22 07, 2011

Beacon Technologies Through the Eyes of an Intern – Week 10

By | 2017-08-11T16:07:39+00:00 July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , , , , , , |

Well sadly, this is my last blog post at Beacon.  It’s been a great 10 weeks.  I really have enjoyed my time here.  Looking back, I can’t think of anything negative to say about my experience.  I want to take the chance to kind of do a recap of my time here.

When I came in the first day, I will admit that I was pretty nervous.  I hadn’t really had a lot of exposure to the kind of work that Beacon does so well.  I knew what most of the terms were from talking to a friend of mine who has been doing similar work.  However, the WMS team here helped me learn the skills I needed.  Everyone took time to show me how to do certain tasks and helped me with understanding the clients I worked on as well as what needed to be done for each client.  As the weeks have gone by, I have grown more confident in doing SEO work, managing social media campaigns, and working with PPC campaigns.  I know that I still have a lot to learn in these areas, but Beacon has given me a strong foundation on which to build.

I know that people traditionally think of internships as being filled with a lot of grunt work.  Getting coffee, running errands, doing tasks that no one else wants to do themselves.  That is far from the case here at Beacon.  As you can tell if you have been following my blog posts thus far, I have been an equal member of the WMS team.  I have shared the same responsibilities as everyone else.  I’ve done the same tasks for my clients as they did for their clients.  Often times, interns don’t get to offer advice and feedback during meetings as it is intended that they learn by watching.  Again, this is not the case at Beacon.  The WMS team meets weekly to brainstorm ideas for clients as well as share interesting articles or other helpful information and tools.  The leading of the meetings rotates each week and regardless of the fact that I am an intern, I led the meeting twice during my time here.  I also contributed equally with the team as much as possible.  I will admit that I often did sit back and listen during meetings.  I know that I do not have nearly the amount of knowledge or experience in this field, and as such I wanted to try to learn as much as possible when everyone was together sharing ideas.

Looking back, I have gained a lot of valuable experience.  There are several tasks and projects that I was able to work on and contribute to during the 10 weeks.  I can honestly say that anyone who is looking for an internship should consider Beacon.  The atmosphere, company culture, and employees all lend themselves to a great work environment.

Thank you to everyone here!  It’s been a great experience and I have learned a lot from you all.

13 04, 2011

Backgrounds made easy!

By | 2020-02-05T11:03:04+00:00 April 13th, 2011|Categories: Web Development, Creative Design|Tags: , , , , , |

When working on a new web site design, I often have projects where a client is interested in having a nice background pattern or texture as a part of their design. I recently found a great tool that makes background images extremely easy:


With this tool, you can choose a background texture, image pattern, foreground color, and background color. You can adjust the opacity of the image pattern, scale the image pattern to change the amount of spacing between the pattern repeat, and rotate the pattern.

You can preview the background image and continue to tweak it. Once you have the look you want, just click the download button, and you will get repeatable .png.

It’s so easy! I <3 this tool!

7 02, 2011

Notes from the field.

By | 2020-01-29T15:04:13+00:00 February 7th, 2011|Categories: Ecommerce|Tags: , , , , |

I attended a Webinar hosted by Vortx recently and had a chance to learn a few things that can affect conversions of shoppers.

1. 75% of shoppers use the search box to find products. They pointed out that the top 10 e-tailers all have the same style search box: a long narrow search box prominently displayed in the header.

2. You have 7 seconds to impact a shopper with the product detail, after that they will typically go to another product.

3. There are 3 main pieces of information shopper want to see quickly:

  • Product Image
  • Product Description
  • Pricing/ Add to Cart

These items need to be clearly defined and prominent. Add to Cart button should be above the fold and use a color scheme to draw the eye to it.

4. The use of tabs is fading, major e-tailers are no longer using them to convey information.

28 12, 2010

University Projects Continue to Stack Up

By | 2017-02-21T12:22:53+00:00 December 28th, 2010|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , |

Beacon continues to provide website design and development for several universities through newly signed projects for customized enhancements and new features.  These Cascade Server CMS projects are:

Rollins UniversityThe University of HartfordFramingham State

27 12, 2010

How does your website look on mobile phones?

By | 2017-02-21T11:33:14+00:00 December 27th, 2010|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , |

Have you ever wondered how your current website looks on a mobile phone browser? Well, the chances are it won’t look pretty unless, you designed the site to work on mobile phones. In order to see what it would look like, you can pull it up on any cellphone  or you can go to Opera Mini Simulator. There are also other emulators on the web similar to Opera Mini that can show you how a site will look on a mobile browser.

Here is a screenshot of a page that’s optimized for mobile phone browsers (notice how the text is readable without zooming in):

Wikipedia Mobile

Here is the same page but without any optimization:

Wikipedia Full

Which one would you prefer?

If you still aren’t convinced that you need a mobile site, here are a few reasons that might help:

  • There are around 4.6 billion cell phone users worldwide
  • 1 out of 5 Americans access the web from their mobile phones each day
  • “$1.6 billion purchased from mobile devices in 2009″
  • “Mobile advertising spending will surpass $6.5 billion in 2012”

Don’t wait any longer and start creating a mobile-friendly site today.

18 12, 2010

Smith Millwork Site Launch

By | 2017-02-23T16:55:29+00:00 December 18th, 2010|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , , |

Smith Millwork

Beacon announces the launch of the new Smith Millwork website using AspDotNetStorefront.  The goal of the redesign was to provide the web customer (which could be a home owner or builder) with a simple way to browse products, product images and manufacturers and give Smith Millwork the ability to maintain as much of the site as possible. This is a “catalog site” in that customers will not use the site to purchase items, only to browse the selection and imagery and then contact the office for ordering/purchase.  The client is excited with the new site and is looking forward to advertising at several upcoming builder’s shows.

Items of note for this project are:

  • Creative design:  intuitive, custom “look and feel” using the customer’s existing print collateral
  • Product data:  unable to automate the product data load from their catalog, Beacon setup all of the client’s products manually.
  • Product images:  multiple rounds of image manipulation produced crisp, clear images of the products.
  • Maintenance:  The client is in full control of the product data and images using ASPDNSF administrative functions.

Manufacturers:  The client can manage and maintain the list of manufacturers that they work with.

3 12, 2010

How to Increase Conversions for E-commerce Websites

By | 2016-11-22T10:20:46+00:00 December 3rd, 2010|Categories: Digital Marketing|Tags: , , |

Having great products does not always ensure that they will sell on a websites.  Listed below are some best practices to  guide your visitors in the right direction.  Remember that your e-commerce site is not an online catalog, but rather a place for visitors to learn more about your company and to engage with your products  interactively.  In order for any company  to sell merchandise or a concept on the web, demonstrating credibility and earning trust are absolutely essential.  Visitors are most comfortable when they believe asite is secure and/or offers an excellent warranty; therefore, such information should be highly visible.Building trust from better known brands through testimonials and such are also effective measures and make visitors feel that much safer..   For most e-commerce websites, the three most important types of pages are the homepage, the category pages, and the product detail page.

Best Practices for the Homepage

  • Remember: the primary purpose of your homepage is to provide a means for visitors to navigate themselves.
  • Do not develop the entire site in flash.
  • Do not provide too many choices for customers.
  • Do not bog crowd the page with too many promotions that distract visitors, and  do not make the primary focus rely too heavily on one product’s promotion if the company carries several lines. This advice is to prevent visitors from becoming confused and/or distracted; consequently, they may neglect to view the full line of products and such. A good example would involve sales of clothing for the entire family, but having only one image of boys’ jeans listed on sale. Better conversions would occur if new new visitors could easily identify that the product line extends beyond boys’ denim; the visitor can find items for the entire family.

Best Practices for the Category Pages

  • People tend to process images seven times faster than they do words, so use images to divide your categories or different product lines within your categories.
  • Try not to place  too much content on these pages; save it for the product detail pages.

Best Practices for the Product Detail Pages

  • Make sure there is a clear call to action.
  • Provide enough detail for customers to feel comfortable about purchasing products on the spot.
  • Use high quality images
  • Take advantage of social pushes (the Facebook “like” buttons, a share button, etc) to move items infectiously by gaining exposure with large numbers of viewers.
  • Though users are more comfortable using their scroll bars, 76% of all clicks are still above the fold; therefore, make sure to position major calls to action above the fold.
1 12, 2010

Beacon Completes More Projects

By | 2020-02-04T15:26:58+00:00 December 1st, 2010|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , |

University of Houston News Releases

The University of Houston is a new Cascade Server client of ours.  The entire university’s site is in Cascade, and they contracted with us to enhance the News Releases function to include the following:

·  Ability to add images with captions to the news detail pages.

·  Addition of article categories and authors.

·  Redesign the listing page (http://www.uh.edu/news-events/archive.php) to list stories by year and month using a collapsible function.  A new search feature was also installed, integrated with their Google Mini search appliance.

·  New category listing pages that allows U of H to create a page that only displays stories tagged with certain categories.

·  Modification to the display of the news stories on the homepage.

·  Addition of RSS feeds, including a full listing and an RSS listing for each category (http://www.uh.edu/rss)

Thanks to Tiffany May for handling this very complicated implementation like a pro, Justin Klingman for the great Project Management and Tracy Dirks also deserves a world of credit for getting the project off the ground.

Sealy Mattress Promotion

Beacon teamed up with G-Force Marketing (here in Greensboro) and Sealy (some of you sleep on them) to build a Sealy Mattress Promotion site, where potential customers can use a dealer locator that we created. The reward for filling out the form (at the moment) is a $300 coupon towards a mattress. The user can search by zip code or city to find a dealer nearest them, and thanks to fancy AJAX, can easily sort the search results.  G-Force can log into an Admin section to maintain the list of dealers and upload their logos.

24 11, 2010

Pre-launch testing

By | 2020-02-04T10:30:45+00:00 November 24th, 2010|Categories: Cascade CMS|Tags: , , |

I’ve spent the last two weeks system testing a large ecommerce site that we are about to launch.  Testing is a vitally important phase of a project here at Beacon and something we don’t take at all lightly!  We usually build a minimum oftwo weeks into the time line for internal testing and two weeks for client testing, if the project plan can possibly accommodate it.

Don’t forget the following steps when doing your own site testing:

  • Test in multiple browsers— It is not good enough to view the site in the browser that you, or your developers, most prefer.  You MUST view the site as your customers will see it, and unfortunately different browsers (and versions of browsers!!) can produce massively different results.  Based on current browser statistics, Beacon currently system tests the entire site in Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 2, Firefox 3, Opera and Safari.  Though Beacon tests the site with actual installs of each browser on separate computers, you can also consider using a browser emulator like Spoon.net, though be aware that the simulations aren’t always “perfect”.  For even more info on cross-browser compliance testing, please see my co-worker’s blog on the subject.
  • Test the site without Flash enabled— If your site uses Flash animation at all, you need to test how it will function without that plug-in enabled.  All Flash players should display a static image and warning to download Flash if it is disabled or an older version.
  • Test the site without JavaScript enabled— If JavaScript is required for your site to function correctly (make sure search engine bots will still be able to crawl it!), at least inform the visitor with a message if the browser detects that it is disabled.  javascript message
  • Test the print view of the site— It is always helpful to the visitor that wants to print a page of your site, if you provide them with a “print-friendly” view that doesn’t waste a lot of ink and paper on navigation, background images, etc. that they won’t need in a printed copy.
  • Make sure the logo in the site-wide header links to the home page– This has become an industry standard but is sometimes forgotten
  • Check for accessibility (minimally alt tags on all images) and 508 compliance, if required– Not all sites require these standards, but don’t abandon visitors that use non-traditional methods of browsing the web (like screen-readers)!  Use http://www.w3.org/WAI/ and http://www.section508.gov/ as guides.
  • Check to see if the order of tab entry in forms makes sense— Not all customers will use their mouse to click through a form.  Make sure that if they choose to use the “tab” key to navigate from field to field, that the order makes sense.
  • Make sure all external links and PDF files open in a new browser window– Don’t you hate it when you finally find the info you need on a site in a PDF and when you are done reading it and close, the site disappears?  Prevent this by always opening links to other sites and internal PDF files in a new browser window so that your site stays open in the background.

With these tips and, most importantly, devoting time and effort to testing, I hope that you will have a very successful site launch!


11 11, 2010

Go Excellence Resorts and Go Secrets Resorts Site Launches

By | 2016-11-21T17:52:30+00:00 November 11th, 2010|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , , , , , |

Beacon is proud to announce the launch of two micro-sites for A Way to Go Travel.  The client is a full service, award winning travel agency that has been in business for over 15 years. The new sites feature basic information on specific Excellence and Secrets resorts, quote forms, news, specials and testimonials. Along with website design and development, Beacon also provides hosting services for both sites.

Click on the images to visit Go Excellence Resorts and Go Secrets Resorts.

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