It’s needless to say that WordPress has come a long way since the original blogging platform it was famous for. With an obviously much wider audience, WordPress powers 23.6% of all websites globally. It’s a great example of how powerful free and open source software can be.
While the fact that most blogs run on WordPress is no revelation, more and more fully fledged websites use WordPress as their Content Management System. Often, there are times when you really can’t tell when a website is powered by WordPress, as the latter allows you endless customizations.
If you are organizing a special event and the usual networks like Eventbrite, Lanyrd, Meetup etc. are not satisfying your needs, creating a website for your events with WordPress can be a viable option. This is especially useful if you need flexibility more than anything else, as WordPress gives you as much control as you need.
In the following article, we’re covering event focused WordPress themes and resources which are likely to suit your event’s needs.
Vertoh is a conference focused event theme with a lot of elements and space to play with. It offers various customization features without the need to touch any code, which might be an attractive offer if you are not a coder. It allows dedicated exhibitor spaces (or whatever might fit instead of it) sponsors, speakers (or performers; Vertoh can be easily changed into a music festival theme for example) and various other little features.
Most importantly, it allows integrations with Eventbrite, Event Espresso, WooCommerce and Xing Events, among others, allowing you to centralize your online presence efforts in a single place. I guess it goes without saying that it’s also responsive.
Vertoh might be an overkill though if you end up using a minority of the features it offers, so be prepared to go neck deep into customizations. Having said that, it’s probably more suitable for established conferences or event with solid sponsors; whereas nonprofit or social events might not able to make much use out of it.
If you think Vertoh might give you more features than you probably can digest, FooCamp is a theme which might wake your interest.
With its flat and modern design, it’s mostly aimed at conferences, events or BarCamps. The Theme has a built in event manager tool which allows to easily configure conference schedules on different times and different rooms among others. It’s also fully responsive and includes the Revolution slider plugin. As you can see, it doesn’t boast as many features as the Vertoh theme, which is not necessarily a disadvantage though, especially if you are looking for a solid solution with only the features you need.
From the same authors as the Vertoh Theme, Fudge offers a wide range of features into a single pager, allowing the audience to find what they need without too much hassle.
Interesting is the fact that you’re able to use the license for as many websites as you wish, making this a one time payment. This might be a lucrative offer if you are involved in the organization of several events.
Similar to the Vertoh Theme, Fudge includes an Event Manager to schedule sessions and is compatible with Eventbrite, Event Espresso, WooCommerce among others.
However, if you have a lot of content to share and want to keep the focus on that, Fudge might not able to do it justice (as most one pagers anyway). Fudge allows you to have a blog but it doesn’t feel as intuitive as one might expect.
With a slightly different approach than the prior themes I’ve covered, Expo18 is highly focused on content and offers high flexibility while still staying true to the classic WordPress experience. Sponsors and speakers might be a bit tricky to set up, but you can take advantage of various plugins for anything you need help with.
The theme is fully responsive and location aware.
Note: I have worked with the Expo18 theme for the OSCAL ‘15 website by Open Labs. Although it lacks some shortcuts a lot of modern themes have, it offers a solid amount of control over the features, without being too different to a vanilla WordPress installation.
In most cases you might need further customizations to your WordPress installation to make your event website work for you and not the other way around. Some plugins definitely make your life easier, which you should make use of.
Jetpack is the flagship (and most popular with over 13 million downloads) WordPress plugin allowing you to use features normally only available in WordPress.com on your self-hosted WordPress.org website. Obviously, this is not specifically aimed at event focused WordPress websites, but sites of similar nature can also benefit quite a few nifty features, such as Infinite Scroll, Carousel, Stats, Publicize, MarkDown and many more. If you want to delve deeper into Jetpack, Jacco Blankenspoor has written about it previously, have a read.
Creating tables in WordPress can often be a pain. TablePress is an alternative to that which allows you to customize and import tables in many different formats. Quite useful when you want to display a basic agenda or similar lists which aren’t suitable for plain text. TablePress saves your tables and generates a shortcode for each of them which you can easily paste into any page or post.
Note: TablePress is not exactly responsive on default. If you want to tweak its settings on mobile and tablet displays, check out its responsive plugin.
If you need help with organizing speakers and sessions you might want to look into the Cr3ativ Conference Plugin. It allows you to tie a session to an unlimited number of speakers, along with relevant information such as date, start and end time, location of session (conference room B etc.) and assign categories.
The plugin also contains a directory called ‘language files’, where you will find the mo/po files you may use for translation purposes.
Organizing sponsors on an event website can be time consuming, especially if some sponsors are hard to work with. The Cr3ativ Sponsor Plugin helps you out with the online exposure of your event’s sponsors.
It allows you to add unlimited sponsorship levels and sponsors, along with company name, link, bio and logo for each sponsor. You can integrate it everywhere on your site via shortcodes or widgets.
Organizing a BarCamp or even a conference is a huge amount of organizational work. If you need to boost your online presence, it might be more advantageous to spend a few more bucks for a proper theme. In most of the cases spending $100 USD is a way better deal than tweaking and fiddling around a website in need of more work than resources available to you.
What are your experiences with using WordPress for event sites? Let us know in the comments.
Elio is a open source designer and founder of Ura Design. He coordinates community initiatives at SitePoint as well. Further, as a board member at Open Labs Hackerspace, he promotes free software and open source locally and regionally. Elio founded the Open Design team at Mozilla and is a Creative Lead at Glucosio and Visual Designer at The Tor Project. He co-organizes OSCAL and gives talks as a Mozilla Tech Speaker at various conferences. When he doesn’t write for SitePoint, he scribbles his musings on his personal blog.