6 09, 2019

Output HTML Syntax Characters from RSS Feeds to Preview Correctly for Cascade

By | 2019-09-06T09:25:33+00:00 September 6th, 2019|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , , |

This applies to Cascade Velocity formats. If you’ve ever had to pull in content through an external feed that has rich HTML, this piece of code may help you. Sometimes you may see HTML tags or code output into the content of the page. Such as, <Content goes here.>.

This code will take the HTML syntax you would like to replace and output as standard HTML tags, so that when a user looks at the page, it’s properly formatted for them using the HTML provided in the feed.

With this code you can continue to add or daisy chain replaceAll code, as needed.

Example code to update:

$_SerializerTool.serialize($departmentContent, true).replaceAll(“&lt;”, “<“).replaceAll(“&gt;”, “>”)

16 01, 2018

Hannon Hill Introduces an Accessibility Plugin

By | 2018-01-18T12:24:14+00:00 January 16th, 2018|Categories: Beacon News, Cascade CMS|Tags: , , |

As if security and dependability were not reason enough to use Hannon Hill’s Cascade CMS, its newest, innovative plugin makes it a must for Higher Ed, business and content creators of all kinds.

Teaming with Siteimprove, Hannon Hill has introduced a great new plugin that checks for content and accessibility issues as part of the editing process. Unique to Cascade 8.7, it is a significant step forward as the user can identify and correct accessibility issues as soon as the page is published (and before your legal team hears from unhappy site users).

This new plugin makes it easier for content creators and editors to add and check new content with greater efficiency. In addition to accessibility issues, the new plugin also cross-checks spelling, broken links, SEO and more. It’s a comprehensive plugin that one should never have to do without.

In conjunction with Hannon Hill’s Accessibility Webinar, this new plugin gives you everything you need to stay on top of your content issues – especially for those who have had to grapple with vague and hard to find accessibility issues. The aforementioned webinar, scheduled for Feb 8, emphasizes the front end of the process including key maintenance strategies, planning for new site elements and considering accessibility in everything you do. Sign up HERE.

For Cascade users, it’s Christmas in January thanks to Hannon Hill and Siteimprove.

10 02, 2015

Cascade Server Help and Training Resources

By | 2017-08-07T16:00:13+00:00 February 10th, 2015|Categories: Cascade CMS|Tags: , , |

Those that have worked with Beacon Technologies on Cascade Server projects know that our experienced staff is available for “as needed” content management help through our Preferred Client Services department as well as for customized training sessions and user manuals specific to the site designed for your organization. However, did you know that Hannon Hill, the developers of Cascade server, also offer a wide variety of training and help resources? Here are a few that you might find helpful:

Hope you find these resources helpful and please add your own in the comments below!

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!

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.



Holyoke Gas & Electric Website “Before”


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!



1 03, 2011

Website Redesign using Cascade Server, March 8th Webinar

By | 2020-02-05T10:56:36+00:00 March 1st, 2011|Categories: Cascade CMS|Tags: , , |

Beacon Technologies is very excited to be hosting an upcoming webinar in collaboration with Hannon Hill, makers of the award winning Cascade Server CMS (Content Management Software).

Are you considering a Site Redesign in 2011 or 2012?  If so, please join us March 8, 2011 from 2 to 3 pm EST.

Redesign projects can be a very challenging and an extremely vital project to the success of your organization.

Beacon has the expertise to support your project from start to finish.  We can help you with the consulting & analysis, requirements gathering & documentation, project management, steering committee engagement, site structure & layout, graphical design, development, content migration, testing, implementation, hosting, support, maintenance, marketing, analytics and upgrades.

We have been managing these types of Cascade Server Redesign projects for the past 6 years.

Beacon knows how to get the job done on-schedule and on-budget.

So please join us for a 30 minute presentation followed up with 30 minutes of Q&A.

Hannon Hill press release: http://www.hannonhill.com/news/blog/2011/Webinar-Hosted-By-Beacon-Technologies.html

16 02, 2011

5 Years Worth of WWW Evolution

By | 2017-08-15T16:10:59+00:00 February 16th, 2011|Categories: Cascade CMS|Tags: , , , |

I just got back from a meeting in New Jersey with one of our long-term client (going on 11 years).  We launched their site in 2000, and did a full redesign and Cascade Server implementation for them in 2006. Now, in addition to online billing and account management enhancements, they want to do a redesign of their five Web sites.

One of my tasks was to present ideas for improvements to their sites in order to bring them into this decade. Admittedly, I had a hard time finding things that needed fixing since in 2006, Beacon did really great job on the redesign, and this client has done a fantastic job of keeping the site looking very professional and modern. While they’re not looking for a start-from-scratch redesign (just a “face lift”), it got me thinking about ways that the Web has evolved in the last five years. Below is a comparison chart that, in my opinion, is what Web development was like “back then”, and the way it is now.

Circa 2006 How it is Today
Most popular browsers: Internet Explorer 6/7. Netscape is still around, but losing market share. Firefox and Safari are on the rise. Google Chrome is just a fleeting thought in the minds of billionaires. Internet Explorer 6 is virtually dead (thank goodness), and Internet Explorer 7 is walking towards the light. Firefox is now the most popular browser, and Google Chrome didn’t exist in 2006. Also, Internet Explorer 8 is all the rage (for those who accept what comes with their computers), and Internet Explorer 9 is in beta. Safari (and Firefox) rule the Mac world.
Everything must be “above the fold” (in the visible region without scrolling). If users couldn’t see it, they didn’t know it was down there. Users are much more Web savvy, and know that there’s more good stuff if you scroll down.
The smaller the font size, the more text you could fit “above the fold”, even though it was sometimes hard to read. Font sizes are getting much larger, thus allowing more users with sight issues to use the Web effectively.
Popups are a great way to highlight small pieces of information without the user leaving the parent page. I bet you have a popup blocker installed (I have two for comfort). Popups are being replaced by JavaScript/CSS-based overlay windows and IFRAMEs.
Web site visitors are willing to read the information you provide, and click several times to get where they’re going. The sheer fact that what they’re looking for exists on your site is perfect. On a functional Web site, if a user can’t quickly do what they came to do, they’re frustrated, or gone. Today, it’s imperative to get a user to where they’re going in 1-2 clicks.
Homepages are for showing off your company’s news, photos, and advertisements. The more stuff, the better (as long as it remains “above the fold”). Your homepage must grab a user’s attention and quickly provide them with access to what they came for (such as a login to manage their account). Only a few news stories are necessary, and a clean, uncluttered look is king.
Users are more willing to figure out how to do something on your site, like “Register for an Account”. This function could be buried on a Tier 2 page. Users are looking for those very simple, catchy phrases to guide them, such as “I want to…”, “I need help”, “Get Started”, “I am a… (consumer, business, etc.)”. Simplicity and fewer words are what attract users, who demand information and functionality quickly.
Your mobile phone is just that…a “phone” (though it may have a camera). It probably flips open and shut. If it has a Web browser, the sites it can bring up are few and far between. But who can even see a Web site on that tiny screen? I don’t know about you, but I’m addicted to my smartphone. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one (given the amount of people who were up at 3am a few nights ago to pre-order Verizon’s iPhone). There is extremely high demand for your Web site to show properly on a mobile device, including smartphones and tablets. Does your site have a mobile version?

Again, this is my perception of how it was, and how it is. Your opinion may differ. But the one thing I’m certain of is that Web sites need a refresh every so often to keep up with rapidly-changing browsers and standards, user demands, and the ever-evolving mobile world. And if you have a beautiful site now, it doesn’t have to take a complete re-do…just a face lift can fast forward your site to today.