Sell More Tickets? Tackle your Event Website Usability

You don't have to convince anyone anymore these days of a website or online ticketing for an event. But we don't often think about the user experience. Bad usability is however one of the main reasons for losing revenue. Karl Gilis is a usability expert and explains how you can make your website more user-friendly and at the same time sell more tickets.

Kevin Van der Straeten
Comment this tv episode

Do you have an account on Sign in here
Do not have an account yet? Write your comment here:

Also available as a podcast:

Also on podcast:

Listen on Google PodcastsListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Shopify


You don't have to convince anyone anymore these days of a website or online ticketing for an event. But we don't often think about the user experience. Bad usability is however one of the main reasons for losing revenue. Karl Gilis is a usability expert and explains how you can make your website more user-friendly and at the same time sell more tickets.


Hi Karl, welcome to our studio.  




Usability is the topic of today. But what is wrong with our website for the event industry? 


Oh, I don't know what exactly is wrong, but... There are so many things that can go wrong on a website, from the home page to a landing page to the check-out... Many things and most people don't realise it, or most owners of websites don't realise it. 


But like what?  


For example: a landing page. Someone comes on your website who has done a search on Google, and he enters on a landing page. And I think especially in the event world people like to show big photos and the first thing you see... 


Yeah, that's nice, a big photo.  


Yeah, that's very nice. But you see a big photo and most of the time that photo isn't very helpful. And as a user I want to see the title of the event, I want to see when, the date, and I want to see the price. And then the photo. But don't start with the photo, because then the first thing I need to do is to scroll. And you have to realise that the average visitor... It will take him only on average two seconds, when something in his subconscious will decide: "I'm gonna stay on this website or I'm gonna go back to Google". That means that in that one or two seconds you have to grab the attention of your visitor. 


Only two seconds?  


Oh yeah, and that's the longest. The average appears to be 0.4 seconds. To decide whether they think...? To decide, yeah, and it is not a rational decision, it's subconscious. And it has to do with the looks... But then you'd think a photo would help. Yeah, a photo would help, but a photo is like: "yeah, it's a photo, but it's..." If I go to a concert of U2, and I see a photo of Bono, it's like: "yeah, that's confirmative". But when it's an event that's not as big and the name is not so big, A photo probably won't help me in my decision-making process. 


But even with the photo of Bono, it would help to know whether there is a concert... 


Yeah, and if there are places available, because else I'll waste my time. It's like: "oh yeah, U2 is coming", and you're reading the whole page, and then at the end: "it's sold out". And then I would say: "fuck you!" I'm sorry. 


We cut that out. It is true that on many event websites it's even hard to find the dates, the times...  


Yeah, and that's so strange, because that is what we call: 'the top tasks of the visitors'. And that's what's the most important: you should know the needs of your visitor, and then give an answer to those needs. And of course you also need the other explanations and the other stuff, because we also want to know those things, but the first thing I want to know is the title, date, prices... 


But then the trick is: think like the visitor?  


Oh yes, that's the basic trick. 


Yeah, most of us just think: "what do we have to tell?" 


Yeah, and it took me many years to... To realise that the basic question, that most people ask when they're creating their website, or when a designer is making a website, or a web agency is making a website, they will always ask the client: "what is the goal of your website?" So the client, who's making the website, will say: "yeah, what is the goal of my website?" And the question was wrong, because it's 'my website' and probably you will end up with what I call 'an egocentric website'. And it just a small change, but the basic question should be: "what is the goal of the visitors of your website?" And if you put yourself in the mindset of your visitor I think that maybe 70% of all usability problems that have to do with content will evaporate. 


Suppose we make that ugly looking website...  


No, it doesn't have to be ugly. But ugly is... Maybe it is in events, but it's not really a problem. If you look at one of the... Well, maybe... I think it's still the most visited homepage ever. That of Google. I don't think there are many people going to bed every night that say: "oooh, I love the design of Google". Facebook is immensely popular. It's not the most beautiful design in the world. Amazon is not the most beautiful e-commerce website. 


Maybe even the ugliest one.  


Yeah, and E-Bay and stuff like that. And I'm not promoting ugly, but the practical stuff seems to be more important. 


But what do they do differently then?  


I think they answer the needs of the visitor. If you go to a hotel page on or a product page on Amazon, the first thing you see is the title, you see the price, you see a number of reviews, you see an average score of the visitors, you see maybe two or three highlights of the products, you see a product trot, availability, they tell you when they can deliver, the price and a big buy button. And those 10 elements are just there, wham. You don't have to scroll, you don't have to think, it's just there. And I'm not saying that everything should be above default, but the basic information should just be there. 


We have that website, we did our thinking, then the next step is ordering the tickets. And then you start in the flow...  




But most people stop halfway.  


Especially with a flow like that, people will stop. But first go back to that page, because there's one very important element before you enter the flow, that's your big call to action button. There's some problems already there, and I think one of the most common problems is that designers want the page to look beautiful, and they want everything to blend in, so they make a call to action that blends in the environment of the page, with the result that it doesn't grab attention. And the call to action should stand out. The colour should be completely the opposite of the base colour of the page. And then the call to action itself... The words on it should be very clear. Like: "Get your tickets NOW!" The word 'now', it's incredible what it does. Yeah, because we as human beings, we want it now, now, now. That's how we're programmed. And another small tip is: "it's not order your tickets now", but: "get your tickets now". Because 'get', that's what I want. You as an owner, you want me to order the tickets. But I as a visitor, I want to get my tickets. And I know that I will have to pay for them.  


But this is an interesting one. Does it make that big a difference? 


Oh yeah, sometimes the wording... It's incredible. We had a website... 


Everybody knows what 'order' means.  


Yeah, it's a funny example, but it's so strange. One of the first times I realised it was when we had a website for a car manufacturer. And on this website there was a dealer-locator. And the button said: "Search a dealer". 


Yeah, sounds logical.  


But do you want to 'search' a dealer or do you want to...? 


Find one.  


Yes! And we had just replaced it with "Find a dealer" and we had now 14% more people using the dealer locator. And it was the only goal of the page, it was 'dealer locator'. What else could I do on that page? So yes, it does make a difference. It's like... It's also in the real world. When you talk to someone on the first date, everybody says: "you have to mimic the person in front of you". And it's the same on the website: you have to mimic the thoughts and the wordings of the visitor. 


Okay interesting, and now we go to the next step. And then I have this call to action, you've convinced me. 


And then I see 1 step out of 7 and I will probably think: "bugger off". You have to make the process as short as possible. 


Yeah, but as an organiser you need some information.  


You want a lot of information. Do you need all that information? The first question you need to ask yourself is: "what do I think that the visitor is prepared to give in return for his order?" And maybe you should start with the basic stuff. And once he is a client, then you can try and get more information later on. And if you have a multi-step process and you want a lot of information, then there is a small tip, but a very important one. And you can see it at The first... I think the process is only two steps. The first step: they ask you for your first name, your last name and your email address. I know my first name, I know my last name and I know my email address. And I will start to fill in the form. And then I think: "wow, it's only one of two steps. And they only ask three things". And I start and I push ENTER. And then the second screen is bluhh, I have to give a lot of information. But there are two things going on. The first: psychology. I've started to fill in a form. And there is something in the human brain that says: "When I've started something, I want to finish it". And the second thing is, when you give up as a user: what does have from you? Your email address. 


And they can start mailing.  


And then after 20 minutes... 


"You didn't finish it!"  


Yeah, after 20 minutes you'll receive a first mail from them: "oh dear Kevin, I'm so sorry, but apparently something went wrong with your order. How can we help you?" And that's also things you can do, so make your process short and make it look as short and easy as possible. Always start with the easy questions. Email address is easier. But in the end you ask for the difficult things: "do you also want to buy a parking ticket?" Or: "do you want an upgrade?" It's like the difficult stuff. 


At the end?  


At the end, or after your process. That's something we did in the travel industry. When they sell a journey, a trip or a holiday, they also want to sell an insurance and a rental car. If you start asking those questions, people start thinking: "ahh, a rental car..." And they start Googleing for other things and then you've lost the deal. So what we now do is let people order their basic holiday, and then when they've finished, and I have received their money, hehe, then I will start selling to upgrade. And in the travel sector most of the time you have about 6 months between that they order a trip and... 


So you still have some time...  


You have 6 months to sell upgrades. And I think in the events, that's also an idea: start selling your upgrades later on. First, take the money and run. It doesn't sound very user-friendly, but it's better to have some conversions than no conversions. 


That's true. And what's your opinion on user registrations? 


Mahhhhh... Don't make it... 


That's easy, if you come back you can just login. 


It can be easy, but most of the time registration is driven by the company. "Oh, then we have a single database and a single point of contact". For users it's sometimes very difficult. For example me: I'm old and I go to a concert twice a year. And then I go to a website and I start filling in the forms. "Login or register" and I say: "I don't know" and I start filling in everything. And at the end it says: "oh, this email address already exists. Please try again and use your registration". And I'm like: "what's my user name?" And: "what password did I use on this website?" So do the same thing as they have an optional registration. You can always check out as a guest. That's the basic stuff. And then at the end they send you an email: "hey Kevin, to make our life easier, just click on this link and we will make an account for you. And by making an account, you can always receive your tickets, print them again, and the next time you buy something of us, you will be the first in line". And then that's an advantage. And now it's always: "oh no, a registration". It's the same thing if you go to a shopping mall. And you go to the counter and the lady or the man sitting there at the cash register says: "can I have your password please and your user name?" And I'm like: "woaaah!" It's one of my basic advices: don't do anything on your website you don't like on other websites. 


And as an event planner, can you have a critical look at your own website? Or do you always need an expert like you?  




You will say yes, of course.  


You always need me. Everybody needs me. No, I think for programmers and designers it's probably difficult, because they make the stuff, and when you make something it's very difficult, but as the owner, as a marketeer, it should be possible. It should be possible. And you followed a training from me a while ago. And something I always see. If people are sitting in a classroom, and they look at their own website on a big screen, sometimes they realise: "oh no, what did I do there?" So I sometimes give the basic advice: "release it back from the website with your feet on the desk, and look at it and maybe you will see some strange things". Concerning the call to action... My basic advice is: close your eyes a little bit until they only see shadows. If you don't see your call to action, then make it bigger, and make it stand out more. But I think... Most essential problems: yes. For the other things, listen to your visitors, listen to your clients. You're in an industry where you have a lot of contact with your clients. They will send you an email. And don't say: "yeah, but it is there". No, if someone sends you an email: "I don't understand it or I didn't find it". Then look at it with an open mind.  


It's not a stupid user. 


Well, sometimes there are stupid users, but most of the time there might be a problem, so look at it and don't say: "yeah, but it's working". No, maybe it's not. We as a company say: "everything can always be made better". You can always optimise things. Use your Google Analytics. There are so many tools nowadays where you can see: "okay, there is a drop or a higher rate of visitors on my website". On a landing page or on one of those steps in an order form. Follow the 20 steps. Yeah, but make the order form as short as possible, please.  


Karl, thank you for sharing all this knowledge.  


You're welcome.  


And you at home: thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!