As you know, we strive to take progressive steps towards improving your network communication experience. Since making your online communication smooth and convenient is our main goal, we pay special attention to creating solutions that are both more technically advanced, and intuitively easy-to-use. To provide you with the opportunity to manage and promote your social networks in the most efficient and user-friendly way, we worked hard to release a more advanced Chat feature on Ning 3.0 and 2.0 platform.
As 3.0 users have the possibility to use Groups and Events features free of charge, we decided that 2.0 users should enjoy this opportunity too!
Meeting Creator’s expectations is what Ning is all about – and 2.0 users are our most seasoned and long-time supporters. Many of you have been loyal to the company for more than a decade. We highly appreciate your contribution, and value our long-term partnership. That is why, striving to be responsive to your experience, we decided to waive Groups and Event fees for all 2.0 users.
We’re happy to report that by the end of this week a new mobile experience will be rolled out to all Ning Networks. This upgrade is a complete re-write of the old Ning mobile experience. It’s built-in, completely free, and offers a lot more options for driving activity.
The contrast between the old and new couldn’t be more different. The old mobile interface was originally released around the same time Apple unveiled their App Store. We’ve been upgrading the mobile version regularly over time, but we knew it was high time for a thorough rebuild and redesign. We chose future-friendly HTML5 because it allows us to create a great-looking experience across numerous mobile devices. We were able to create something that’s high quality and that provides a frictionless experience for users. And it’s an excellent base for adding more to the mobile version down the road. Let’s take a look at a few things the new Ning Mobile offers.
A better app-like experience for your members
The old and new are radically different, but the look of the new probably won’t throw you for a loop. It’s designed in a familiar app-like way. It provides the same kind of swiping and tapping gestures most people are used to performing with their iOS and Android devices. It’s optimized for smartphones so your members can access it easily with the devices they already use every day. You won’t need any advanced design skills or a $100 Apple App Store developer’s license to publish, either. The new mobile version will be consistent and running in the background all the time. Most important: It’s very stable.
More pages, more options, new choices
While the old version didn’t provide many options for customization, the new Ning Mobile lets Ning Creators choose which features and pages they want to appear — in the order they prefer. There’s also many more features available in the new mobile experience. You can add pages to display Latest Activity, Members, Blogs, Photos, Forum, a member’s Profile Page, Groups, Events, an RSS feed, and even custom HTML pages. This greatly expands a Ning community’s mobile presence and possibilities, and we’re excited to watch as the entire Ning Platform adopts this new mobile version.
Most of the administrative settings will probably be pretty self-explanatory. A few details to keep in mind:
- Design details: The Ning Mobile site is standardized for design consistency, but there are a few branding options for Ning Creators to take advantage of. You can upload a logo to replace the name of a network in the header or change the background color of the header. A preview mode is also provided to see what it all looks like before committing to a change.
- Choose your pages: Ning Creators can choose the pages they wish to display and how the data on the pages is sorted (e.g., by “Latest Activity”). Some pages include choices about whether to show or hide preview-style content. Don’t like the order of pages? Ning Creators can drag and drop them and reorder them to their satisfaction. The first one listed will function as the “Main Page.”
- Opt-out option: Don’t want a mobile version? We’ve got you covered. If a Ning Creator removes all of the pages from the Mobile section of the dashboard, visitors will instead be shown the desktop version of your Ning Network.
- Back-out option: We’ve included a “Desktop View” for any member or visitor who wants to switch off the mobile version and rely on the standard desktop view.
As always, we’re big fans of our customers’ opinions, so let us know what you think about the new mobile version, either here or on the Creators Network. How have your members used the mobile version of Ning in the past? What can we do to help make their mobile experience even better going forward — and make your community even more vibrant and active?
Today, Glam is re-launching Ning as the next generation social platform for creators, businesses, and brands and announcing new ad options, a new mobile web version, and a VIP subscription service.
This week, we’re excited to be rolling out a revamped Help Center. Huzzah! This is a project we included in the 2012 Ning Product Roadmap, and one that is very much a group effort by the Ning advocacy team.
When our product managers and engineers prepare to roll out a new feature for the Ning Platform, it’s the Ning advocacy department’s job to document the nitty-gritty details. We dive in and quiz everyone involved about nearly every detail of the upcoming product release. We take the answers to our many “okay-but-can-it-do-this” questions and marry it to the wealth of content that lives on our internal wiki. We combine it all — from first spec to wireframes to release notes — to create articles for our knowledgebase; a.k.a., the “Help Center.”
This is the fourth incarnation of the Ning Help Center. The previous Help Center has served us very well — and for a long time. For the past three or four years, it’s been a highly trafficked site visited by tens of thousands of Network Creators each month. The previous Help Center had an understated elegance to the design that encouraged customers to search and find what they needed. Over time, though, the content in the knowledgebase grew. Finding helpful articles through search wasn’t enough. This has been especially true for brand-new Network Creators, who have often requested a way to browse content based on their skill level. First-timers, in particular, are better served by introductory videos, a list of Top 10 Newbie Questions, and a downloadable PDF launch plan. They need guidance and friendly advice more than they need to find out if the new Chat lets you block out swear words. (BTW: It does!)
Here are a few of the high-level goals that guided the Help Center redesign:
Make it more friendly
First and foremost, we wanted to make the home page and everything that sits beneath it much more visual. We needed visual cues, FAQ lists for complex articles, asides and tips, the ability to put different types of content on a page, etc. It needs to reflect the always-changing document it actually is, and it should have the personality and “Ning Voice” that we’ve always cultivated in our Creators community and elsewhere.
Better navigation, better organization
We absolutely knew customers would enjoy more options for discovering content, and we definitely wanted a step up from asking customers to search and find. We created an understandable top navigation scheme; an always-available feature list for drilling down by feature; quick access to our often-used troubleshooting articles; exposed tags for those who use them; inviting landing pages for special topics; an attractive home-page slider with revolving content that can easily be changed to announce new product releases; and much more. Most important: We now have the flexibility to change all of this as needed.
Consolidate our content
We took this opportunity to unify our popular Best Practices articles, Inspiration gallery, and Getting Started guide under one umbrella. Previously, this content was distributed in different locations. Now, nearly everything that isn’t part of the Creators Community is located in the Help Center. Long-time Network Creators may have seen some of this additional content, but now it’s all in one place for everyone to access.
Unleash our advocates’ expertise
Our old system was a bit of a bear for us to update, so we wanted to make it incredibly easy for every Ning advocate to jump in and make a quick change on the fly. Further, we want to encourage our advocates to get creative and really share their expertise. They speak to customers every day, and we want to give them more power to immediately add new content to the Help Center based on specific feedback from our customers.
Those were a few of our main goals, and we think we’ve got a great start on making the Help Center more friendly and usable. Take a look at the old and new home pages, side-by-side:
And, take a gander at one of our most popular articles, which covers the complex task of setting up a custom domain:
It’s a marked improvement. Of course, this migration to a new Help Center is just a beginning and not the end. We still have more to create. Now that all of our advocates can get in there and add new content, here’s a few more things we may be doing going forward:
- Add more examples of super-succesful networks to the Inspiration gallery and divide it into deeper categories (e.g., education, business, craft niches, etc.). Sometimes, people like to just browse through other networks to see how other people do things.
- Incorporate some of the best tips from the Creators Network into the Help Center. Every Friday afternoon, we send out a newsletter to all members of the Creators Network that includes the top tips of the week from the community. This is the type of content we think can be graduated to the Help Center so everyone can reap the benefits of these excellent shared tips.
- Our screencasts have always been well-received, and we’d like to create new ones for more complex topics like adding a custom header, fooling around with CSS, or setting up Google Webmaster tools. Screencasts are time-intensive to create, but by watching closely how people use the new Help Center, we can surely identify spots where a video walk-through would be useful.
- Include articles about using outside tools like Google Alerts, Firebug, free online image editors, outside polling services, etc.; anything we can “review” for you and show you how third-party tools can be easily used in conjunction with your Ning Network.
- Provide ready-made content for Network Creators to take and use like a “Welcome Center” or “About Us” HTML page; Broadcast Message templates you can copy and paste; and perhaps a Mini Help Center for your own network that’s as brand-free as possible and that covers the basics for your members; things like that which can make creating content easier for you.
Those are just a few of the ideas we have for this next generation of the Help Center. Feel free to let us know your thoughts and feedback, particularly about how those last few things should work — or whatever else you think would help you find and get information you need to help you build and grow your Ning Network.
Not too long ago, we laid the groundwork for our member categories feature by streamlining the management of your existing and prospective members. This feature is now live and we wanted to share with you the details and how it works.
You can create up to 50 categories and assign members to them. All of your members will begin in the default category, called “Members.” You can create and edit new categories via the Member Categories tab in the Member Management section. A couple of important limitations to note: the default category can’t be edited, and members can only belong to one category at a time.
When you create a category, you have an option to create a listing page exclusively for the members in that category, and you can create listing pages for up to 10 categories. When you do this, a new submenu item for the category will appear in the submenu items for Member pages. You can choose the text for the submenu listing, so that you can pluralize or customize it. This is a great way to highlight specific members within your community.
Image and Text Badges
Each category that you create can also have an optional image or text badge that gets added as an overlay on a member’s profile picture. Whether you create badges of honor or badges of shame, this is an excellent way to identify admins, reward special members, or just make it easy for visitors to identify different types of members. Text badges are based on the category name, and can be placed at the top or bottom of the profile picture. You can set the text color, background color, and the background opacity for each badge, so you can get as creative as you like!
Images badges can be positioned in one of the four corners of a member’s profile picture. We’ve included over 20 badges to get you started, and you can upload and manage up to 50 of your own custom badges!
Designers and Ning Creators comfortable with CSS will be pleased to know that each category made is associated with a CSS class added to the #xg_themebody div in profile pages. This means you can create CSS styles that will be applied to the profile pages of members in a category. This will let you do things like adjust the background or color scheme of every member of your network who’s in a specific category.
Once you’ve assigned your members to categories, you can use new functionality in the Broadcast Message feature to send a broadcast message to just those members. Choose any category you’ve created and proceed from there.
Let us know how you’re using member categories and badges within your community!
Last year, we did something a little different than we have in previous years; we published a public Product Roadmap. It was a big success. It bolstered direct customer-company communication, and it really helped Ning Creators know what was coming next.
It was an ambitious roadmap, and by year’s end we had finished all but one of the projects we initially listed on the roadmap (we’re still working on Mobile improvements; it expanded in scope and became larger). All told, we completed many more projects in 2011 than we did in the 2 previous years combined. In fact, we actually added additional projects to the 2011 Roadmap as the year went along, making it our biggest year of improvements ever. All of those additional projects were based directly on the suggestions we received from our customers — thank you!
We’re going to keep up regular roadmap updates for 2012, although this year we’re going to do things a little differently. We’re still going to keep you updated about what we’re working on with our Product Roadmap page on Creators, but we’re going to shift to offering a more “living” document that shows:
- What’s already in partial release
- What we’re working on now that’s not yet released
- What’s still in the planning stages
The goal is to update it frequently as we go along instead of offering one giant laundry list of features. We want the projects we’re reporting on to be focused on high quality — incorporating feedback we hear from our customers so we can be nimble and adjust what we’re building based on your valuable input. And, we’ll be adding to our roadmap as we complete projects throughout the year.
With all of that said, here’s what we have partially released, are working on, and are still planning…
Activity Feed: If you haven’t seen it yet, we also recently added “Top News” as a beta in the Ning Labs section of your Dashboard. Among other things, this feed pulls in Facebook and Twitter account posts into the Top News activity feed. We’ll be making additional visual improvements to this feed, implementing some real-time abilities for new activity items, and moving this feature out of beta. Check out the latest set of improvements we recently released. There’s more to come on this project that will help increase engagement on your Ning Network.
Member Categories & Badges: We know a lot of Ning Creators want to create different levels of membership for their community. We’ll be adding the ability for you to assign members to custom-made categories. The work on this project kicked off a few weeks ago with a reorganization of the member roles and moderation data to make finding and filtering members easier. Next, we’ll roll out the ability to create and administer categories in this area. This project will also include a way for you to create custom badges using these new member categories. This will be an excellent way for you to reward or identify admins, featured members, special people and all-stars on your community.
Working On It
Mobile Update: Not everyone is aware that there’s a mobile version of every Ning Network — it’s located at networkname.ning.com/m. If you are aware of it, you’ll be very happy to hear that we’re working on a redesign of this mobile interface that will be a giant improvement. This is one of the largest projects we’ve undertaken to date, and it’s really important. We want to get it right so that Ning Creators won’t just have a better mobile experience to offer their members, but will have a way to configure and customize the mobile version to really fit their community. We’ll be posting about this on Ning Creators and accepting volunteers for the beta group.
Help Center Redesign: Our Advocacy team is most excited about their revamp of the Help Center. It’s time for a refresh of the content, the look, the advice — all of it is currently in the process of being redone to be more friendly. Let us know if there are specific resources you’d like to see in our updated Help Center.
Blog Update: The blog functionality on Ning Networks is ready for a redo. We’ve gotten a wealth of feedback from Ning Creators about what they’d like to see done differently with the blog feature. We have a lot of work planned to make the blog more powerful and much more visually appealing. We’ll share more details as this project unfolds.
Sign-Up Controls: We’ll offer expanded control over sign in and sign up options that will allow you to, for example, have an “open registration” during specific times and “closed registration” at other times. If you’re more interested in using Ning as a publishing platform over a community platform, you will be able to turn off all “Sign-Up” links and messaging visible to non-signed-in visitors.
New Commenting Options: Provide the ability to allow non-members to join in the conversation by using third-party commenting services (e.g., Facebook comments).
How we move forward
One thing we want to do is invest more resources in beta testing and iterating on the design of each new feature — very similar to what we did with the recently updated Chat. We started the complete Chat revamp with an early announcement about the feature, followed by the creation of a small test group, gradually opened up the beta to more people, announced our progress ahead of final deployment, and then rolled the feature out to everyone. It was one of our most successful product launches, and it incorporated a lot of opportunity for the most engaged Ning Creators to provide feedback. Being laser-focused on one project at a time (rather than being more generally focused on a giant list of projects) helped us make Chat even better than we had originally planned. We’d like to pattern more of our releases in a similar way.
We still plan to innovate in a big way, and, as always, there is additional work going on that’s not reflected in this product roadmap. For example, it may not be apparent that over the past year we greatly expanded language support for our marketing pages (Ning traverse le monde! FYI: We’ll be re-translating French and German soon), reorganized and consolidated domains, adopted new behind-the-scenes web services that make things run more smoothly, and many other projects. We continue to grow and become stronger as a platform when we do these types of essential, less visible projects. Building out all facets of our business — and not just the forward-facing product features — means a more reliable and robust product.
We’ll be continuing the conversation on Ning Creators and the Ning Blog about these projects, so look for ongoing announcements about beta access and updates on our progress. If you didn’t find your favorite request in this update, we’ll be updating the roadmap regularly with new items. As always, thank you for all of the suggestions and feedback!
At Ning, we’ve long believed in giving you and your members the flexibility to share and converse with one another in whatever means is optimal for your community – and today we’re launching a major upgrade to one of our most popular features: Chat.
We’ve rebuilt the new Chat from the ground-up, meaning we took a fine-toothed comb at how Chat should work with your 2012 expectations of web technology. The new Chat is made using HTML5, expanding the speed, options and customizations available to you through the feature. HTML5 also means that the new Chat is also now available on iPad and iPhone, Android-powered devices, and many of the newer mobile platforms available today.
Besides the updates we’ve made under the hood, we’ve also improved the readability as you use Chat. We’ve consolidated on white space, meaning you’ll see more of the conversation without the need to scroll through the past. Posts are grouped together, and appear under the same timestamp, name and avatar. After 1 minute of inactivity, we’ll add a new timestamp, so that you’ll know when the conversation left off and picked up again.
We’ve also added more controls and customizations with Chat. Its appearance will match the standard font used on your Ning Network, and Chat also adopts your network’s color scheme. Much in the same way you can use the Language Editor to make tweaks and customize the language across your Ning Network, you can do the same with the new Chat. Appearance customizations are now available for Chat with CSS. You now also have a universal and easy way to toggle Chat’s notification sounds on or off, and even a way to upload your own sound to be used to notify you and members of new Chat activity.
There are 4 new and improved displays for Chat: bar, module, full page and pop-out, giving you and your members the ability to easily show and hide chat messages according to individual preferences. With the updated new Chat bar, we also now support a new and improved pop-out chat, which will allow Chat to be ever-present even as you and your members navigate around your Ning Network and the web.
You no longer have to toggle between the network-wide chat and one-on-one chats. Now, when a one-on-one chat is started, a new private window will open up and you’ll be up and running in a private chat. You can pop-out the private chat or let it stay in the Chat bar.
As the Ning Creator, an admin or a chat moderator, you’ll see an “x” next to any chat post. You’ll be able to delete the post, and temporarily suspend the member from Chat. A member’s suspension from Chat can range from 15 minutes to 24 hours – it’s up to you. You and your members can also choose to ignore chat posts by specific members. This means that you won’t receive private messages and posts by anyone you’ve ignored, even in the Main Room.
Want to know more? Check out our new Ning Help Center articles that explain all the details about the new Chat:
- Introduction to Chat
- Get to Know the Chat Bar
- Control the Display Options for Your Chat Feature
- Moderate Chat on Your Ning Network
- View the Online Members in Chat
We’d like to thank all of the beta-testing Ning Creators who gave the new Chat a whirl and provided us with great feedback as we iterated this new feature. We’ll continue to take feedback from you and would love to know what you think. Feel free to comment below or on this Creators group. Happy chatting!
We’re excited to announce a series of feature updates and improvements to Mogwee, Ning’s free mobile communication and collaboration service available for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android and Web. Mogwee is a fun way to easily create “Hangouts” and stay connected with friends, family, co-workers, study groups and more, no matter where you are.
Join in seconds, easily invite friends, express yourself with a custom theme, then start enjoying our features. Some highlights:
Joining and Inviting
- Join Mogwee effortlessly using your Facebook account
- Easily invite lots of friends at once using Facebook, SMS or email
- Enjoy an improved interface, including the ability to choose custom themes
- Follow conversations more easily with threaded replies (just tap on a message to reply directly)
- On an iPad? Enjoy an updated iPad-specific interface
- Share real-time photos from events
- Share your location (or any location) with a Hangout (iOS and Android)
- Get Hangout feedback on any topic with easy-to-create polls
- Browse and search YouTube directly within Mogwee to share videos with the Hangout (iOS and Android)
- Send fun animated gifts and actions, including sharks, crickets and Kung Fu squirrels
- Find out the answer to an all-important question: who is the Hangout’s Sheep Tennis champion?
One consistent theme we’ve heard from our Ning Creators is how important it is to be able to create the social experience that’s right for their communities. We have a diverse customer base and every Ning Network is unique – some may center around community listening while others may focus on event organizing or revenue generation.
Back a few months ago, we launched Paid Access as our first optional add-on feature to provide Ning Creators with more options to customize their social experience. Today, we’re taking a further step to give you more flexibility to add features that are important to your community without requiring you to upgrade to a more expensive plan. Four Add-On features are now available individually for a set monthly fee: Groups, Events, Branded Music Player and Branded Video Player. If you’re a Mini customer, you now have the option of adding one or more of these features to your current plan. If you’re a Plus customer, you already have access to Groups and Events; you’ll now have the option to add a Branded Music Player and / or a Branded Video Player.
Interested in learning more? You can check out the new “Add-Ons” link on your Dashboard menu. We have more Add-On features planned, so let us know which additional features you’d like to see in the comments below.