Three exhibitions, co-located under the same roof at the NEC. Three separate websites promoting the three events but in a consistent design style. Information from each of the three to be available on the other two websites – and all done in a consistent fashion which didn’t dilute each exhibition’s carefully constructed brand.

At its crudest level, that was the web design brief for the trio of William Reed exhibitions (National Convenience Show; The Forecourt Show; and the Farm Shop and Deli Show) which took place at the NEC in late April.

The motivation was to create an online offering where visitors would not have to move from one site to another to find out what was going on in the other two sister events. At the same time, the organisers did not want the visitor to lose sight of the event website they had chosen to visit in the first place.

It was an eminently sensible brief, designed to ensure that the online experience mirrored that of the physical visitor experience, but one that required a bit of technical sophistication behind the scenes.

James Moffat, Head of Web at LiveBuzz, explained: “If you’re walking around these big, co-located shows, taking in the large array of products and services on offer, you quickly understand the synergy which has convinced an organiser to bring them together. But the surrounding branding and design work serves to promote the different areas, reminding you where you are at all times. We needed to make sure the event websites reinforced that sense of connectivity but not at the expense of their individuality.”

The answer lay within a series of web modules which allowed visitors to any of the three sites to access the vast breadth of content available across all three, without ever having to navigate away from one. Details on all the exhibitors, products, speakers and sessions would always be just one click away.

James continued: “This cross-pollination of content allows us to make the most of the huge library of content that an organiser can accrue in a large multi-event format like this. Visitors can select content from any of the three sites but their first drop-down option will always be for content from the site they’re currently on. That functionality – and all the vibrantly coloured, show-specific branding around it – is what acts as the anchor, firmly rooting them in the show site they first visited.”

“We also needed to help encourage exhibitors to upload great content into the system. We did this by embedding a “Great New Idea” function which would highlight products that exhibitors had launched in the previous six months. Visitors to the site were then encouraged to vote for whether something really was a great idea. With the organisers creating publicity around the best new ideas across the whole event, there was a brilliant incentive for exhibitors to really promote their ‘great new idea’ and to encourage people to vote for them.”

“The net result was a library of even higher quality content, all immediately accessible from three different, stand-alone websites, allowing the visitor to move – virtually – from one show to another as seamlessly as if they were walking the hall floors themselves.”