Taking a conference business to the next level

Designing and developing the booking engine for the UKs' leading professional conference provider

Summary

For the past 20 years, The White Paper Conference Company have been the conference provider of choice for leading business professionals in the United Kingdom. Delegates get to hear about key issues and points of concern directly from world-class experts.

With technology moving forward at such a rapid pace, White Paper were interested in replacing an old, bespoke and expensive to run business application that managed the administration of the office, website and bookings.

Services
  • Information Architecture
  • Website Design
  • Front-end Development
  • CMS Development
  • System Administration
  • Ongoing Support
Image for White Paper Conferences website

Results

Increase in revenue

The new transactional website saw an astonishing 300% increase in revenue.

Pre and post conference time reduced

Pre and post website conference time was reduced by 65% by developing a bespoke Craft CMS module that automated repetitive and time consuming tasks.

Custom document generator

Print ready and branded PDFs can be automatically generated from conferences data on demand, saving money and time on desktop applications.

Less reliance on custom software

The new platform relies less on custom development and instead utilises best-in-class services for the checkout, online payments, order management, automation and billing systems. This reduced upfront development costs by 50% and is 80% cheaper to run and maintain.

Jon reinvented our website and ordering system, creating huge efficiencies, which allowed us to reduce our back office from four staff members to one. Moreover, he is integrated with our business, continually suggesting improvements which keep our systems bang-up-to date and give us a competitive edge. I no longer feel the strain of IT development, because I know I have someone there who will bring vision and handle it to the highest possible standard.

Image of James Hirst

James Hirst
Managing Director of The White Paper Conference Company

The Full Story

Improving the user experience

Although the information architecture was straight forward compared to most websites, we still went through various iterations until all complexity had been paired back. 2 user flows were identified. Users looking to book a conference and users returning to the website to download conference documents.

Research identified that few customers booked a conference from the homepage, so we turned this into a content discovery page with the purpose of connecting users with the right conference content.

Next, we focused our attention to the conference pages. We took a less is more approach. The internal goal was to make these pages quick to create, while allowing the programme content to shine through.

From here we started to work on the checkout process. We managed to reduce the complexity down to a "one page checkout" with 3 clear progress steps.

Image for White Paper Conferences style tile
Example style tile for White Paper Conferences

We went through a style tile process to quickly help us identify a look and feel to develop further without getting into too much detail.

Image for White Paper conference section
White Paper Conferences conference section

The website is designed around a 2 column grid which includes a paired back colour scheme with a strong focus on typography.

Designing the best authoring experience

Image for White Paper Conferences CMS
CMS for generating conferences

Craft CMS was a great fit for this project due to its flexible data modelling capabilities and authoring tools.

Pre-conference preparation

Conferences are managed in a single content repository. A bespoke Craft CMS module adds additional functionality, giving White Paper the ability to generate conference "variations" whilst keeping core data in sync and generate branded PDF documents on demand.

Time slots can be easily re-arranged by drag and drop or even disabled. Plain text fields were used for data entry meaning that styling happens automatically. This also means there are no WYSIWYG editors to wrangle with.

White Paper really enjoyed Crafts live preview feature which allows content creators to write and preview content in real-time, side by side.

Post-conference preparation

When a conference has ended, presentations are uploaded through the website and associated with a conference. The CMS then automatically generates a past conference page in the documents section with all the relevant presentations available to download.

Relying less on custom development

For years White Paper had been using a bespoke system to run and manage the web side of their business. They felt trapped and locked into this bespoke piece of software that was expensive to develop and maintain, let alone portable if the owner of the software closed down.

I decided not to make the same mistake and use best-in-class services for the checkout, online payments, order management, automation and billing systems.

This means if a new and better order management system comes to market tomorrow, we could migrate our data and move to the new system with little disruption.

The benefits of this approach

  • It reduced upfront development costs and was cheaper to run and maintain
  • If a new system came out tomorrow, it can be replaced with little disruption
  • In some cases, custom business logic could be changed without knowledge of coding
  • It is easier to see the value in a piece of functionality after using it
  • If the business cannot live without this functionality, it is a good case for custom development as the price can be justified after using it

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