This Affino release is all about performance. We have worked hard to deliver great reliability and improved performance for every page view. This has meant looking deep into how Affino generates pages for bots, guest and members, and improving all aspects.
New Affino Production Process = Better Quality Product
To do this we have completely revamped key aspects of the Affino production cycle, in particular all aspects of how we test it: we have established new Affino Benchmarks; rolled out a new Affino load test facility; developed new automated QA processes on top of the work of the existing quality assurance team; we’re using great load testing services to identify Affino’s scaling parameters; and finally running new low-level monitoring solutions to see what’s happening deep in the core Java engines.
This process has been essential to help us identify and resolve a host of low-level issues which have come to the for with Affino recently, but which have been having an escalating impact for some time. The great news is that the deep focus that we’ve had on the issues affecting Affino means that the 6.0.11 release has unmatched levels of performance and scalability. The new benchmarks also mean that we will be able to identify with every future Affino release how it performs when compared with the current one.
All in all the new approach has helped us to identify over a hundred potential optimisations which have been implemented in this release.
Elements in Transition
We have made some tough decisions to boost Affino’s page delivery speed. Ultimately users compare the speed Affino’s pages are delivered in compared to other comparable sites, whether they are blogs, stores, magazines, recruitment sites, corporate sites or communities. Affino does more than all comparable platforms but it must do so whilst also optimising the experience for the end user, and there is no doubt that the speed at which a page loads is an incredibly important part of this.
Most of the elements which make Affino faster in this release revolve around smarter page delivery, improved caching, improved scalability, improved stability, smarter handling of sessions and other great enhancements that take nothing away from the existing Affino experience. We have made some big decisions though which will impact on site owners in the short term until we roll out new more scalable solutions in the future. The biggest change has been blogged on elsewhere already and that is that we’re scaling back on the timeframe handled by dashboards to the latest 30 days. We will be increasing this timeframe over the coming months with a new HTML 5 engine, but it is a big change in the short-term.
We have also removed support for pre-caching / reverse proxies. The main reason for this is that Affino’s caching engine has now evolved to the place where there is no longer a net-benefit from using them. The complexity of handling ecommerce sessions, stats tracking, geo targeting, session management and campaigns through 3rd party cached pages meant that Affino was working just as hard as if it was serving the pages from it’s own page cache. Removing this means that all Affino sites will run faster, not just the busiest.
This is an essentail performance release and it is recommended that all users upgrade at the earliest opportunity. It is recommended that you liaise with your account manager / support team when running this update to ensure that someone is on-hand to support you should something go awry.
It is essential that you run through the complete update process starting with the Affino Updater, followed by the System Update, Re-Initialise Site, Design Element Update and Skin Update; all of which are available on the Settings > Update screen.
We went back to the basics with Campaigns and looked at how Affino users generally use the core Affino campaign engine. Most client campaigns are driven by 3rd party solutions and Affino handles the integration with these very well. It means that the Campaign engine within Affino is mainly used for in-house campaigns and promotions. So we simplified it and made it more powerful for the task at hand.
The most important enhancement has been to add a new Preview for campaign creatives. This lets you see the creative immediately and to tweak the settings before making it live. We have also added two great new creative types: Hybrid Ads and Prime Ads. These let you create much higher impact campaigns which combine media, text, prices and relevant links.
We stripped back the overall campaign engine by removing Creative Types and Pools and instead made Campaigns and Campaign Themes the key drivers on how large the creatives are. We just have a single interface for managing Campaign Themes now, but it’s simple and elegant and easy to use.
For the first time Affino supports web fonts. This means that any font can be uploaded to Affino and used within a page design. You need to make sure you upload all the font sizes you are using, also note that this is only supported by the recent generations of browsers.
We have made it possible to include embedded media within almost all Affino content types with this release. Almost all articles can now easily have media embedded in them simply by pasting the link to the web page containing the media, e.g. Vimeo / YouTube videos, SlideShare presentations, or even links to embedded images.
Also supported in this release is the ability to embed media in Comments, My Messages and Message Boards
Channel Details DE v1 - new design element which allows you to display Channel attributes on the screen, including the Header Image, Teaser, Thumbnail, Name and Details.
Charts - now with added titles
Comment Queue - more informative Queue now displays the Zone the comment is made in as well as the Article / Media item it is made on.
Currency Selector DE v2 - new drop-down layout option
Customers Also Bought DE v1 - new design element which lets you automatically showcase recent items which have been purchased by users who also bought the product being viewed. It additionally displays directly related products.
Delivery Dates (Checkout) - it is now possible to define delivery dates for users to select for their orders, i.e. deliver flowers on 25th November
Form Style - it is now possible to style buttons further and define the font sizes within forms with pixel precision
Forums - it is now easier to track how many new posts have been made to a thread since your last visit, and to reference individual posts within a thread.
Google Base - major improvements to how the Log Screen works so that it is now searchable and fully usable; also improved integration for Catalogue IDs and stock level overrides.
Incoming Feeds - it is no longer possible to pull in feeds from your own sites on your Affino instance. This is a non-optimal way of sharing content between Affino sites and produces duplicate, hard to manage content; incoming feeds are now also automatically suspended if Affino cannot reach them, it is also easy to restore them as required
Inventory - much more graceful handling of inventory updates form main Inventory screen.
Invite Friends DE v1 - new design element which lets you encourage friend invites from any screen. It ties directly into Conversion Events so that users can be rewarded with points, coupons, kudos, badges and membership automatically for their invites.
Lists - list headers are now ‘sticky’ in the same way as the edit bars are. It means they stay on the screen when you scroll through long lists for easier scanning of lists.
Login - we have added new up-selling capabilities so that a logged in member is re-directed to a dedicated channel when they’re trying to access content above their current access level
Media Editor - we’ve rolled out the easy to use edit bar to the Media Editing as we did for Articles in the last release.
My Account - Flip Books and external media are immediately viewable from the purchase listings
Realex Payment Gateway Integration v1 - Affino now integrates with Realex for taking credit card payments
Security - Affino now runs multiple checks and presents warnings when users attempt to delete security clearances.
Security Panel - great new panel in the App Bar which lets you know whether or not the page you’re looking at is secured. When you click on the panel you can see what level it is secured at and what that security is.
SmartDebit Payment Gateway Integration Beta - first phase integration with SmartDebit for taking online direct debit payments for subscriptions. Only works when purchasing a single subscription in the initial release.
We are changing the way we report fixes and minor enhancements in this Affino release. Fixes are just that, they are elements which didn’t use to work as well as they should and have now been made to work. From now on we will simply be highlighting which elements had fixes applied and work better in this release. Minor enhancements are just that, subtle improvements that most people won’t notice, but which nonetheless improve on the overall Affino experience.
The following elements now work better:
These are integrations which have had essential maintenance in this release:
Affino benefits from some great frameworks, here are the updates we’ve rolled out for these frameworks in this release:
JQuery - updated to 1.7
Highcharts - updated to 2.1.8