The Background

Beacon is an e-health service provided and managed by the Centre for Mental Health Research (CMHR) at the Australian National University (ANU). This Web-based platform serves as the definitive dissemination portal for reputable online and mobile resources in the field of e-mental health treatment.

The Beacon Web portal was originally conceived by Professor Helen Christensen as a new service within the ANU’s existing e-hub (self-help programs for mental health & wellbeing). The goal of the portal is to offer a place for mental health professionals and consumers alike to interact with high quality (authoritative) information on expert-reviewed mental health resources.

Agile Digital was engaged by the CMHR to develop the technology platform to power this service. Design partners CRE8IVE undertook the branding and design elements of the project. Agile Digital has continued to work with ANU CMHR over the past several years in updating and extending this important resource.

The Mission

The Agile Digital software engineers were to design and deliver a software system that would be integrated into the ANU’s highly regarded e-hub offering. As such it would leverage a PHP and open-source technology stack suitable for deployment in the CHMR’s existing production infrastructure. This custom online resource portal was specified to operate on a 24/7 basis providing secured access to both administrators and to the general public.

The Approach

Beacon was built using the CakePHP rapid web development framework using PostgreSQL for the database solution. The Apache2 web server was deployed to host the web site along with the mod_rewrite plug-in to enable SEO friendly URLs. Advanced JavaScript frameworks have been leveraged to power an interactive user experience. In particular, these supported various Ajax style operations (such as the jQuery Star Rating plugin which was integrated to capture the user captured ratings of e-mental health websites). The entire platform operates on the Linux operating system.

Software engineers Joel Pearson and Stefan Schneider-Kennedy aimed to implement fast and accessible access to Beacon’s core services, serving both information about treatments available for a given disorder, and detailed information on specific service providers.


Beacon has been in operation since October of 2009. By 2012 over 300 online resources have been evaluated and profiled, with 122 focusing on physical health or wellbeing, 40 targeting anxiety, and 23 targeting depression.

This high-quality and publicly accessible resource now stands as a definitive online portal for locating and assessing e-mental health treatments.

The portal was officially launched by Senator Kate Lundy at Parliament House Canberra in October 2009.

The Agile Digital team is fantastic, engaged, creative and unerringly professional. They listen closely and proactively, report in great detail, and I feel it’s very much a partnership. They adopt an agile development strategy, which is how we like to work as well. I’ve really enjoyed working with them and would recommend them in a heartbeat.”

Kylie Bennett, E-hub Development Manager, ANU Centre for Mental Health Research

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