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20 10, 2014

Radio Buttons vs Checkboxes

By | 2018-09-14T15:11:15+00:00 October 20th, 2014|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , |

Sometimes when designing forms there’s some confusion as to when to use radio buttons and when to use checkboxes, but actually the rules are quite simple.

Radio buttons are used for two or more choices that are mutually exclusive. This means that only one can be selected at a time. The term “radio button” comes from the physical buttons of older car radios. When one button was pressed the other buttons would pop out. This made it so that only one button could be pressed in at a time.

Checkboxes offer a binary choice such as on/off or true/false. They can be used alone or they can be used in a group to offer multiple selections.

A group of radio buttons can be a great alternative in some cases to having your user select their choice from a drop down menu because it makes all the options visible right there on the page so they are more easily accessible. This may be a preferable way to present options to users on mobile devices that are viewing your responsive website. They can then select their choice with just one tap instead of the several that are needed to use a drop down menu on a mobile phone. This may not always be the best option if you have a lot of choices because it can make the page look cluttered. Every situation is unique and you must consider the design of the content and also the needs of your users.

Radio buttons and checkboxes can both be restyled using CSS to have the appearance of buttons. This is an excellent option to enhance usability for touch devices.


Image courtesy of

8 07, 2014

How to Plan Responsive Breakpoints

By | 2016-11-18T14:23:17+00:00 July 8th, 2014|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , , , , |

Typically people think about breakpoints in responsive designs in terms of typical screen size, and it usually works out to something like this:

  • 1024 pixels wide—Full desktop and full-size tablets.
  • 768 pixels wide—Tablets
  • 320 pixels wide—Mobile phones

These breakpoints are extremely simplified way of describing what is actually done. In reality, devices come in a very wide range of screen sizes and there are new devices coming out every day. Technically there are no common screen sizes. A website needs to work at all screen sizes, not just at the breakpoints decided upon by looking at what devices make up the largest percentage of your website traffic.

Ideally, a design should be both FLUID and RESPONSIVE so that it is optimized for all screen sizes and not just certain breakpoints. If you grab your desktop browser by the corner and drag it around to resize it, you can see how a website responds to varying screen sizes. When content is fluid, it fills up 100% width of whatever the screen size is. When content within sections is no longer appropriate for that width (the line length of text boxes getting too long to read or the items in a horizontal navigation getting too cramped to be legible, for example) then a RESPONSIVE breakpoint needs to be added so that the layout is altered in a way that makes the content work better. Therefore, the breakpoints are determined by the content and not the screen size.

Ultimately what we get by taking this approach is a website that looks good on all devices.

Our actual real best practice is to work mobile first. We typically do a desktop graphical design first so that we have all of the graphics that are required for the fullest size, but we work mobile first when planning out the content and the responsiveness of the site. If we plan out the content for the small screen of a mobile device then we have tackled the most difficult problems first, and the rest of the design becomes much easier.


2 05, 2014

Beacon goes to Moogfest 2014

By | 2016-11-18T14:15:38+00:00 May 2nd, 2014|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Beacon had the opportunity this past weekend to participate in Synthesis, an event by NCTA, at Moogfest in Asheville, NC. This portion of Moogfest was a high energy tech expo featuring a wide range of technology companies. Live entertainment was there, in true Moogfest spirit, and various speakers from the tech field presented throughout the day.

moog1 Beacon was able to participate in the various Moogfest workshops and presentations as well as enjoy all the live music the festival has to offer. The one thing that unites all the performers and speakers throughout Moogfest is the use of technology and innovation in their art and music. It was fascinating to see how technology is being used in both audio and visual experiences and to envision where these technologies will take us in the future. Excitement about interactivity and communication was a common theme throughout Moogfest. At the Google Creators Panel Discussion, the Google team talked about creating tools for mobile devices that allow users to create their own music. Mobile apps are enabling people to have easier access to all sorts of tools, breaking down barriers, and giving people new ways to create and learn. They also showed a project that used data (from Google Maps), combined with images and music to create an audio/video experience that was personalized to the user’s childhood neighborhood. This took the music used in the project to a new personal level. I think personalization and interactivity are always marketable things to integrate into a software product. When you can build a relationship between the user and the experience, then there is attachment there that helps build loyalty and this relates back to user experience and brand loyalty.

moog2 Moogfest is mostly about music, but there was definitely a lot to take away about design and user experience. NCTA’s Synthesis event was a great avenue for people to see how technology is applied across a wide range of areas. A big thank you goes out to NCTA for putting on this event and bridging the gap between technology in the business world and technology in the music world.


30 04, 2014

How to Track Offline Activity with Google Analytics

By | 2018-05-01T08:25:12+00:00 April 30th, 2014|Categories: Digital Marketing, Google Analytics|Tags: , , , , |

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a web marketer? I’ll bet dollars to donuts it has something to do with the accurate assessment of ROI.

Customer life-cycles often have multiple components to them – both online and offline. They may start with a phone call and end the buying cycle with a purchase at a bricks and mortar location. Unfortunately, folks don’t have chips embedded in them, scanned automatically upon purchase and referencing them by Google Analytics User ID (Don’t worry. If there is anything we know about Google, this cannot be far behind).

We’d been conditioned to believe that regardless of how great a job we’ve done with organic SEO, email campaigns and print promotions, an answer for how to track offline conversions with Google Analytics would remain allusive. Then along came Universal Analytics, Google’s answer to the deficits inherent in current multi-channel attribution models.

Is Universal Analytics the answer?

dta-ripple-snippetOn the surface, Universal Analytics may appear to address this issue by leveraging an API to record offline transactions and attribute them back to a unique user ID. Problem is, the user has to carry that ID wherever they go. If they use multiple browsers or devices, the entire premise behind this method of accurate visitor tracking becomes compromised. Finding an original touch point may be akin to finding a diamond ring in a box of Cracker Jack. Good luck.

The development of GA Fusion is a true game changer. Through use of a centralized database that connects offline conversions to your online marketing efforts, this “middleware” maps offline transactions back to GA visitor sessions. Using Google Analytics as the reporting platform, GA Fusion provides superior ROI models, attribution models, time to purchase date, etc.

And did I mention that GA Fusion works with the Async code you probably already use? That’s right. If you don’t want to update to Google’s Universal Analytics, you don’t have to. GA Fusion empowers you to make that decision for yourself.

Now you know how to track offline conversions with Google Analytics effectively and accurately. If you’re not ready to upgrade to Universal Analytics or just prefer the asynchronous tracking method, Beacon can add the functionality of GA Fusion to your analytics without any interruption of data flow to your GA account.

Contact Beacon today to step though a demo and find out how a seamless transition to GA Fusion can provide you with the offline conversion information your business needs to flourish.

30 04, 2014

Google Analytics for Colleges and Universities

By | 2017-08-07T16:22:23+00:00 April 30th, 2014|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , , |

How would you like to be able to tell exactly how many prospects you have at your defined admissions cycle steps? How about seeing your abandonment rates between steps in the admissions funnel? How about what sources or efforts are actually driving applications? How about sources that are actually driving actual enrollments? What patterns of activity do people who apply or enroll do? How much does social media actually play a role in the admission process?

Google Analytics College Universities These are all questions that marketing directors and VP of Admissions should be asking themselves and currently it’s very challenging if not impossible to answer these questions. I’ve worked with dozens of schools over the years and have found a consistent theme when it comes to their ability to tie all the data together. Many schools use third-party application software that doesn’t tie into their analytics and essentially houses all their admissions applications data external from their website analytics data. I saw these challenges as an opportunity. The data that could be leveraged if we could connect all the disparate systems would invaluable for marketing decisions.

While GA is an awesome tool for analysis, without having all the data centralized and aligned to match visitor activity into a single user, Google Analytics alone still doesn’t solve this challenge. This is why we built GAFUSION. It is the must have tool for any college or university that wants to view all their marketing data in a centralized location and be able to easily see what activities are driving key conversions and ultimately lead to applications and enrollments.

Colleges and Universities online marketing is a lot different from your typical ecommerce marketing. The application and enrollment process can span years over many devices. And applications can be submitted through many channels such as your website, a third-party website, your admissions office, they can even mail them in. This is why having a centralized conversion database that uses sophisticated matching algorithms to sort through the data and isolate a unique visitor and their activity and push it back into GA with their unique Google Analytics identifier that ties that usage and conversion data to their original sources and mediums is so important.

University Admissions Funnel Tracking

Imagine being able to easily see the type of activities above for any defined period of time. Imagine being able to compare/contrast against the previous year and see where you are making gains or losing prospects. Imagine being able to see the sources and marketing activities that are driving prospects into each step in the funnel. GAFUSION can help you do all of this. When it comes to Google Analytics in the higher education space, Beacon Technologies has the experience and GAFUSION is the “must-have” tool to accomplish this.

22 04, 2014

The reality of Universal Analytics Tracking Offline Conversions:

By | 2017-08-08T08:10:42+00:00 April 22nd, 2014|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , , |

By now you’ve heard the hype that Universal Analytics was designed to track users and all their interaction including offline conversions. While Universal Analytics does provide additional measurement capabilities, it is important to understand what those are and what the challenges are with implementing these.

Universal Analytics essentially assigns a visitor with a unique ID that you can use with the API to push additional hits to the GA servers that will be assigned to that user. So if you know John Smith at your retail location bought a pair of shoes, as long as you know John Smith was on the website and his unique visitor ID is 123456779, then you can push a virtual hit that represents that transaction into GA.

So the big question is how do you know John Smith at the store is the same John Smith that was on the website 2 weeks ago and even more curious is how do you know what his unique GA visitor ID is? And once you know that, how do you go about pushing a virtual transaction hit into GA associated with John Smith’s unique identifier. And on top of that, how do you go about creating meaningful reports of the data?

The short answer to making Universal Analytics provide this is a really complex series of matching algorithms that have to be executed outside of Google Analytics, new database creations and systems integration, highly customized tracking scripts, highly customized post transaction jobs that process data autonomously, and a fully customized setup and configuration implementation. So while the idea on the surface sounds very attractive, being able to actually use Universal Analytics in this method can be a very costly and time consuming activity. For a fully custom implantation, back-end system integration, and system automation, you are likely easily looking at a six figure plus project which pushes this functionality out of the price range of the majority of businesses.

Fusion Online offline funnel

This is exactly why we built GAFusion. We’ve built the entire system described above that you can easily plug into. And because we built this as a SAS model, the cost of building, maintaining, updating, and improving the system and functionality is distributed across all of our clients. This means you can have this highly sophisticated system and take full advantage of the new functionality of Universal Analytics for a fraction of the cost. Implementation is super easy because all you have to do is add a single tracking script site wide to your site and provide us a with an XML feed of your offline conversions to track.

The coolest part is that it functions with both async and universal analytics so even if you aren’t ready to upgrade to Universal Analytics, you can still get the full benefit of the hyped functionality. When you are ready to migrate, we can take care of that for you and keep your data flowing. If this sounds too good to be true, give our free trial a test. If you aren’t a believer once you try GAFusion, there’s no commitment. That’s how confident we are in our system that allows you to take full advantage of Universal Analytics tracking offline conversions and transactions.

For more information, read up on how it works here or contact us to step through a demo and get started today.

17 04, 2014

Sub-domains vs. sub-directories – which is better for seo?

By | 2018-05-01T08:24:40+00:00 April 17th, 2014|Categories: SEO|Tags: |

It’s easy to recognize the difference between sub-domains and sub-directories. When creating sub-domains, the new section name is placed immediately in front of the primary domain name, separated by a dot. So if my site is, I can create a sub-domain specific to one type of mascot by creating the url Dogs is a sub-domain of

By contrast, if I want to create a sub-directory for this same page, dogs would follow the primary url and look like this:

lee-corsoThey’re both readily accessible from your site’s navigation so there’s really no difference, right? As Lee Corso would say, NOT SO FAST.

(If you have no idea who Lee Corso is, you can learn more here.)

Here’s just a few reasons why sub-domains may be better suited to boost your site’s performance:

Google treats sub-domains similar to top level URLs. By contrast, a sub-directory creates another layer or level and is one level further removed from the main index or home page. Sub-directories enable one to create a more targeted top level and get the most out of your web design.

Creating a sub-domain allows you to use keyword triggers in your URL. Use your keyword toward the front of the URL. It may appear slightly more relevant to search engine crawlers while keeping the URL short.

You can avoid country code restrictions. Some countries require a company to have a presence within its borders before you can use the applicable country extension. Using a sub-domain, you can choose to address an audience or language demographic directly in the URL as opposed to having to use a country code. So instead of, I’d opt for Problem solved and I didn’t have to outsource anything to a goat farmer in Kazakhstan.

CTR may be higher. It stands to reason that since folks read left to right, they’ll see the keyword they’re searching quicker in your URL. In theory, this should result in more clicks.

Sub-domains vs. sub-directories. Which is better for search engine optimization? In my humble opinion, there is a clear winner. Hey…where’d my UGA head go?

15 04, 2014

The Ripple Effect in the Design Process

By | 2016-04-22T15:39:58+00:00 April 15th, 2014|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|Tags: , |

When I learned to paint, my teacher would always emphasize the importance of working the entire canvas at the same time. A lot of people have the natural inclination to zero in on the small area they are currently working on, and really develop it before working out to the rest of the piece. The problem with this approach is that a lot of time will pass as you work from one end to the canvas to the other, and your style will change with time. You hand will tire and get looser, the colors in your palate may not be mixed quite the same way, and you may take a break here and there and when you return to your painting, your flow is just not quite the same. So what happens is, you get inconsistencies in style and feel across the canvas leading to a touch of disharmony. The solution to this is to work the canvas in it’s entirety from corner to corner at the same time. Lay in big chunks of underpainting, scatter those accent colors and highlights across the whole piece as needed when you have that perfect hue at hand, and keep your stroke styles consistent across the piece. This also allows you to plan out the space and layout better since you start to block in all the elements at the same time. As you work the canvas, you may add touches of a color in one area, and find that you need to carry that color across the whole painting in spots as needed to create unity and harmony.

ripple web design

A similar phenomenon happens during the design phase for websites. I like to call it “the ripple effect”. Typically you have a starting design that then goes through iterations. Often these iterations are based on client requests for design changes. Perhaps that blue was not quite right, and they want it to be more of an indigo. Maybe their marketing team has decided to revamp the logo towards the end of the homepage design process. All these design requests may seem like simple isolated changes, but they have a ripple effect that creates a need to change elements across the whole site design. This is because, just like the canvas, the design needs to be worked from corner to corner at the same time in order to ensure balance, harmony, and to maintain an appropriate visual hierarchy between elements. That simple header background color change may then effect the color of the navigation elements and the border and gradients of a newsletter sign-up box. Then subsequently, the footer navigation links will need to be changed for consistency. Perhaps that new logo is a more subtle and diffused style, and now everything else on the page seems to overpower it. The only solution is to take the elements on the page down a notch so that the logo doesn’t get lost.

It’s important for people to be open to these ripple effect changes throughout the design process and to also consider how their design change requests may impact the whole of the design. Because they have such a large impact the design, it is important to nail down things like your logo design and color palates early on in the design process to ensure that their style is carried over into all the elements throughout the site.


11 04, 2014

How To Make The Most Out Of Your Web Design

By | 2017-08-15T15:50:26+00:00 April 11th, 2014|Categories: Cascade CMS|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I spend a lot of time inside and outside of work studying design. I think it gets to a point for everyone where design becomes difficult to ignore, as it influences our every day decisions. It’s important to understand design elements and how they not only affect you on a day to day basis, but your customers as well. You can ask yourself the following questions:

How does my target audience perceive my brand?

Does my website’s design go hand in hand with my content?

What kind of experiences are users having when they land on my website?

Is my design making an emotional connection with my customers?

Because websites are so multi-dimensional, there is no one way to answer these questions. It’s an ever changing industry and with new technology comes updates on how we approach design. Lucky for you, Beacon has been in the industry for 16 years. We love answering these questions because these are the questions you have to ask to get to a successfully designed website.

Since being in the website industry, I’ve had the opportunity to wear many hats. This has helped me approach website design and development from every angle with all considerations in mind. Below I have listed a few elements to consider when designs a website.


User Experience

  • A beginners guide to UI design. Read more.
  • How to beat the paradox of choice in UI design. Read more.



  • An introduction to color theory for web designers. Read more.
  • How to get a professional look with color. Read more.
  • Five web design colors that encourage visitors to click that subscribe button. Read more.


  • How to use images effectively in websites. Read more.
  • How to use photography in web design. Read more.

And finally…


In today’s world, your website is one of your most vital marketing tools. If you would like to find out more about how redesigning your website can push your business forward, let us know!

8 04, 2014

Placeholder Images – The easy button

By | 2016-11-29T14:21:44+00:00 April 8th, 2014|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|

Ever hate having to find various stock or other imagery to fill in example image placeholders in earlier design/development stages?

The easy button has arrived! –

No more saving and moving and uploading. In fact if the size changes you will never even open up image editing software!

All you have to do is define the src of the image using the following syntax:

So using this I can make an image with the following src and it appears like below:×200

Placeholder Image

This is also beneficial for the following uses:

  • keeping focus on layout not images
  • making image dimensions clear to an end user
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