When AFRO.com went online in 1994, it became one of the first 18 newspaper websites in the country and the first from a Black publication. Since then, AFRO.com has grown and changed, while providing its audience with quality content. The last website update went live in 2008 with a new content management system, structured to help the AFRO take the next steps in the company's online evolution.
After about four years, the website system was making it hard for the AFRO to do new things. "As technology changed," AFRO President Benjamin Phillips said, "we were not able to keep up with it at a fast pace.
"It was a two year project to identify the right partner. We were fortunate to find Eminent-IT, who took our requirements and developed a custom solution using leading-edge technology."
Eminent-IT, founded by post 9/11 Marine Corps veteran Jose Risi and Isaac Barnes with the mission to "assist their clients with implementing innovative solutions that bring them closer to their strategic vision," conducted a comprehensive review of the AFRO. Armed with that information and the expressed needs of the AFRO's web and management teams, Barnes said, "Our goal was to completely revamp AFRO's digital experience with a flat design that embraces simplicity, clarity, and flexibility."
They did. The new, improved, and ready to fly AFRO.com launches on June 9.
"We are extremely excited about the possibility," said CEO and Publisher John "Jake" Oliver Jr. "We are extremely excited about learning things we don't know.
We're going to have fun, but that is all part of finding out and understanding what our followers want."
The new site has several features that will ultimately translate to a better user experience and exciting presentations for the AFRO's audience. According to Phillips, these include increased responsiveness, automatic formatting to accommodate a variety of user interfaces – mobile, tablet, and a multitude of computer browsers – and the ability to change the look of the site "on the fly." He said, "It takes the shackles off of our creativity."
Oliver added, "We are going to be able to change … any time, any day, any way we want to."
"What it means for the audience," Phillips said, "is getting rich content quickly and a greater integration with social media. It opens the door for us to do things we haven't thought of yet. It will allow us to continue to grow into the future."
A big goal of this project is to improve the reader's experience, so the AFRO is hoping for user feedback. "We welcome comments," Phillips said, "and plan to be continually improving. I can't wait, and what you see on the 9th is only the beginning."
Oliver said, "We're ready to fly. … Our audience is in for a royal treat.
Christian Rogers contributed to this article.