Covers Most Bases...

From a user's perspective, Ning is the new, shiny one-stop community hosting webfront.  It offers a range of interactions, including Groups, Blogs, Event Calendar, and uploading of video and images.  It's also handy that as it's a package, in that if you join one Ning site, upon logging in to another Ning site, you are recognized.  There is no repeat registration process.  Given it's simplistic set up, the Interface is relatively easy to use and intuitive.  

While registration for one Ning site carries over to another, Profile settings do not.  They have to be updated at each community.

I don't like that it doesn't include an automatic sig attachment option.  In fact, there's no option for sigs at all. 

Composition fields default to a rich text rather than HTML, and HTML composed in rich text doesn't translate.  I find this cumbersome considering that most of my interaction on Ning Groups is copied and pasted HTML. 

From an efficiency standpoint, Groups are not well presented.  Group comments don't thread.  They are listed by most recently posted first, which in an active Group can be quite a list to navigate.  Group comments can only be edited for 15 minutes after initial post.  Group Discussions seem a bit more organized on the surface, as their replies are threaded under their subject heading.  Discussions also can be edited at any point after publishing.  However, they are still organized by most recent reply at the top, which can head a hefty list.

I find the email controls confusing, as the terminology used to describe Groups and their activities doesn't match the terminology on the Group pages.  I can control what activity I want to see from the whole site at Settings, though from a Group I can turn on/off "messages."  It doesn't distinguish if these are Administrative messages from a Group moderator, or if these are indeed email forwards of Discussions.  Through the Settings page I turn off email notifications completely.  To opt out of Comments for a Group I have to turn them off in that Group.  In other words, I have to go to every Group to turn off its Comments.  It seems there could be a more streamlined way of controlling email, as well as consistent terminology for what facets of communication are referred to.

It is also unfortunate that recurring events can't be created in the Calendar.

Ning offers a Chat option, though it seems to function more as a chatbox than a true realtime chat application.

Widgets are available to be installed per user, though they are very limited in function.  Thus far none of them seem to bring any particular enhancement in functionality; rather, they add aesthetic features to the user Profile.

Activity can be linked to Twitter feeds or Facebook Status updates.

Product Reviewed: 
Reliability Rating: 
4
Features Rating: 
3
Support Rating: 
3
Ease of Use Rating: 
3
Overall Rating: 
3