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What are the possible alternatives to Ning network, a detailed analysis

May 12, 2010

Bubble’s next

Ning‘s bubble bursted.

TechCrunch pointed out that Grou.ps and grouply can be feasible Ning’s alternatives.

There are also some other group based blogs can be a good to try. I listed them as below.

http://www.webs.com/

http://sixent.com/

http://www.groupsite.com/

https://www.bigtent.com/log_in

For grou.ps, the site members grow rapidly. The new users could be the refugees from Ning. Grou.ps has the scalability issue. The site is very slow until noon, 5/12/2010.

Grouply is much faster than Grou.ps. It is also relatively simpler than Grou.ps to start a new social work group. Grouply has two features, which seem to be annoying for the new users. It has the title called ” grouply create your own group ” on the title bar. Most of people do not want that on the header part of a web site. It should be more graceful, if that title can be moved to the bottom part (e.g. the footer part) of a web site.  Grouply also forces free users to leave the Google advertisement on the right part of the screen. I think it can be done more gracefully. For example, to leave that Google advertisement on some space, which is not visually obtrusive.

Technically, for now (5.12.2010), Grouply is built partially based on Extjs javascript framework. It makes full use of Extjs drag/drop, rich text editor etc functions.

Webs‘ account creation wizard process seems to be old fashioned. It divides the possible clients into business oriented or work group oriented groups. For eCommerical type site, for example,  it can help users to create the products check in, check out processes. All these ideas are borrowed from the other eCommercial software like oscommerce, as well as the more modern one magentocommerce.There is also a good list of eCommerical sites.

Webs‘ site building process is however much more user friendly than both the Grou.ps and Grouply. It is simple and straightforward. It is more intuitive, with more user friendly UI design. The site built by Webs looks professional and visual comfortable, without much annoying advertisement. It also adds the advertisement on the top.  Overall, Webs’ site building is much simpler. The functions offered out-of-box are also fewer than Grou.ps and Grouply.

Until today  (5.12.2010), the Webs’ blog is buggy. The text editor paste function is not working well in the Google Chrome browser. The text editor delete function is also not working well for the Firefox browser. This should not happen for a professional social network building site.

Sixent account creation process and site building process is more web 2.0 oriented. The built sites intend to be personal use rather than social network use. The user interface is much more friendly than Grouply,Grou.ps, and Webs. The created site is also clean. If your social network more focus on personal use, sixent is recommended because of its simplicity in account creation, site building, and the built site quality.

Groupsite‘s account creation process is less frustrated due to its simplified process. On the management panel, there are less widgets compared with Grou.ps (1) and Grouply (2). On the management panel, I do not feel the intensive busy interface as those two sites. It supports similar functions as (1) and (2). Interestingly, it also supports sub-groups, which could be a best features for some sites, which intends to divide the whole site into smaller groups or various sub-categories.

Another thing I like of Groupsite is that there is no obtrusive forced-display-advertisement on the finished sites. Though, there is also a forced-title on the header part ” Create a Groupsite | Find a Groupsites”, the text font is very small, with gray color. It is not easy for users to notice these text. I believe engineers in Groupsite carefully design the usability of the site, which make it superior to use.

The technology behind of Groupsite still needs some enhancement. I take a look at the source of the pages. The code is messy. The javascript codes are not separated from the HTML markups. This needs to be improved for the site scalability.

Bigtent‘s main site interface design is problematic. It is confusing to me where is sign up and where is sign in. I switching between clicking the create group button and the sign in button. I am not sure which button I need to click first. It takes me 2 mins to figure this out if I click the create group button, then in the second step, I can fill out my email information. After confirming the Email sent by Bigtent, then I started to create my account. This is different from all the above sites, which even barely need your Email confirmation. This makes me think of necessity of Email confirmation for modern social network sites.

In default, Bigtent only supports the use of forum. This makes the functionality of the Bigtent limited. Since most of above sites support Blog. Bigtent should also consider making this feature as default. Most of people more adapt to using Blog rather than forum now.

Another problem of Bigtent is that the admin workspace URL is not as explicit as the above sites. Almost all above sites can immediately give friendly URL (e.g. ww.XXX.grou.ps) in the admin workspace when you have created your network. It make it easy for admin to switch between the web administration role and the normal web user role, less confusion, high productivity thereby.

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