and of course make sure you use the list it generates
  • Be mobile friendly – people don’t always plan festivals at home
  • Keep ‘in the moment’ and unpredictable with a visual social media feed
  • Present your acts in a clear and simple fashion
  • Include audio and video – but don’t autoplay!
  • Have a comprehensive FAQ section