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21 03, 2014

Measuring Offline Data in Google Analytics

By | 2017-08-24T12:58:34+00:00 March 21st, 2014|Categories: Google Analytics|

Fusion Online offline funnelGA Fusion Logo Many businesses with revenue channels other than just their website struggle to attribute the value of their online marketing efforts to the revenue produced through these other channels. Tying your offline data or conversions such as transactions through a call center or through a brick and mortar retail location back to digital marketing efforts has historically been extremely difficult and didn’t produce great data or methods to analyze the data. GA Fusion was designed to help solve this challenge. We’ve built a centralized conversion database that acts as middleware to connect your offline conversions to your online marketing efforts using Google Analytics as the measurement and reporting platform.

We accomplish this through a series of matching algorithms that allows us to actually match offline transactions back to the user’s Google Analytics website session. Because of this, we can attribute these matched transactions back to not only sources and mediums, but can build advanced segments and view the offline data in the same way that we can for online transactions. This also works with both async and Universal Analytics so if you aren’t ready to switch to Universal Analytics just yet, there’s no rush.

By mapping offline data back to Google Analytics visitor sessions, we gain significant insight into better ROI models, attribution models, per visit value models, time to purchase data, and the list goes on. An example of how useful this can be, if you are using adwords or some other CPC, you inevitably have ROI models which will provide you with a point of diminishing return. It is at this point where you’re ROI goes down to the point it is not profitable to continue to spend advertising budget. However, when you see the big picture and can attribute the revenue from your offline revenue channels back to your Adwords ad spend, you ROI models completely shift. This completely changes your point of diminishing return allowing you to accurately identify how much more advertising budget you can spend while still generating a return. This directly results in more profitability which directly impacts your bottom line. So stop leaving money on the table and start seeing the full impact of how your advertising budgets are fully impacting your business. See example Screenshot below.

GA Fusion All Traffic Example

Not only does the attribution apply to sources and mediums but you can apply these to event tracking, pageviews, feature interactions, custom variables, etc…. The list goes on. Your conversion optimization and split testing using content experiments can now determine how effective certain variations of buttons, images, content, etc… are at generating offline revenue. So if you have a call center, catalog, retail locations, or any other offline revenue channels, GA Fusion is a system you need to consider.

So if this sounds interesting to you and would like to explore further, contact us and we’ll be happy to go over this in more detail and get you setup on your free trial.

18 03, 2014

Caribbean Green Technology Center microsite launched!

By | 2016-11-22T11:32:16+00:00 March 18th, 2014|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , , , |

Beacon launched another University of the Virgin Islands microsite yesterday at http://cgtc.uvi.edu. Like the previously two launched UVI microsites, this site has the main UVI site branding, with its own color scheme and special features like:

  • Developed and maintained in Hannon Hill’s Cascade Server content management system
  • Fully responsive design optimized for desktop, tablet and smartphones
  • Branded UVI color scheme and graphics, with accent color selected by the client
  • Rotating home page banner images with captions and thumbnail navigation
  • Home page video players
  • Call to action buttons
  • Internal microsite-only search as well as option to search full main UVI site
  • Social media icons displayed on every page of the site
  • Quick links to internal or external webpages in site footer
  • Audience-based (“More Information…”) page content and navigation

The microsite format was developed to allow for easy set-up and population of new sites as additional departments sign up for new websites and Beacon looks forward to working with other UVI staff members in this endeavor!

Thanks to everyone at Beacon and UVI for another lovely UVI microsite!

New CGTC Microsite

New CGTC Microsite

11 03, 2014

University of Hartford launches two new communication sites

By | 2016-11-21T17:46:44+00:00 March 11th, 2014|Categories: Beacon News|

Beacon recently assisted longtime partner, the University of Hartford, with the development and launch of two new Cascade “sub-sites” that will serve as communication portals for the University.

  • Unotes Daily shares campus announcements on a daily basis with the campus community and allows external visitors to submit announcements of their own for publication.
  • Unotes Extra is a periodical/magazine format that allows the communications office to produce stories on a less routine basis as the need arises.

Both sites also have an email component that allows the administrator to produce an HTML-based message based on the day’s content for distribution to stakeholders. More information can be found at the following University of Hartford page: http://www.hartford.edu/extra/articles/2014/Feb-24/UNotesExtraAnnouncement.aspx.

The new sites are based on the Hartford main site design and more closely match their brand than the old site design (below).

NEW

The New Unotes Daily Homepage

Hartford Unotes Daily Homepage (New)

BEFORE

Hartford Unotes Home page Old

Hartford Unotes Home page (Old)

The client is very pleased with the ease of use and appearance of the new sites and is anxious to add even more functionality to them.  Congrats to Hartford on their new Cascade sites and to the Beacon team for another job well done!

18 02, 2014

Google Artificial Intelligence and Hummingbird

By | 2017-06-16T12:52:40+00:00 February 18th, 2014|Categories: SEO|

Artificial Intelligence

In a previous post, I stated that Google named its new algorithm after a hummingbird because a hummingbird is quick and precise and has the tremendous ability to recall information about every flower it has ever visited. The name implies a more robust and faster search engine algorithm.

But besides extraordinary powers of recall, I overlooked the important fact that hummingbirds are also very smart. Hummingbirds have been observed learning new behaviors in the wild. Also, a hummingbird’s brain is 4.2% of its body weight. That percentage is the largest proportion in the bird kingdom. Maybe all of the above reasons explain why Google named the new algorithm Hummingbird. But above all, just like a hummingbird, the new search engine algorithm is pretty smart.

Many have pointed out Hummingbird’s new powers of semantic search. But I believe there is another component to Hummingbird. It’s an area of artificial intelligence researchers have been seeking to perfect for some time.

Almost four years ago Google’s Amit Singhal, the head of Google’s core ranking team, spoke to EnGadget about his dreams for search. His number one and most difficult goal was to include information that doesn’t come from text but from images. At that time, Amit describes the “computer vision algorithms” as still in a basic form. Most of the information about an image still came from text surrounding an image.

Peter Norvig alluded to the importance of images in his interview with Marty Wasserman for Future Talk in the fall of 2013 not long after Hummingbird was implemented at the end of August 2013.

Marty Wasserman: So it sounds like replicating vision is one of the most important things? Having a camera look at an object and interpreting what that object is?

Peter Norvig: I think that’s right and I think it’s a useful task and it connects you to the world so we have a broader connection then just typing at a keyboard. Now if a computer can see, it can interact a lot more and be more natural. And it’s also important in terms of learning. Because we have been able to teach our computers a lot by having them read text. There is a lot of text on the internet so you can get a lot out of that. Make a lot of connections and know that this word goes with this other word and other words don’t go together. But they are still just words and you would really like your computer to interact with the world and understand what it is like to live in the world. You can’t quite have that but it seems like video is the closest thing.

Marty Wasserman: I think Google’s worked on this problem a lot. You’re trying to interpret words. Basic search, and you’re an expert on search, doesn’t know what a word means but it can tell how frequently it occurs. But the next level of search would be to have a better understanding of what the word means so it can figure out the nuances of what the person is asking for.

Peter Norvig: That’s right. So we, you know, the first level is just they ask for this word and show me the pages that have that word. The next level is to say what did that word really mean and maybe there’s a page that talked about something but uses a slightly different words that are synonyms or related words. So we’re able to do that – figure out which other related words count and which ones don’t. And then the next level is saying well you asked me a string of words and it’s important what the relationships are between those words. And figuring out that out. So we have to attack understanding language at all levels and understanding the world at all levels what are these words actually refer to in the world.

In the interview, Peter Norvig stresses the importance of deriving meaning not only from text but also from images. This requires a computer to look at picture on a website and determine what those images are. Object identification sounds simple and is easy for humans to do, but it is extremely difficult for computers. However, Google has recently made significant advancements in this area.

In June 2013, the Google research blog announced that by using deep learning, Google had moved a step towards the toddler stage.

http://googleresearch.blogspot.com/2013/06/improving-photo-search-step-across.html

Images no longer have to be tagged and labeled to be identified.

This is powered by computer vision and machine learning technology, which uses the visual content of an image to generate searchable tags for photos combined with other sources like text tags and EXIF metadata to enable search across thousands of concepts like a flower, food, car, jet ski, or turtle… We took cutting edge research straight out of an academic research lab and launched it, in just a little over six months. You can try it out at photos.google.com.– Chuck Rosenberg, Google Image Search Team

What does this mean for search? Images become more important as Google can label them more precisely with or without your help and associate those images with other textual concepts on your website and the knowledge graph. Doing so allows Google to enhance classification of websites and obtain a better understanding of how to match search user intent, the sometimes subtle nuances of search queries, and the best matching webpage.

31 01, 2014

5 Ways Google Docs Makes Project Management Easier

By | 2017-06-16T12:31:50+00:00 January 31st, 2014|Categories: Digital Marketing|Tags: , |

As a PM, the one critical thing is communication. With all the moving parts in a project, it is your responsibility that the everyone, from the client to your company resources are on the same page. Changes, issues, and statuses must all be communicated quickly and effectively across a large group of people.

There are many different programs that do a lot of sophisticated things. I’ve worked with ERP software, Ticket Management software, and even as simple as sending spreadsheets back and forth, but for the right mix of ease of use and capability, I like Google Docs.

1. It’s Familiar

Even if you have never used Google Docs, when you first open it up, you’ll immediately recognize what you’re supposed to do. It closely resembles Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that the learning curve is pretty low. I like this option because it makes using it easier to disseminate across varying levels of computer expertise. In other words, even casual users get the idea.

2. It’s Flexible

flexible-woman I’m a big supporter of keeping it simple. Nothing could be simpler than opening and collaborating on a Google Doc. If you can use a word processor, it’s super easy to get started. Programs with a lot of specialized features are great if that fits what you need, but the more specialized the software, the harder it is to repurpose it to fit your way of doing things. In other words, it’s rigid. you adapt to the software, not the other way around. Something as plain as a spreadsheet has unlimited potential because you can use it for almost anything. You can use it like a checklist, a calculator, an estimate sheet, an invoice…pretty much whatever you want. That also means that the software is more adaptable as your needs evolve.Another great thing about the flexibility of GDocs is that it’s intuitive for clients to be able to use it too. They can log in to Google anytime and view project progress and add notes where necessary.

3. It’s Secure

As the creator, you choose who can view and who can edit your documents. It’s very easy to manage permissions levels. Even if something happens, you can rollback to an older version to recover anything that was lost. It may not be as secure as that proprietary project management software that’s only accessible inside your company firewall, but it’s certainly better than emailing unencrypted documents back and forth.

4. It’s Collaborative

This is one of the key features for me: Google Docs is edited in real-time. So your entire project team can be on the document at the same time and everyone can see the edits everyone else is making. You can even comment and chat in real-time about the document for impromptu discussions. It’s a far cry better than Track Changes on Word because nothing is overwritten, everything is saved instantly (no worry about forgetting to save your work), and you can bookmark it in your browser. Access isn’t first come – first serve, so nobody gets locked out, which eliminates the problem of people having to wait to edit a document. They can also make the edit as they are thinking about it rather than deciding to come back to it later once the document is free and then forgetting to do it. To me, that equates to up-to-date statuses without having to badger everyone.

Another cool thing is that you can download any Google Doc as its Microsoft equivalent, so once a document is finished, you can store it locally. You can also email it as a Microsoft attachment for those clients that refuse to do work in the cloud. Side note: proof the document after the conversion. Most of the time it’s fine, but if you have any significant formatting, like tables, you might have to rework a few things.

5. It’s Free

google-drive-syncYea. That’s a great price in my opinion. Plus you can make as many Docs, Sheets, or Slides as you want on Google Drive because Google Docs don’t count against your 5GB of free storage! Source. Speaking of which, you can access files in your Drive from your phone and tablet too, so it’s great for on-the-go changes.

All praise aside, Google Docs can’t do everything. Some PM’s needs may be very specific and sophisticated to the point of requiring custom software. You’ll just have to decide for yourself which solution works for you and your projects, but there may be some functions you can rethink and make simpler with Google Docs.

24 01, 2014

More Free Social Vector Icons! (flat icon set)

By | 2016-11-22T18:23:43+00:00 January 24th, 2014|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|Tags: , , , |

This is a new set to go along with:

You can download this set by right clicking on the below preview and using ‘Save Image As’.

This icon set includes the following flat icons:

social-media-icons-set2

  • Khan Academy
  • Aim
  • Quora
  • Kickstarter
  • CodeSchool
  • MongoDB
  • Backbone.js
  • Coderwall
  • HTML5
  • CSS3
  • Responsive Web Design
  • W3C
  • Codecademy
  • Yelp
  • IMDb
  • jsFiddle
  • Vevo
  • Codepen
  • Eventbrite
  • A List Apart
  • Instagram
  • Google Drive
  • GrubHub
  • Spotify
  • Dropbox
  • Vine
  • Paypal
7 01, 2014

A Calendar for Your Website

By | 2016-11-18T14:23:19+00:00 January 7th, 2014|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , , |

When planning for a calendar on your website, there are a number of factors to take into account.  Each of the bullets below contains examples of calendar projects with which Beacon Technologies has had direct involvement in analysis and design and/or development and integration.

  • Mobile-friendliness– Check your website analytics to determine the frequency in which your mobile visitors use the existing calendar or events listing on the site.  In most cases, it is one of the most frequently used areas of the site for mobile visitors, other than “Maps & Directions,” so you’ll need to take special care to make sure it is usable on multiple mobile devices and screen sizes.  Even if you can’t invest in a complete responsive design at this time, be sure to plan for the calendar to be usable on mobile devices. For example, Beacon customized Hannon Hill’s base calendar to be responsive and display events in the most appropriate layout for the screen size being used by the visitor for University of the Virgin Island’s calendar.
  • Room scheduling– Consider if your web-based calendar should also integrate closely with a room scheduling or other back-office system.  If so, it is much easier to plan for that integration at the outset of the project rather than afterwards.  Beacon assisted the University of Hartford, for example, with an integration with CollegeNet’s scheduling software as well as Framingham State University’s integration with Active Data Calendar.
  • Ability to submit events– Will your website visitors be able to submit their own events for display on the website calendar (perhaps after moderation and review)?  If so, be sure to evaluate whether the selected calendar software can accommodate such functionality.  As reference, the University of the Virgin Islands’ “Submit Event” form offers this functionality by automatically creating a Cascade asset/page for review and approval by an administrator, when the form is submitted by the public visitor.
  • Categories and filtering– Many website calendars, particularly for schools/colleges/universities and large companies that have many events per month, need to provide the end user with a way to display just the categories that they are interested in, as well to filter for a particular audience (students, faculty, customers, etc.).  The University of the Virgin Islands calendar allows the visitor to filter by category and audience, as well as to display a printable PDF format.
  • Calendar display/layout– Traditionally calendars are displayed in a month “grid” view like the one at the University of the Virgin Islands, but that’s not always the most appropriate layout for the number or types of events.  Smaller companies and schools with fewer events per month may prefer a “list” layout like Lees McRae College or Winston-Salem State, where more events can be listed on one screen without using the grid format.
  • Search-ability— Be sure to consider whether the calendar will be searchable via traditional search engines as you will most likely want the public to be able to search Google, Bing, etc. to find your events.  Search engine robots are often unable to scan dynamic or very long URLs, so calendars that use physical pages (like the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s calendar) versus database query strings are often more “search engine friendly”.

Do you have a particularly great website calendar to share?  Did you have any special challenges in creating a web-based calendar?  Please share your experiences below!

6 01, 2014

How to Successfully Crash a Project

By | 2017-06-16T13:07:18+00:00 January 6th, 2014|Categories: Web Development|Tags: |

Anticipating problems is a large part of what it takes to be a Project Manager. Every now and again, a problem is big enough that you’ll have to crash the project (add additional resources to meet the deadline). It isn’t something that should be done lightly, as its effects can reach beyond the project team to the entire company and even other clients. My next post will be about when it’s appropriate to crash a project, but in the mean time, let’s focus on how to do it.

If you read my post a few months back about Finding the Critical Path, then you already know which activities will affect the project deadline. When you want to crash a project, you must add resources to one of the activities on the critical path. Your focus is to reduce the number in the duration cell. Keep in mind that duration refers to real-time to completion of that activity and not working hours. Working hours may actually go up when you crash a project because new resources will need time to get up to speed.

First, identify the activity you want to crash. Focus on doing one at a time, and I’ll tell you why later.

Look for:

  • A larger activity that can support more resources
  • A fairly common activity that doesn’t require high specialization
  • A task that can be completed modularly

Once you’ve selected the task, figure out which resources will fit and assign them. Make sure you have open communication with your current team to make them aware of the change and why it’s happening. You especially want to give a heads up to the person whose activity is being crashed to give them a chance to prepare assignments for the new members.

Now you must come up with a new duration number for your critical path chart. Let’s start with the example from my earlier article:

CPM-chart-step7

Say we crashed Activity G, so instead of taking 60 hours (or 7.5 days to complete), it will take 30 hours. Let’s plug in the new number and rework the chart a little. You’ll have to redo all the late start numbers to make sure they match up. cpm-crashed We’ve successfully crashed the project, so the time to completion went from 244 hours to 214 hours (we shaved off just under 4 working days). But now we see that we have a new critical path. Activity G is no longer on the path, but Activity H is now. That is why we crash one activity at a time, there is a new critical path. If we tried crashing multiple activities at once, we might be crashing activities that are no longer critical, and thus there would be no impact on the overall project deadline. Similarly, Activity H may now be a prime candidate for crashing, whereas before, it didn’t matter.

20 12, 2013

Holiday Gifts for Web Developers

By | 2017-06-16T12:20:14+00:00 December 20th, 2013|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , , |

Holiday WreathSeason’s greetings from Beacon! Today I’ve got a couple handy gifts that can help solve some tricky web development problems.

First lets unwrap how you can calculate line height on a client’s machine. This can be helpful when trying to truncate a block of text to not be more than say 3 lines tall. In order to do this across various browsers, devices, and zoom settings you need to see exactly how the font is rendered to the screen. To test this you need to sacrifice a chicken… sort of. See below:

You may have to add certain styling rules to the chicken if you want to measure a certain kind of font or what have you, but that’ll be different for each implementation. Now that you have that you can use whatever method you choose to measure individual line lengths to fit your container and still truncate properly, but one way I recommend is by initially truncating your string to the minimum character count that can fit in your area (like in a string with nothing but apostrophes) and then truncating by removing whole words until the element height is equal to 3 * lineHeight.

Lets see if there’s anything else to unwrap… Oh look here, have you ever wanted to post a javascript object (or array of objects) to your code behind and maybe pass the data along to the database? Did you know that by simply adding an empty asp control that uses postbacks that the page will come pre-equipped with a javascript function that allows you to do just that? Simply add this on your design file:

and suddenly you’ll notice that this function is defined on your page “__doPostBack” and with it you can post data directly to the back end. By calling the function with a target and an argument like this:

your data will be passed to this snippet on the back end:

In my example the javascript variable “myData” is a json array, and the vb.net type “MyDataObject” is a structure with matching properties so that the entire array can be quickly digested by the vb.net code. This also works in C#, though you’ll have to update the syntax.

I hope these gifts help you as you develop your own, hopefully festive, websites. Until our next festive update, Happy Holidays!

16 12, 2013

Holyoke Gas & Electric Redesign Launched!

By | 2016-11-21T18:18:11+00:00 December 16th, 2013|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , , , , |

Beacon Technologies is very proud to announce the launch of the new Cascade site for Holyoke Gas & Electric at http://www.hged.com! This site is visually a dramatic improvement over the old.

BEFORE

homepage

Holyoke Gas & Electric Website “Before”

AFTER

Holyoke Home Page After

Holyoke Home Page “After”

It also incorporates the following fantastic functionally:

  • Responsive Design— The new site is a lovely, colorful responsive design, that looks great in the largest monitor and the smallest phone
  • Audience-based site maps—When a visitor clicks on one of the audience based icons in the site footer (like “Residential”), they are directed to an audience-based site map (http://www.hged.com/site-map/residential.aspx), displaying the pages that the client has tagged as relevant to that audience within the CMS.
  • Emergency Notifications—Two different messaging options to alert customers. One is for severe emergencies and pops up in an ajax window on every page of the site and the other is a banner message that doesn’t require visitor interaction but appears on every page of the site. There’s even a very cool animation effect for the emergency message when it is in effect.
  • Google Translate—Easy to access Google translate widget in the footer of every page of the site
  • Weather feed—Weather related info for the Holyoke area displayed from a 3rd party tool in the site footer. Note the effort devoted to make it match the site design perfectly!
  • Call to Action buttons—Editable buttons that display on the home and optionally on any interior page under the left navigation.
  • Contact Information—Editable contact information that can be displayed on any internal page under the left column navigation (http://www.hged.com/customers/start-stop-move/default.aspx)
  • Optional right column area—All internal pages can display an optional right column that includes widgets for content, images, videos or external links (http://hged.com/about/history/default.aspx)
  • Internal animated banner images— Can be incorporated on any internal page on the site (http://www.hged.com/telecom/default.aspx)
  • Department-specific design—One department at HGE required an alternate, but similar, design for marketing purposes and it can be seen here: http://www.hged.com/telecom/default.aspx
  • Google Map integration—Client can enter location details into Cascade to display an interactive Google map (http://www.hged.com/about/contact-us/delivery-instructions.aspx)
  • Custom “calculators”—These two pages are custom .NET forms that allow the visitor to calculate their own energy costs– http://www.hged.com/customers/save-energy-money/energy-efficiency/carbon-foorprint-calculator.aspx and http://www.hged.com/customers/services/gas-service/gas-conversion/default.aspx
  •  Spectate integration—Any internal page can display a Spectate-based online form as created and maintained by the client (http://www.hged.com/about/contact-us/default.aspx)
  • Web and social media tracking– The site makes extensive use of web and social media tracking tools so that the client can be well informed of all client interaction with the site.

The client is just thrilled with the beautiful site– “Everyone here at HG&E is so very excited about this project! The design is amazing, the CMS is great, I have had very positive feedback from all our employees!”  Congrats to the entire Beacon team for a job well done!

 

 

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