Event Canceled? The Show Can Go On With a Virtual Fair Website

As the country works to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by suspending events and gatherings, Virtual Fair websites are a lesser known solution to help companies and organizations get information to the masses – without the traditional in-person experience.

What is a Virtual Fair?

A Virtual Fair is a website or other digital platform that mimics the experience of a more traditional event like a career or college fair – where individuals can learn more information and compare options.

Quinn Thomas developed a Virtual Benefits Fair website for the Washington State Health Care Authority’s School Employee Benefits Board – a program started in 2019 to administer health insurance and other benefits to all Washington state school district employees. Last October, the Virtual Benefits Fair helped nearly 150k school employees choose the best health and dental plans for their families.

Here’s what we learned along the way:

User experience is key

Design the site map and wireframes with the user journey in mind. The levels of the website can mimic physical environments found at an in-person fair – such as a lobby, exhibit hall, and vendor booths. Make the user action clear at the booth level with ‘Enroll’ or ‘Sign Up’ buttons. Build in ample options throughout the site for users to find help, just like they would at an in-person fair.

Make information digestible

The Virtual Benefits Fair we built hosted information from 15 vendors, so ensuring a digestible format was essential. Include the same set of assets from each vendor. Less is more. Communicate information with graphics rather than heavy text. Consider linking to vendor information on vendor websites rather than hosting it all on the Virtual Fair.

Design for accessibility

Make sure to follow accessibility best practices. Roughly 15% of people across the globe live with some form of a disability. Designing websites and graphics with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual impairments in mind will ensure all audiences can access your content. This article is a great place to start. There are also several levels of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outlined by the World Wide Web Consortium to consider for your Virtual Fair.