30 06, 2015

Higher Ed Sites: Understanding Your Most Common Target Audiences, Part I: The Millennial

By | 2017-07-20T08:46:52+00:00 June 30th, 2015|Categories: Digital Marketing|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Designing Higher Ed Web Sites for StudentsAll websites have at least one challenge in common:  They all have a target audience, and the success – or demise – of their site rests heavily on how well their site ‘speaks’ to that particular demographic.

But wait – let’s back up to the beginning! First, let’s understand what a target audience really is:  To put it simply, a target audience is a particular group of people that have been identified as the deliberate recipient of advertising or messaging relating to a product or service a brand is ‘selling’. Given this definition, higher education sites face a hefty challenge – they generally have 6-7 unique targets for one web site! The following are the typical categories:  Prospective students, current students, prospective parents, current parents, faculty and staff, alumni and donors.

In this series, we will cover some of the key considerations a higher education web site should incorporate to attract each audience most effectively.

First, let’s visit prospective and current students, who the majority of them today are categorized as Millennials. Today’s Millennial is technologically savvy, so developing a responsive site is a must, especially considering that the average Millennial interacts the majority of their time on a smart phone. They tend to have a very high sense of urgency and if they aren’t satisfied with their findings on your higher education site in 1-2 clicks, they will likely bail and go somewhere else. Asking questions via surveys or focus groups prior to higher ed web development will help to ensure you are answering their searching needs. This generation is intensely social (at least via social media channels!) and they look to their peers for advice or referrals. Millennials trust their friends much more so than any other marketing tactic employed today, so the use of testimonials, videos and reviews on your site greatly impacts their perception of the school. In conjunction with their social nature, Millennials love to engage, contribute to content and broadcast their own thoughts. Sites that have boldly incorporated a full social media feed, such as Nazareth College for example, are perfecting that channel as it relates to this audience. Higher Ed UX DesignInterestingly enough, 26% of all Millennials rank Twitter as their number one social media platform, and 59% of all Millennials currently have a Twitter account. Many Millennials have been ‘awarded’ their entire lives so the use of game-like elements with corresponding ‘rewards’ resonates with this demographic. For example, Saint Joseph’s University incorporates “+” symbols that allow the viewer to interact in a game-like way to learn more. Lastly, this audience also visits your site to get a sense of the experience they will have while attending. Ensuring your site a) reflects your school’s brand and b) visually feels modern and ‘real’ and c) demonstrates through photography student’s life-experiences will all help to convince this group that your offering fits their needs.

So let’s recap:

  1. Responsive design
  2. Listen to understand their needs
  3. Use testimonials, videos and reviews
  4. Up-to-date social media feeds – notably via Twitter
  5. Game-like elements with corresponding rewards
  6. Visuals reflect the brand and personality of the school

While surveys are paramount in understanding any audience – and keeping in mind that each school is not ‘cookie-cutter,’ these six points will help most higher education sites start their develop on the right foot and most effectively target today’s prospective and current students.

1 04, 2015

What is UX and Why Does it Matter for Your Customers?

By | 2016-11-22T09:56:54+00:00 April 1st, 2015|Categories: Creative Design|Tags: , , , |

User experience (or UX) can be a little difficult to define because it describes not only a professional practice but also the results of that practice. The concepts behind user experience have been around for a very long time but the term itself has only been around since the 90s. In the mid 20th century Henry Dreyfuss wrote –

“when the point of contact between the product and people becomes a point of friction, then the industrial designer has failed. On the other hand, if people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient – or just plain happier – by contact with the product, then the designer has succeeded.”


User experience puts science and research behind the design of products and services to improve the quality of the experience a user has with that product. Methods are used to discover what the user needs and to ensure that the final end product or service meets those needs in a manner the minimizes friction and maximizes pleasure. Deliverables are created through the UX process but they are not the end goal. It is more important to perform quality research to develop a true understanding of the needs of the user.

UX encompases a lot of factors including:

At Beacon, we always like to compare the web design and development process to building a house. User experience design is like creating the blueprints. First you have to find out what type of people will live in the building. You have to understand their needs and gather knowledge about them and about the neighborhood in order to get a better understanding of what type of house you should build. If you think of UX as the house plan, graphical design would be the equivalent of choosing the flooring, paint, and fixtures. Development is the ultimate construction process, and testing is the building inspection and walk through.

The most important skill of a UX researcher is knowing how to listen. There is no set of best practices that get robotically implemented – each project is unique and requires solutions that are reflective of the real needs and problems to be solved. The end result is the creation of a product that delights users and also functions well which can result in improved conversion rates, greater numbers of users, and ultimately a higher return on investment.


11 04, 2014

How To Make The Most Out Of Your Web Design

By | 2020-01-29T16:03:39+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 23 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!