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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

27 Aug 2015 10:52 AM
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Affino has been working with Nick, Katrina, Marc and Rachel of Humanity Direct for the better part of a year now, to update and improve its brand and site experience. Right from the start it was felt that the core branding needed updating to better reflect the values of the organisation. Much of Humanity Direct’s activities are focused on Africa, so we looked for graphical references and inspirations from that continent. Settling in the end on African poster art of the 50’s and 60’s - particularly ones that had been used to promote tourism in the various member countries - these were the most significant influencers in the branding process.

 

The resulting logo has very much a hand-made / hand-cut feel to it, and carries an appropriately rustic / organic colour palette. We experimented with a variety of different symbols before arriving at the hand-touching-hand ident in the final version. This was felt to best represent Humanity Direct’s hands-on and direct involvement approach.

 

 

The newly formed logo then had an enormous impact on the site look and feel as it’s colours were extrapolated to that framework, and worked in to duo-tones on much of the photography. We were also asked to prepare an ad for Runner’s World - which you can see below. This took the slogan ’Choose Life’ evolving from the process onsite - where you choose directly who to benefit, as 100% of your donation goes to life-changing operations for one or more personally selected candidates / patients - you choose exactly who benefits and how much.

 

 

In the wake of what happened to Kids Company, it is more important than ever for charities to be fully transparent, and totally accountable to their fundraisers. Humanity Direct is pretty unique in being wholly staffed by proper volunteers - meaning that every last penny donated goes directly to the cause - nothing is subtracted for any reason. You can clearly see the cost of the operation - per patient, and the money goes direct from you to the hospital or clinic to fund whichever operation the patient requires to improve their life. Many of these operations are life-savers, where no national health service exists, and there’s a cost to the most routine of procedures. The infant mortality rates are still way too high for Africa, and something as

... Humanity Direct Rebranding and Replatforming Enhances Stature
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

26 Aug 2015 5:26 PM
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It used to be that Tagging content was a key part of SEO, and ’Dublin Core’ format Meta Tags were very much in evidence on all leading websites. Over the last few years though, the search engines upped and changed their algorithms to do away with Meta Tags and Meta Descriptions, and so for many, the habit of categorising and tagging up content fell out of practice.

 

For our digital business platform Affino though, Tagging has remained a core element, even as its purpose has shifted and changed. We still find that the discipline of categorising, grouping and organising your content is essential for the ongoing viability of your site. All content exists to serve a particular purpose and a specific target audience. At the top level, Content Tags or ’Topics’ as we call them, are used for two key purposes:

 


Navigation & Filtering

 

Applying Topics / Tags to content identifies the type / category, location and purpose of content. It places it within a hierarchical taxonomy, which in the best cases mirrors the organisational structure of the site to a large degree. Even when tags are no longer used by search engines, they are an essential part of site organisation and can be used to filter down and target specific content on the site. They can also identify additional characteristics of content - whether it is ’sponsored’ (Native Advertising) or has some other key attributes and / or specifc usage requirements.

 


Preferences & Personalisation

 

Once Topics / Tags have been applied for navigational / content identification purposes, those same categories can be used to apply Personalisation via User Preferences. The Topics are simply made a part of the Registration process / User Profile Update - so that users / customers can select their key interest areas at any time. Depending on how you set up your website, these preferences can then be applied as either automatic or manual filters. When using Affino, the same filters apply to Affino’s Campaigns and Messaging - meaning you have a totally targeted and personalised environment on a per-user basis on and off-site.

 


The new style of SEO means that site structure is increasingly important (Headings), along with Keyword reinforcement and repetition. This means having a clearly delineated Topic Map which punctuates the

... The Importance of Content Categorisation and Tagging
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

20 Aug 2015 9:58 AM
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With the recent ongoing milk crisis, Farming in the UK is a hot subject at the moment. UK citizens though know relatively little about the typical daily activities of this major industry - which essentially feeds the nation and keeps us healthy and well-nourished day-by-day.

 

Farmers Guardian is the home of Farming in the UK, and is curating and live-blogging a series of events and activities over these next 24 hours - to give the nation a real insight into the daily goings-on of different farmers’ lives. ’24 Hours in Farming’ is essentially a Live Blog - which broadcasts events as they happen from 05:00 today through to 05:00 tomorrow.

 

It is still not too late for farmers to participate by tweeting with ’#farm24’, emailing to 24hours@fginsight.com or calling 01772 799401.

 

For all us others, it is a fantastic opportunity to support our farmers and follow their travails through this coverage. You need but hit the home page of FG Insight to catch what’s going one, with coverage also coming via Twitter and Facebook.

 

Support UK Farmers! Follow ’24 Hours in Farming’ & ’#farm24’!

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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

18 Aug 2015 12:55 AM
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After fielding a number of question this year about site security, alongside general strategic recommendations, Affino has just two areas we want everyone to focus on this year:

 


#1 - Make Everything HTTPS

 

It Used to be the case that only Login, Registration, Checkout and User Account Screens were secured with SSL Encryption. The current advice though is to apply SSL to the entirety of your site - every page.

 

Just as search engines started to give priority to responsive design sites, we believe that similar criteria will soon be employed for HTTPS vs HTTP (some say this is already happening). Yet that is the least of the reasons for why you would want to encrypt every page. Sure it adds to your hosting overheads a touch, and there may be just the tiniest impact on page upload speeds, but it is totally worth it for ensuring that your site is as safe as possible from hackers, JavaScript injections / cross-site scripting, and other forms of digital exploitation. You get additional peace of mind, and so do your customers when they see the HTTPS in their browser and the active certificate notices.

 


#2 - Go Responsive

 

We’ve been going on about this for the best part of 3 years now, and yes our own responsive site is coming along nicely, it’s just that we’re inundated with other more pressing work at the moment, although we do hope to go live with our new site near as possible to the start of September.

 

We all know that that the major search engines are penalising non-responsive sites, and that if you care about SEO, then responsive is something that has to be done. Also if you wish to have an ongoing dialogue with your customers, you had better be targeting them via the only device that is always within reach. For some, the solution is to roll out Native Apps, but that requires a whole lot more work, and you still don’t guarantee that your customers will necessarily download your App. What you can guarantee is that nearly everyone now has a smartphone, with a browser - this same device is being checked an average of 100 times per day (Pew Research Group). Irrespective of whether your customers mostly buy or work from their desktops, there will be times during their working days, and away from their desks, when they will want to connect via their mobile devices, so you better provide them

... Shape Up and Lock Down Your Sites!
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

17 Aug 2015 9:56 AM
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I was born in the very last year of the 60’s and thus had the good fortune to live through three major evolutions of dance music. First came Disco in the mid to late 70’s and this was followed by synthesized dance music in the very early 80’s; the two would then combine and evolve in around 1983/84 to form the many flavours of House Music. I took dance lessons early - from around the age of 6, and after Saturday Night Fever, lived in the shadow of Tony Manero - I was that disco kid - I loved to dance, and above all I loved that dance music. To add to my good fortune, I started University in 1988 - the second summer of love, and the era of Acid House, orbital and warehouse raves. With university came DJ’ing - typically 3-4 slots a week for the next few years, and I started building my record collection for real.

 

Since I started amassing 12" records in ’88, the collection has grown to somewhere in the region of 10,000 currently - I frequently started the count, but never quite got to the end. Throughout these years, I have covered pretty much every sub-genre of House, from the noodliest jazziest deep house, through ravey breakbeats and the funkiest of vocal house to the hardest of techno. You may have read in one of my earlier blog posts that the new Apple Music update totally wiped all my iTunes / Music playlists and I had to build them all up again from scratch - all 350 of them. In fact much of this year has been taken up with building a variety of playlists, which is kind of what brought me around to doing this mammoth post. I though I would do a fairly quick overview of my collection - as much as a reference for me as for other fellow enthusiasts, and for those that are relatively new to House, or have a fairly superficial relationship to it so far, and would like a more solid grounding.

 

This is just the first draft really, and I expect it to be updated fairly frequently, I am pretty sure I must have overlooked something in all of this, even though I have kept on moving the goal-posts and adding more detail over this period of two weeks.

 

What we have here is a listing of the leading record labels that put out the various records I acquired, listed in order of significance to me - i.e. how many records / tracks from those labels do I have in my collection on a relative bar graph scale. Even though

... House Music Label Odyssey
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

06 Aug 2015 7:35 PM
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Most people have issues with email these days - too many messages, too much spam, too much malware, and too many important notices getting lost in the mix. For most commercial companies - email is still a significant part of the communications side of the operation. We have seen some significant inroads with social media messaging apps, but very few of these combine desktop notifications successfully with the more typical mobile device ones.

 

Every few years Mark Zuckerberg proclaims the death of email, yet much like the paperless office ideology, the particalities get in the way of the vision. As a customer service or ecommerce business, those request / order notifications are an essential part of the day-to-day business. With all these different messaging formats and competing platforms, there is still nothing really to challenge the dominance of email. For all its many faults and failings, it is still the only form of messaging sufficiently universal / capable to serve all the required purposes.

 

The very nature of emails requires using some often quite involved infrastructure - one or more email servers with secure gateways, to effectively spool, route and deliver all those necessary messages. Yet email servers can get congested and blocked off / up in several ways. Certain strange formatting or anomalous attachments can result in a batch of messages being quarantined or stalled on the server - even causing temporary stoppage of all email. The 3rd party nature of email servers, and the fact that a number of different companies make use of a single server, make for some very interesting times. It is the easiest thing in the world to erroneoulsy report email as spam, and get a mail-server blacklisted. Not all email customers are equally principled in their approach, and too many send copious amounts of unsolicited mail - using some suspect bought-in direct mailing lists.

 

A couple of our clients have had issues recently with receiving email from our email servers. This is usually because their own incoming mail servers have increasingly rigourous anti-spam protocols, many of which can unintentionally prevent the right sort of email from getting through.

 

It has become increasingly necessary for our clients to whitelist our email servers on their own receiving mail servers, and even on their personal desktop email clients.

... The Trouble with Email
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

31 Jul 2015 8:28 PM
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The average smartphone user has between 25 and 100 apps installed on their phone - I happen to have a rather more elaborate 253 currently. Regardless of numbers, the typical user only really uses 25 of those apps regularly. We have discussed the pros and cons of native apps versus responsive-design websites in the past - the key differences between browser bookmarks and stand-alone utilities.

 

In light of better privacy controls coming to browsers (e.g. Safari 9) - which allow users more and better control over their onsite experience - particularly when it comes to advertising, the question is ’have certain types of apps had their day’?

 

Recent news articles have highlighted issues with advertising concerning apps in two ways - firstly the use of interstitial apps on websites to encourage users to ’Download the App’ for a better experience. Secondly, there has been an enormous increase in advertising fraud within apps - where impressions are recorded, but no ads shown - costing the advertising industry millions per annum. Fraud detection firm Forensiq registered up to 20 unseen ads per minute, consuming 2GB of data per day, over a 10 day period. The truth in all of this is that ads are very much unwanted by consumers, an interruption and annoyance - which most would rather do without. There are so many tools and obstructions now for advertisers that the question is increasingly becoming whether the banner format has not just reached the end of its natural useful life, and needs to be replaced with something more congenial (like native advertising)?

 

For those who really don’t like ads then, it would seem preferable to simply block 3rd party cookies on your browser and go with the responsive version over the app. Apps themselves have become more and more devious over the years too, with most now relying on a plethora of different revenue streams, skewing very much in favour of in-app purchases as the primary means of funding. I personally have always preferred to have fixed / known costs, and would rather pay say £9.99 for a fixed cost app, rather than download something free with paid-for upgrades costing up to $100 a pop.

 

In view of what happened with Zynga and how many free + in-app payment scenarios ruined the playing experience of former best-selling games, it is most intriguing to

... Too Many Apps?
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

27 Jul 2015 9:14 AM
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Affino gets asked a lot to recommend and advise on Digital Business Personnel. Even though for most businesses the digital side is growing in significance - both in terms of business impact and revenue generation - very few companies have a dedicated digital department or division. Most companies re-utilise existing staff to a large degree, but only very loosely write new responsibilities into existing job descriptions. The digital realm is often designated as ’additional duties’, and frequently takes a secondary level of importance. Most companies are also relying on part-time, 3rd party and contract staff to fulfil those new / additional roles, which can lead to a number of operational problems - including poor levels of service and unresponsiveness.

 

Most companies need to get better at writing the new roles into job descriptions and allocating dedicated personnel and resources into that side of their business. Here follows a list of the 10 key roles which are needed to run most digital businesses successfully:

 


Webmaster / Web Manager

 

This is the one person primarily in charge of your digital business/es - they are responsible for defining the overall customer experience and managing customer access. They are also responsible for ensuring that all the functional aspects of the sites are maintained, keeping the sites up and fully functional.

 


Editor

 

Person/s responsible for tone of voice, content and context of sites / digital business.

 


Photo Editor

 

Person/s responsible for selecting / providing / formatting site imagery - usually some degree of Photoshop skill required here at the minimum.

 


Contributor / Copywriter

 

Person/s who create / originate all text elements for sites.

 


For smaller businesses the above roles may be handled by as few as 1-3 staff members. For larger businesses, the following additional roles may be required also:

 


Commercial Manager

 

Person in charge of key commercial activities - Advertising, Promotions and principal connected revenue streams

 


Ecommerce Manager

 

Person in charge of sales revenue streams - selling products and services, occasional overlap with Commercial Manager

 


Community / Customer / CRM / Contact Manager

 

The Customer Experience manager for larger sites. Responsible for

... Staffing a Digital Business
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

23 Jul 2015 11:10 AM
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Let me start once more by stating that I am an extremely dedicated music fan, who consumes music globally and at high volumes on a weekly basis, and equally importantly pretty much totally legitimately (paid-for). I subscribe to both Spotify and Apple Music, occasionally using Deezer too, and buy from iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, Juno / Download, Traxsource, Bandcamp, 7 Digital, Phonica, Sister Ray, Rough Trade, Discogs and even HMV. In short, I am a very good customer, upper echelon and ongoing supporter of the music industry at large for 35 odd years - first proper record purchased incididentally, was the Pale Shelter 7" by Tears for Fears.

 

It is obvious to all bar a few music industry execs that music is a truly universal and adaptable commodity, art-form and experience. Very varied and different peoples from all the world’s 196 countries formalised and otherwise readily cross territorial boundaries in search of listening pleasures. The earliest days of popular music saw listeners tuning in on ’the wireless’ to catch radio services broadcast from far outside their local territories. Next the Gramophone / vinyl records took off, then reel-to-reel and 4/8-track, then the compact cassette and CD, we’ll skip over the MiniDisc (even though I have a number of those too) and end up currently with today’s pre-eminent format - the very portable universal MP3s.

 

In the past, to satisfy my tastes, I imported records from far and wide - Italo Disco and House, Detroit Techno, Chicago House, New Jersey Garage, Belgian, Dutch and German Techno and French House to name a few categories. All of this was available to me, and still is to a large degree via the remaining record stores and modern music marketplaces like Discogs.

 

In some ways the current state of music has never been better - never has there been greater access to such a large variety of music - YouTube harbours an enormous musical library, and with Internet Radio and a variety of streaming services, the typical listener has pretty much unprecedented access to music. Yet within all of this, there are some significant peculiarities and some quite underhanded means being employed be the music industry.

 

We have lived through ’Home Taping is Killing Music’, ’Video Killed the Radio Star’, ’Napster is Killing Music’

... Music Industry Madness - Caveat Emptor!
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Stefan
Posted by Stefan

20 Jul 2015 8:50 PM
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Back in May, The Media Briefing published a piece on Publishers prioritising digital development over paywalls. Obviously there is an increased risk from both Cookie Armageddon and Mobilegeddon, and both offer a significant threat to revenues. Many commentators have also noted the recent porous nature of The Sun paywall-protected website - which seems to be allowing more and more content outside its paywall.

 

The optimal approach is really the gateway / metering system which allows publishers to run on a well moderated freemium model - giving potential subscribers a healthy preview of the experience without being overtly pushy or greedy.

 

To our mind the FT was the first site to popularise this sort of metered gateway access - where unregistered users could view a certain small number of articles each month - before registration or further fees kicked in. I’m pretty sure that initially on the FT, you did not have to register straight-away like you do now, but could view a few articles before the restrictions kicked in. Currently on the FT, you get no unadulterated preview access - all interested parties must at least register to gain access to the minimal 3 free articles per month. When we Affino rolled out the new FG Insight site, it was delivered on the original FT model - i.e. on proper freemium terms - giving all site visitors access to 5 ’free’ articles - before they need to register for further access. The free registration gives you access to most of the content, but there are 2 further fee-paying membership levels which give access to more specialist content, reports and services.

 

I still feel the web is blighted with an over-abundance of irritating banner ads, which interrupt and lower the customer experience - the membership fees should be sufficient to off-set banner advertising revenues - which should in fact really be replaced by co-authored Native Advertising, Area / Topic / Page Sponsorship and unobtrusive product placement.

 

The whole point about the free in freemium is to offer some form of trial and preview - or demo if you wish - of the larger experience. Which is why the paywall / metered gateway usually offers a glimpse of some of the higher level paid-for content too.

 

The other key service that customers are happy to pay for is summary news digests / industry and sector

... Publisher Revenue Streams - Are Freemium Gateways still a viable option?
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