Our new release is live!

We’re happy to announce that our Saturday night release went live as planned.

This release includes three key improvements:

  1. A new message center in your network
  2. An iPhone interface fully customized for your network
  3. Simplification of the Main and Profile Pages and consistency of features generally

First, we’ve updated the profile page to retain a few things that you wanted.

Since we first talked about our simplification and consistency work a few weeks ago, we got a ton of great feedback that we incorporated into this release. Here’s the new profile page:

  • The title of the page behaves as it does today. It’s just moved to the center column, but is still editable.
  • The links to a person’s content remain on the left column and continue to include the count of content added.
  • This link section now shows all the features available on the network, not just the features that this person has added already. If the member hasn’t added any content to that feature, people visiting the page still see the link, but it is grayed out.
  • There is now a 10 pixel vs. the current 5 pixel margin between columns and sections.
  • The comment box on My Page starts closed when you are looking at your own page, which will look a bit cleaner. This is only closed when you are looking at your own profile.

The biggest change in this release is the profile page is now the only page on a network that displays a member’s chosen appearance. Currently, the member’s theme is displayed on that member’s blog, My Settings and friends pages too. In turning the blog into its own tab in this release and restructuring navigation for better usability, the different themes created a confusing experience. As a result, the blog and friends pages now take on the theme of the network, not the member’s theme.

Second, we’ve made your entire network more consistent and easier to use.

As we showed off in an earlier post, here’s the new, simplified Main Page:

Here’s a partial list of the things we’ve tackled as part of this work:

  • Increasing the width of the gutters (the space between columns) from 5 to 10 pixels.
  • Standardizing the titles, navigation, text size, spacing, and display of text and images across your network. As a result of this work, you should notice subtle changes in the layouts and titles of your network features. This work should make browsing between features much smoother for your members.
  • Standardizing the display of featured content across feature homepages. We’ve made them a bit smaller so they are more proportional to the rest of the content on the page.
  • Standardizing the browser information provided and displayed across pages. This should also help in a small way with SEO ahead of our simplified URLs coming in early November.
  • Moving the Manage Discussion Forum link to the Manage Page. This is where Network Creators expect to find it, so we’ve moved it out of the navigation on the Discussion Forum (also to standardize on the titles and navigation across features) to the Mange Page.
  • Reorganizing the default tab ordering to anchor the most popular features closer to the left where they are easier to find. You can always change the order with the Tab Manager.
  • Adding search and pagination to the new blog tab that goes to everyone’s blog posts page, renamed “All Blog Posts” to be consistent with other features. We’ve also updated the navigation across the blog feature now that it has its very own tab.
  • Adding member images to the blog module on the Main Page of your network to be consistent with how discussions are displayed.
  • Adding the option to display Groups on the Main Page by Latest Activity to be consistent with the sort options on the Groups Homepage. This is cached so the latest activity may be the latest activity from 10 minutes earlier, but the option is now there.
  • Displaying featured members, if you have them, on your Sign In and Sign Up pages. Currently, these pages show latest members, which on a network growing rapidly means that most of the avatars are the default gray man. If you don’t have featured members, the display defaults to latest members.

All of these things are small and should be subtle changes that make your network just a little bit better as you and your members surf it.

Third, we now have a new HTML email design.

Here’s the new HTML email design:

Fourth, there are some performance enhancements we’ve added.

The major performance enhancement you’ll see live on your network is our replacement of Dojo with the newer, faster javascript library called jQuery. This is an under-the-hood improvement that most likely won’t have any visual impact on your network. You can find a more technical discussion of this change here in the Developer Network.

Lastly, we have fixed a handful of smaller bugs.

These include:

  • Member profiles now appear at the top of search results
  • Created By no longer appears in the footer when the “Created By” box is removed
  • Certain characters — like é and ü — no longer disrupt generated feeds
  • Members can now follow group discussions by receiving notifications of new threads. They are notified when they join a group that they will receive these email notifications automatically, but can turn these off very easily from the group’s homepage
  • Required profile questions can no longer be bypassed by members when they follow a particular path to register (closed a loophole)

As with all releases, we’re working around the clock as early issues arise to address them as quickly as possible. Please let us know if you see anything out of the ordinary via the Ning Help Center and follow known issues on our Network Creators discussion forum.

Thanks!

About the Author:

Gina Bianchini – who has written posts on Ning's Official Blog on Social Networking Sites.


  • Vidal Acevedo

    We’re happy about this new release, however for the iPhone platform for our networks we would like to have the ability to check our messages at our inbox & friend request. Members of my network are saying that it’s a must for it. Thanks a lot ning for all your hard work!

  • Steven Pauwels

    Hi there!

    The new release is great!

    I still have an issue with the rss feeds on http://www.iphonic.be though. I hoped the new release would fix it but the problem still exists.

    One other question about the iPhone version. Is it possible to have the blog pages as a start page and not the activities. They link to nothing and the interesting content is in our networks blogs…

    Thxs for the nice network though!

    Steven

  • Jayson Elliot

    Our members were really enjoying having their blogs display in their chosen themes. The change has been very upsetting for some of them.

    I understand Ning’s desire to maintain consistency across a network, but our network has a deliberately neutral look so that each member can treat their own pages as their own.

    Considering that I’m paying about $40 a month for this service, it would be nice if we could make these decisions (whether to let users apply themes to all of their pages) for ourselves.

  • Evan

    Hi Jayson!

    With this release, the member’s theme is now only displayed on that member’s profile page. The my blog, My Settings and friends pages no longer reflect your custom theme. In turning the blog into its own tab in this release and restructuring navigation for better usability, the different themes across more than just the profile page created a confusing experience, which we found in user testing. As a result, the blog and friends pages now take on the theme of the network, not the member’s theme. This will hopefully strike a better balance between a consistent user experience and allowing room for members’ creativity and expression.

    I understand if this isn’t the answer you were looking for, but hopefully it explains the thought process behind this change.

  • Evan

    Hi Steven!

    I took a look at your network — http://www.iphonic.be — and everything seemed to be functioning normally. (Awesome network, by the way!). If you’re experiencing issues, drop us a line at help.ning.com?go=contact. We’ll happily take a look.

    There’s not much customization available for the iPhone interface available just yet. We’d definitely like to add this in the future, and what you’re asking to do is exactly the kind of flexiblity we’d like to build in.

    Cheers!
    Evan

  • Tom Roberts

    Thanks for all the effort that went into this new release. I have one question about something I’m missing though. At the top of the page, I was always able to click and get an expanded menu that showed things like my other networks and friends across networks. How do I access this information now?

    I am a member of several Ning communities and it was always nice to navigate between them this way.

    Thanks,
    Tom

  • Evan

    Hi Tom!

    The Ningbar, the colored strip at the top of the page where members accessed their messages and friends, has been removed. Instead, you can now access your messages and friend requests within your network. To check your messages, click on the same “Inbox” link in the “Sign-in/sign-up” box on the top right side of your network. To access your friend requests, click on “My friends” just below the “Inbox” link. These changes are designed to improve the overall messaging and friending experience on your network. Of course, the Ningbar hasn’t disappeared — you can still search the network and click your name in the Ningbar, which will take you to your profile page.