Evolving the PDC09 Event Site

Did you know that the PDC is assembled and run by the same group that does MIX? At this year’s MIX09 in Las Vegas, we hired a company to facilitate seven on-site focus groups, each comprised of around 10 attendees. While the questions covered a broad range of event topics, many related to our “online experience.” Here is a small sample of verbatim comments:

  • “this year's site is difficult to navigate: hard to find info about sessions and content”
  • “more pre-data should be given: concentrate on schedule and speakers”
  • “Integrate identity of MIX09.com website with passport or open ID”
  • “tag the sessions so it is easier to choose a theme and follow it”

For PDC09, we decided to invest in a single online platform that addresses this feedback and allows us to reuse and evolve it for both MIX and PDC. The platform is being developed by the same group that built Channel 9 and MIX Online, and it uses Oxite as its foundation.

Here are some of the things we’re doing:

  • To simplify the site, we’ve reduced the number of pages and navigation elements, and we’ve made the most important information more prominent. We went through a complete process to identify the right information architecture, and Tim Aidlin’s post, Designing the PDC09 Experience, gives additional context and insight.
  • Because we’ve heard that session management is important, we’ve tried to make it easier to find, filter, plan, and share the sessions that interest you.
    • A list of “Featured Sessions” is prominently displayed on the home page of the site. We try to publish new sessions around the first of each month, and this hand-picked list is usually from the most recent batch.
    • All workshops and sessions are tagged with their primary technologies, related topics, and general themes. Click the “show tags” link on our Sessions page to expose and filter using the tag list.
    • Each workshop and session has a details page with comments. This is a great way to provide feedback to the presenter ahead of the event or to ask questions after-the-fact.
    • In the coming weeks, we’ll enable new functionality that makes it easy to pick your favorite sessions and add them to a personal agenda. Behind the scenes, we’ll use this data to gauge the popularity of each session so we can schedule them in appropriately-sized rooms. So, the more you use the tool, the better we can make the in-person experience. Then, when we assign rooms and time slots closer to the event, you’ll be able to modify your schedule and coordinate an overall conference attack plan.
  • Our Speakers page shows an alphabetical and searchable list of everyone who is speaking at the event, including a short bio and an optional photo. When a speaker’s name is clicked, you’ll see the list of sessions they’re presenting.
  • We’ve integrated with Live ID so you don’t have to create a new identify or profile just to interact with the site. Plus, logging-in with your Live ID makes it possible for you to save the list of your favorite sessions.
  • Like MIX09, we’ll stream the keynotes live and display #pdc09-related tweets. The team is investigating ways to filter out spurious tweets, spam, retweets, bots, etc. so the feed isn’t cluttered with useless information. Our events have proven to be trending topics on Twitter, and as a result, they draw a lot of attention…some of it unwanted.
  • We’ll also be releasing a mobile optimized version of the site that makes it easier to navigate the physical conference. It’ll show an abbreviated version of the sessions that have been added to your agenda, a list of all sessions, important news, and logistical information like maps.
  • Last, we’ll make it easy to download keynote and session content after the event. We’ve learned that many of you like the “all you can eat” plan, so we’ll do our best to make this a simple scenario.

At the end of the day, our goal is to provide both in-person and online attendees with an experience that makes it easy to plan, organize, navigate, consume, and share the content that matters most. Hopefully, we’ve struck the right balance.

As always, we’d love your feedback. Did we miss anything? What would you prioritize?