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(This was going to be the title for this post, but then I realized that topic deserves its own story. Maybe later this weekend…)

How much do you care about your customers’ or prospective customers’ ability to find the most important information quickly?

Newspaper reporters used to know this—the terms are above-the-fold and the pyramid story structure.

Web designers for conferences and trade shows, for some strange reason, are oblivious to this concept.

If I’m thinking about going to a trade show, conference, or other similar event, it is important that your web site put enough information above the fold to make me want to go.

But that’s not the most important aspect. You must get four or five pieces of information above the fold. No clicking, no scrolling, no 13-minute searches for what you consider obscure and unimportant information.

  1. City and venue
  2. Pre-conference dates
  3. Conference dates
  4. Exhibit hall dates
  5. Exhibit hall hours


Omitting this information is not the path towards a Zen/minimalist design. It is the single best way to annoy and confuse your customers.

If I’m considering attending, I need to know if it fits into my schedule and budget. If I’m going to get on a plane to get there, I need the city, dates, and venue in order to find the best flight and the closest affordable hotel. Clicking on any of these five pieces of information should take me to a page with your travel/hotel discounts—and you’re only allowed one click to take me there.

If I’m there, or on my way, your website is the first place I’m going to look for the hours. What time do I have to be there for the keynote? What time does the exhibit hall open? Will there be food there, or do I need to get up earlier to have time for breakfast?

The deeper you hide these details, the more frustrated I become, and the more you lose opportunities to upsell me. If you have a day-long pre-conference, don’t post the date range starting the next day, because by the time I discover it, I’ll probably have already booked a flight and hotel, and you missed a couple hundred or thousand in profit from me.

Times are tight and the competition fierce. I don’t have the time (or the desire to) spend it sleuthing around your site for basic information like this.

I’ve helped design and launch trade shows and conferences before, so don’t tell me I don’t know how complex it is, and that little details such as this always slip through the cracks. But these are not little details.

Sadly, what prompted this little design lesson was the Maker Faire Bay Area home page. (And no, a countdown timer isn’t a sufficient proxy for the start time.)

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

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