This Affino release is the fourth and final major release of 2018, and is all about performance. Affino’s page speed delivery has been improved by between 40% and 300% across the board, which will be followed by a further 30% improvement in the new year when Affino moves to the new app stack and hosting architecture. The improvement in speed should directly lead to greater engagement, longer sessions, more reads per session and more productive management.
Individual performance and productivity has also been a theme for all the major enhancements in this release. You will have seen a number of these trialled over the previous couple of minor releases, they are now formally finalised and released.
First and foremost is the new Live Design mode which lets you directly access all the design and content aspects of each design element from the live page. This is a major breakthrough as it means you no longer need to go through the Design Centre to tweak a page element, instead you simply go to the live page and click through to edit.
Both Ad Campaigns and HR Management see major improvements across the board, effectively adding whole new dimensions to these services. The Ad Campaign update delivers on all the key requested feature updates, with the new campaign analysis filters and exports being front and centre.
This release also sees the formal introduction of the new Affino stats engine, with the new Audit and ABC log file support. It is now possible to directly access stats, referers, and the page audit from Channels, Sections and Articles (on the Control side, live on page stats to follow).
We are introducing Editions to Affino (formerly Print Products). Editions will become a powerful way to manage your edition content, contacts and much more. We are also rolling out the new site Search engine, in this release the focus is on indexing all the content, which will then be followed by the updated Site Search channel in the new year.
There are hundreds of usability updates throughout Affino’s Control Centre and in particular in the CRM, in what is the start of a major phase of CRM updates which will continue throughout 2019. We outline many of the key updates below, all of which will make teams more productive.
There are many important updates in this release which can be highly beneficial if applied to your customer journeys and management workflows, so we strongly advice that you read through, log and share the ones that will particularly impact on yourself and your organisation.
Live Design v1
Affino has a great new live design mode. Simply turn it on by going to the App Bar on the live page, go to the Switches and turn on Live Design. Once on, whenever you put your pointer or mouse over any page element you see an outline and a small icon in the top left corner of the element. Simply click on it to see the key properties and go to the Design centre to edit the specific Cell Properties and Design Style, or click the Content to edit it live from the page.
The Live Design Mode is great whenever you need to tweak, or update, or review live site pages. Note that once you have updated the settings you will need to regenerate the Skin, which you can also easily do using the Skin refresh icon on the App Bar Design Panel.
This release sees a major performance focus with hundreds of improvements made throughout Affino. The vast majority of the updates we have made have been to address malicious Bot activity which makes for 95% of the activity on the average Affino site. In some instances we are seeing a 300% improvement in performance and everyone should see improvements of a minimum 40%.
We have focused our efforts on four main areas, firstly we have greatly improved Affino’s analysis and tracking and for the first time we record every single Bot interaction with Affino. This has supported us with the second focus which has been to identify malicious bot behaviour, and as a result we have rolled out a bot blocking engine which will now block malicious or misbehaving bots across all Affino sites. We will in future make this more granular so that it will be possible to additionally block bots off individual Zones.
We have also rolled out a new automated error logging and management system, which has allowed us to analyse all errors generated across all Affino sites. The vast majority of the errors reported are not errors that are generated through normal Affino usage, and are instead the result of malicious or malformed bots crawling the sites, in some cases clearly looking to find exploits and to generate errors. In each instance we have resolved all issues which have arisen and added extra protection to prevent their recurrence.
The new analysis engine also reports the time taken for each page call, and wherever we have identified long running tasks, we have optimised the processes, and in some cases re-written them entirely. An example of this is that all the imports and exports now run on the new Affino import / export engine.
The net result of these actions is that we have resolved all the performance issues across the board (with the exception that we will look to create a new generation of fast exports where few records are being exported, our focus has been on the case where users are trying to export 10,000s or 100,000s records).
New Affino Hosting Architecture
Over the past few months we have been optimising Affino to run on the new Affino hosting architecture. With this release Affino is now fully compatible and we will be migrating your service to the new tech stack in the new year. Note that a crucial element will be moving your searches over to the new Amazon search service first, so expect the order and nature of the search results to evolve over the coming weeks.
Once migrated we expect a further immediate 30% improvement in performance, which will directly convert to higher engagement and more page views per session of your compelling content.
This release sees major enhancements to Affino’s Ad Service including:
We have extensively improved the HR module to further support consultative sales including:
Imports and Exports
All Affino’s imports and exports have been converted to XLSX format and now use the new import and export engine with enhanced error checking. This is a major update as previously the exports were a mix of CSV, XLS and XLSX. We have chosen XLSX since csv and xls are simply not supported well by modern OSs such as iOS and Android, and the biggest demand has been for clients to be able to support round tripping the data in Excel, Numbers, Sheets and similar spreadsheet software.
Along with the improved formatting and precision, we have updated a number of the imports / exports to improve the consistency of both to make it easier to export, work on and then re-import data.
We have updated Print Products so that they are now Editions. This is the start of a major update to editions, which over time will become a central repository of each issue / special / report that you print or distribute digitally. It is where you log and can access all the contacts covered, along with the content, as well as the existing circulation and formatting information. For now we’re just at the start of the journey but expect constant evolution here over the coming year.
Besides the renaming, initial updates include adding a year of publication attribute; the ability to filter by live editions; the ability to customise edition management through Design Script; and Editions now have a Live rather than Suspend status, and are default Live.
New Stats Engine
This Affino release sees the introduction of a new stats engine. This engine captures around twenty times as much data as the previous iteration as we now track all human and bot traffic. Affino can also generate ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) format log files for digital auditing. Note that the transition to the new stats engine has also involved improved bot detection which means that in many instances Affino will register fewer views (human) than previously if you had a large concealed bot presence. For much more on this see the blog post Stats, Good Bots and Bad Bots.
Bot Identification and Blocking
The immediate result of rolling out the stats engine has been that we have been able to discover a number of malicious bots which were acting as DDoS agents against Affino sites, and we have blocked them as a result. We will likely increase this blocking as the bots can be very destructive in terms of site stability and will drive up your costs significantly if we don’t keep them under check. So far we have only blocked highly malicious ones, but in the future we may well start blocking high volume non-malicious ones, of which the SEO bots rank very highly with high volume scraping of all your sites.
New Site Search
We have the new search engine available in this release. The search is now provided by Amazon’s search service which will offer us a great search platform to build on over the coming months and years. There is a sequence to the search deployment which means that initially your site will still use the existing search architecture, but will start to re-index all your content on to the Amazon search.
Early next year when the search indexing is complete we will release a minor update which will then switch your search over to the Amazon search and in turn enable the new aspected site search, which adds accounts (companies) and contacts to the site search for the first time, and improves the search for all media, forms and much more as well as the existing channel, section and articles.
It is essential that you run through the complete update process starting with the Affino Updater, followed by the sequence of the system and design updates laid out on the Control > Update screen.
Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) - we’ve added support for ABC’s log file format. This can be enabled on the Log Settings, and is essential if you are looking to have a digital audit by the ABC. If however you are not looking to be audited then you should not enable this as it generates a great deal of data which goes against your overall data service.
You can export the ABC log using the ABC Log Export. Note that Affino only retains two months of ABC logs owning to the potential volume of data generated, so it is essential that you export the ABC logs in a timely manner.
Accounts - There are a great number of incremental updates that add up to a significantly improved account management experience. Key updates include: new panel on the Contacts tab on Accounts which allows you to display the child account contacts on the parent account. When searching for an Account, it is possible to also search for all the child accounts. Former account contacts are now displayed on the Account Communications tab. We have added a new marketing contacts option to accounts. When clicking on the Contacts navigation button on an account, you are taken to a filtered view of the contacts showing just the account and child account contacts. We now show the lists each contact is a member of on the contact listing within the account. It is now possible to filter accounts by Country Groups and the account code. It is now possible to show both country and edition columns on the contact and account listing (you set in the CRM Profile if you want to do so). New Public Description attribute (for future functionality). We have re-instated the ability to add a contact from the Communications tab on accounts
Account Import - updated Account Topic Import so that it is easier to identify accounts and so that it is possible to remove as well as add topics.
Attendees - it is now possible to set attendee fields as being required. Simply update the My Account profile to set the fields you want / don’t want required when users are filling in attendee details.
App Bar - we’ve added a lot more capabilities to the App Bar (you will notice it surfaces more useful and relevant management links whatever screen you’re on), especially the new Live Design mode (see above), one nice feature is that you can now regenerate just the Skins in the Zone you’re in.
Awards - great new ability for awards entrants to send themselves their entry for review, especially useful when they need to share with their colleagues before final approval.
Bounce Handling - we have moved from a Google based email bounce handling approach to a new core Amazon email bounce handling service. This means all Affino instances now have bounce handling in place as part of the core service with no need for having a separate bounce email address.
Channel Listing DE - new Channel Listing Design Element which allows for channels to be listed on Mega Menus etc. This DE highlights not only the basic Channel information, but also lists out virtually all the Channel details, meta data, and media.
Cities - we have enhanced the Cities management so that it is now possible to filter by the name, City Code, Region and Country.
Contacts - it is now possible to filter contacts by the Parent as well as the current Account and Country Groups. We have also universally updated the contact selector to be a predictive lookup which shows the associated Account and Account ID when looking up a contact. It is now possible to filter contacts by the edition they are in. It is now possible to set the list of Titles for users when registering etc. We’ve added support for a high res image for each contact which can be in any of the following formats: jpg, png, tiff, svg and eps. Affino now pre-populates the address on an account when an account is selected on the contact (only when creating new contact). It is now possible to search by the contact code on contacts (also User Security and Order). We have also optimised contact editing so that the essential and most used attributes are near the top.
Contact Lists - we have made a number of nice improvements to contact list management, which is the start of what will be a transformation process for list management over the next couple of releases. Here are some of the nice updates: it is now possible to filter the contacts by other Contact Lists, Excluded Contact Lists and Conversion Events as well as just your personal ‘My’ contacts.
Contact Listing DE - it is possible to set the design element to only show the author of the article on the page.
Contact Merge - we have a new Contact Merge, which is accessible on the User Security view for each person. This is a major update and now merges many more elements than previously between the contact records, with improved integrity checks and auditing.
Contact Notes - we’ve improved contact note creation by auto populating more attributes in more contexts.
Conversion Events - Affino now tracks all conversion events against identified users wherever possible. When a media download conversion event is triggered, the notification now includes the name and link to the media item so you know exactly which one was downloaded.
Cookie Dashboard - we have added the Amazon AWSLEB cookie as a Strictly Necessary cookie on the Cookie Settings. Affino uses this cookie for load balancing on Amazon.
Countries - we have updated the core Affino country listing to use official ISO names: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-3 . It is now possible to change the label of the country on the new Countries control profile. It is also possible to hide some countries from the country list.
Country Groups - it is now possible to group countries together in country groups again, which will be used for future location drill down filters.
Data Service - there has been significant growth in database sizes over the past year. Once they grow above a certain level there is the requirement to move from the shared tier to a dedicated one. To provide more visibility of the database size you can now go to the About screen in the control centre to see exactly how large it is. We will look to provide more information in the future e.g. the growth rate. This Affino release has a number of data optimisations so you will see an initial reduction in the database size (except where we’ve pre-applied the updates to your service).
Design - it is now possible to have the ‘sticky’ row setting specific to each breakpoint.
Design Elements - we have deprecated a number of design elements which have much improved smart versions available. So instead of using the old ones you should move to the smart equivalent for the following design elements: Article Listing to Smart Article Listing, Auto-Related Content to Smart Auto-Related Content Channel Details to Smart Details, Prime Content to Smart Prime Content, Prime Related Content to Smart Prime Related Content. It is best to schedule this in over Q1 as we will be looking to remove the older versions of these elements over the coming year.
Directory - It is now possible to let directory entry owners set their own topics, up to a limit which is defined on the Directory Profile. It is also possible to prevent them from editing their teaser. We have greatly improved the overall consistency of the online directory experience and presentation for the end users. It is now possible to have a directory without linking through to the directory entry details, i.e. all the interaction by the directory visitors happens on the directory listing. Directories now support any combination of priority and other attribute, e.g. priority then alphabetical, priority then reverse chronological etc.
Events - it is now possible to set the event to display the event title and meta data over a static image (as it is possible over a video). Affino now sends the full attendee details on the attendee notification.
Gallery Article - new carousel with image thumbnails.
Invoices - new options to further customise invoice profiles including being able to amend the Invoice Status notice
Media Library - added support for Comments and Ratings on the media detail screen. We have also added support for Wistia embedded videos using oembed (just paste the link to the video and Affino will do the rest)
Message Campaigns - it is now possible to send a test message to any contact whether they are a full member or not. We have extended the Message click tracking up to 12 months after which they are fully aggregated. We’ve added a safeguard to message sending, so that you now have to click to confirm before sending out a message campaign.
Mailing List DE - new design element for displaying a mailing list signup on any page design.
Media Item Detail Import - we’ve added the Page Title and Page Description media attributes to the import
Media File Path Export - has been moved to media, no functional changes just a FYI
Meta Data - it is now possible to show an Author’s Account on the meta data for article listings, including related contacts.
My Account - improved usability around subscriptions and assigning people to events
Opportunities - it is now possible to select additional ‘Other’ contacts against an opportunity so that you can see the overall engagement and last touch related to each opportunity. It is now possible on the CRM Profile to hide the Expected fields from the Opportunity listings and also to set to display the Topics on an opportunity. We have added a new Cost Estimate panel to Opportunities (when selected on the CRM Profile), which lets you select the contacts associated with the opportunity, and set the day rate (pulled in by default), the days and shows the subtotal and total costs associated with the opportunity. We are adding the option to select a project team on an opportunity which is then auto-populated on to the generated Contract.
Opportunity Analysis - we’re adding two new reports, a Summary and a Detail report. The Summary report is a single analysis screen for drilling down into the status on each of the active and recently closed opportunities, breaking them down by type. The Detail report breaks out each opportunity. It is possible to export both reports.
Orders - new Invoice Sent filter added to orders. We’ve also improved the identification of new business and renewal orders. New Order Status filter added.
Order Line Item Report - it is now possible to filter order line items explicitly for new business and renewals.
Premium Content Icon - it is now possible to enable a premium content icon against each premium article throughout Affino by enabling it on each design element (excluding the deprecated ones) If you don’t see it on the design element you’re using then switch to a Smart one.
Pro Forma Orders - it is now possible to select the Invoice Profile on each Pro Forma Order, essentially allowing you to invoice across business units and different types of services with targeted invoice layouts and details. We now let you view each pro forma invoice sent and show who sent it (on the message listing on each Pro Forma). We’ve updated how we display Pro Forma statuses and owners so that we now refer to Pro Forma Order versus just Order. We also display the reason the Pro Forma was cancelled.
Product Lines - you can now see the detailed list of editions associated with each product line.
Product Listings - we’ve added a new quantity selector option to most product listings so that when enabled on the design element a quantity selector is displayed to the left of the buy button.
Public Profile - new options to display the email address for contacts on the public profile. To lock it down though we have also added two new settings for controlling the security level / access to the phone number and email address. This allows for example members to see each other’s contact details but not non-members.
Regions - not a major update but needs highlighting is that we have renamed Region Number to Region Code. We have additionally changed RegionGroup to RegionGroupCode and City Number to CityCode. Which means you will need to update any region / city import sheets you have. We have also added smarts to Region Groups so that only regions from the same country can be selected within any group.
Registration - it is now possible to turn on and off registration notifications independently of whether or not you are pre-approving registrants.
Sales Report - we have completely re-written the sales report to make it scale for larger commercial organisations. This means you can now page through the reports, and export large reports reliably. Note that we have added limits to what you can report on as well so that you will see your reports in a timely manner.
Session Management - we’ve implemented a whole new approach to managing live sessions. It means that in the event of sites scaling up and down users are now moved seamlessly between servers with no need to log in. Note that users will still be asked periodically to log in to ensure that they re-validate themselves and their access levels.
Smart Auto Related Content DE - new filter that lets you just list out other articles from the author of the article on the page.
Subscriptions - we are doing a lot of ‘under the hood’ work when it comes to subscriptions in preparation for major updates coming Q1 and Q2 2019. Significant updates in this release are the updated Subscription Status which now has the following states: Active | Active Pending | Active Renewed | Active Cancelled | Lapsed 60 days | Lapsed > 60 days | Lapsed Renewed | Lapsed Cancelled | Suspended. Affino now tracks all the Update action history, which is listed on the subscription detail. Note that you will need to add more colours for the new statuses to the CRM Profile.
Tablets - we now display many of the filters on tablets which had previously been removed, e.g. for Contacts, Accounts and Contact Lists.
Tasks - we’ve improved task creation by auto populating more attributes in more contexts.
User Auto Archive - we have extensively updated the user auto archive capabilities in particular by adding a lot more triggers that can be used to extend the life of a contact record. New ability to extend a user’s archive period if they are granted a particular security group, e.g. team member. This works for all contexts, whether it be a user being added, imported, buying or being assigned a subscription plan or being grated it through a registration workflow or conversion event. Other types of activity that can be set to extend a contact record are: Opportunity (key contact), Contact Added, Award Judge, Award Entry (entry owner), Event Speaker, Page View (for identified users), and Pro Forma Orders (customer). We also exclude users set on the Main Account from being archived.
User Topic Import - it is now possible to import topics against users, this is a great way to bulk classify existing contacts. Also supports the bulk removal of topics from contacts.
Fixes are elements which didn’t work as well as they should, and have now been made to work better. Minor enhancements provide subtle improvements that most people won’t notice (some will love), but which nonetheless improve on the overall Affino experience.
App Bar (multiple)
Article Carousel DE (multiple)
Article Import / Export
Article Listing DE
Article Steps (multiple)
Awards (multiple), Awards Management, Awards Judging (multiple)
Carousel DE (multiple)
Catalogue Item Import (multiple)
Checkout (multiple), Checkout Receipt (multiple)
Comments and Ratings (multiple), Comments (multiple)
Contact Lists (multiple)
Contact Listing DE (multiple)
Contact Notes (multiple)
Conversion Events (multiple), Conversion Event Notification
Design Centre (multiple)
Design Centre (multiple)
Dynamic Forms (multiple)
Forums (multiple), Forum Subscriptions
Google Analytics (legacy API replaced)
Invoice Profile (multiple)
Mailing List (signups and unsubscribes)
Media (multiple), Media Upload, Media Item Detail Import
Message Campaign Analysis
My Account (multiple)
Online Forms (multiple)
On-page Feedback DE, On-page Feedback Control
Page Meta Data
Password Editing / Password Reset
Pro Forma Invoices (multiple)
Public Profile (multiple), Profile (updating)
Product Search Profile
Related Items (multiple)
Scoped Search (article listing search)
Site Search (multiple)
Smart Article Listing DE
Smart Auto-Related Article DE
Smart Button DE
Skins (generation, multiple)
Smart Product Detail and Listing (multiple)
Statistics Engine (multiple)
Subscription Renewal Report
User Import (multiple)
No elements removed in this release.
These are integrations which have had essential maintenance in this release, if you rely on any of them then you’ll want to update at the earliest opportunity:
Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) - we’ve added support for ABC’s log file format
Google Analytics - we have updated Affino’s Google Analytics integration to support Google’s latest Universal Analytics API
Wistia - added support for Wistia embedded videos using oembeds (just paste the link)
YouTube - now display the notice from YouTube when not set up fully for embedding videos using the Media Provider Profile
Affino benefits from using some great frameworks, here are the updates we’ve rolled out for these frameworks in this release:
JQuery updated to - no change
JQueryUI updated to - no change
HighCharts updated to - no change
TinyMCE updated to - 4.9.2
Video.js updated to - no change