Here at Showthemes we know a thing or two when it gets to selecting the best wordpress theme for your event. Here are some common pitfalls of choosing event wordpress themes and how to avoid them.
You decided WordPress is the platform you want to use to host your event website. You like its flexibility, community and versatility. Good job!
You also decided you want to invest in a premium theme. You understand the value of spending a bit more to have a website that can have an impact on your audience. You have one chance to convert website visitors into attendees, your website is your business card. Awesome!
Now it gets to selecting the WordPress theme that is better fit for purpose. This is where the problems start. So many themes to choose from at so different price levels.
Let us give you a very biased guide to choose the best WordPress theme for your event. Biased because we feel we are number 1 in this small but vibrant market.
Clear documentation is an integral part of a good WordPress theme. A good documentation is not only made of general set up instructions. It helps you with detailed screenshots, tutorials and possibly video tutorials.
We take great pride in how we craft our documentation. We host our tutorials and faqs on Zendesk, which helps us to analyze common problems with our themes and to gain intelligence about new features to implement.
It is also very important that the resources are searchable. While our support portal offers this capability, in most case scenarios you will have a static HTML page that looks like this:
This is the actual documentation of a theme with hundreds of options and layouts. It will be very difficult to create a functioning website with such generic information. You will end up contacting support repeatedly and without the certainty of getting an answer (more on this later).
Let us give you an example of how things should look like. The following is a screenshot of the tutorials for Januas one of our oldest themes.
We have over 40 tutorials for Januas. We added 5 of them last month. You can’t think of a theme as a static project. We keep adding tutorials and FAQs to reflect the evolving requests of our customers.
This why you can count on a constantly updated website and on dozens of ways to extend it. It is very difficult that your extension requirement is not part of these tutorials.
Takeaway: Ask about documentation. What does that include? Are there video tutorials? How often is documentation updated?
Event WordPress themes have become very fashionable. That is a great thing as you can know afford a proper website for 1/10 off what you used to pay 4 years ago.
At the same time there is a intrinsic problem with having themes that call themselves ‘for events’ while knowing very little about how events work.
When in 2012 we crafted our very first theme, Event Manager Theme, we based the design and development on the feedback of hundreds of event professionals. In fact, our background is in events rather than in development.
How does selecting a random theme for events translate into a problem? Let us give you an example.
Let’s take this schedule from one of our competitors:
How will you display concurrent sessions?
How will you display multiple venues?
How can venues be filtered?
Who are the speakers/performers for a specific session?
How can you see different tracks depending on general topics of your event?
These are just some of the issues we notice from a quick glance.
Looking at sections of other themes, you may as yourself how do you create different sponsor tiers? How do you single out keynotes or featured performers? How do we integrate social media?
All these questions are features that most event WordPress themes do not offer. Building these features is going to cost you money and time.
We constantly update our themes we new features that come from our customer feedback. If you take for example Vertoh, our latest theme, it came in its original version with an hamburger menu. We soon introduced a regular menu that several customers were requesting.
This was less than 2 months after launch.
Takeaway: Look for event specific features and ask how often themes are updated.
Registration is the most delicate part of most events. This is where the money is and the most sensible level of interaction between attendees and event professionals happen.
Other than being the CEO of Showthemes, I am also the author of what is considered the go to resource for event registration, The Good Event Registration Guide – a free to download book about event registration.
When I see event WordPress themes offering payment gateway features, I get scared. I am scared because you are essentially giving away the most important and potentially risky process of your event to what is supposed to be a graphic interface.
When we launched our first theme we had very long chats about whether or not to offer registration. We decided not to. A theme can offer functionality such as speakers or schedule management but should never perform payments or manage customer details.
This is why we decided to integrate with the most popular provider our customers demanded. In fact if several of you ask for a new one, we may well start integrating with it.
Eventbrite, etouches, EventEspresso, WooCommerce and Xing Events display perfectly fine in our themes and you can count on showing your ticket options in the most beautiful and safest way.
On top of that if you decide to go on the ‘we offer a gateway’ route, how will you manage all attendees data? How will you check them in at the event? How will you communicate with them?
Event planners are also known as event organisers. This approach does not seem very organised to us!
Takeaway: Do not compromise on registration and ticketing.
Most of the cheaply built themes will bundle a lot of plugins to achieve what they present in the demo.
At Showthemes, we strive to offer only core functionality with our themes and to separate out what is not part of a theme. Others prefer to savagely bundle every plugin out there exposing the site to several issues:
– whenever a plugin updates, there is a risk that the theme will break
– sometimes plugins are bundled without support (as they are premium and/or permission of the original developer)
– you will need to buy a separate license to get updates and support on bundled premium plugins
The only theme we sell with plugins is Event Manager Theme – which dates back in 2012. All our most modern themes feature built in functionality. There is no plugin required to run them.
If you don’t trust our obviously biased opinion on the topic you can read more here.
Takeaway: Ask if the theme bundles external plugins. Does the theme provider offer support on those plugins? Will you need to buy support separately to receive plugin updates?
Saving the best for last. Support. A very delicate topic.
If I have to be totally honest I believe we’ve screwed up in the past with support. We did not know what was required to run a proper business that supports properly its client. We probably upset some of our customers. But we learned from it.
We have traditionally sold support licenses separately. As we rely on a team of 3 developers to manage support alone, this is quite an expense for us.
Said that, we’ve been able to bring down the cost of a support license from $50 to $30 in a year. This is thanks to growth and smart use of documentation.
Selling a support license separately, is not a way to make extra money, it’s our honest attempt to set expectations straight. In fact we have created a handy resource to guide you in what is and what is not included in our support.
As we understand how customisation is important for our customers, we have also partnered with Codeable to provide customization options. They know our themes very well and will be able to help you with all your requirements.
The reason why we did that is that we want to avoid scenarios like this one from one of our competitors.
Go ahead and test us. Use our support form during GMT business hours if you have a pre-sale question about our theme. Send a ticket to our support portal where we have a 24hrs service level agreement and an average First Reply (if you include weekends) of 11.40hrs. Send us a tweet @Showthemes or a message on Facebook. See how long does it take to get an answer.
We give you our operating hours and schedule of holidays.
If you submit a bug during business hours, it is solved by the end of the day and pushed to all our themes immediately. We are far from perfect and we are improving on offering great support for all but we are proud of what our customers think of us (by the way, these are not the fake comments you find on several other sites).
Takeaway: Make sure to ask what is included and what is not included in the theme support. What is the provider SLA? How is support delivered? What is the expected time to fix bugs?
Selecting a WordPress theme may seem like an easy task and saving a few bucks may expose you to a bunch of other problems.
Said that Showthemes is not the only legitimate theme author and provider out there. There are a bunch of others doing original work and properly supporting their themes.
We pride ourselves of having become the leasing independent provider for event WordPress themes and this is thanks to our clients and their feedback!