Help with jQuery Mods and Hacks for your Ning Network!
If you own a network based on the Ning platform like this one, you might be wondering why some people sign up but hardly ever return. It's easy to jump to conclusions like, "the design of the site doesn't look professional," "Lack of content", "too few members" while leaving out some other reasons we are ignorant of or consider trivial. Since last year I have taken upon myself as a hobby to join as many Ning websites as I can with the objective of learning more techniques for successful social networking websites. So far I have signed up at about 46 Ning websites and counting. I won't say I am a very active member on these sites. There are some like JQuery Help that I visit atleast once a day, others where I focus on reading and others where my profile is simply dead. In this blog I am going to focus on those things that make me not want to return to a Ning website basing on my personal experience. This short list reflects real issues encountered as a member of ning websites for the past three years and being the owner of two ning wesbites myself. This list is likely to be longer for members who are completely new to how ning websites work.
1. A long and tedious sign up process:
>>We are all so afraid of spammers that we set membership to our networks to approval. That alone already is a turn away to some extent especially on those networks where the admin is hardly there to approve the new member. While waiting for approval, it's simply frustrating and with the option "Withdraw Membership" right there, it's so easy to click and leave the network.
>>In addition, other network owners also enable "Require email verification" in the sign up process. That lazy side of us sometimes just doesn't want to go logging into an email account then clicking on a link in order to return to the site. Most, including me would say, ok I will activate that link later when I have time to check that email account.
>>Some network owners, depending on their niche and objectives, set up a pretty long sign up process including a lot of required information and multiple questions to be answered. One of the reasons probably is to have as much information as possible about each member in other to better feed them with content. Personally it's hard for me to give out that much information about myself when I am yet to know what kind of members the community has. I'd rather do that later. It turns me off.
2. Too much greetings:
This might sound strange or funny to some readers but let me explain what I mean by too much greetings. Sending a personal welcoming message to a new member is a good thing while copy and paste messages don't give a good impression, even worse, those animated messages / banners that can be seen everywhere on the web. On some websites, the welcome message is about a 400 word essay explaining how to use the website. On other ning websites I have been to, the site owner sends me a message, 4admins from the same site send me messages too. None of the messages show any personal feeling towards the newbie that I am. It's all copy and paste visible on all other members' pages on the same website. I am that kind of person that cherishes a welcome message like "Welcome to our website Denis, take your time to explore around and feel free to ask any questions you might have." The same thing happens to me sometimes when I go shopping downtown. Those shops where the sales staff storm you once you step in to have a look. Guess what I do, I walk out and visit those shops where the welcoming is a bit calmer.
3. Homepage load time:
I have often read around the web that 4seconds are the standard load time for a website. Many ning websites I have visited do not meet this standard. This could be for various reasons (not my concern here). Whatever the reasons are, the fact remains that when I have to wait for over 10seconds for a website to load, I am likely to move on to other things except you are offering something really.
4. Over stuffed homepages:
I visit some Ning websites where almost everything on the website can be seen on the homepages. A lot of text boxes filled with banners, animations, third party scripts, etc. all ads boxes enabled, etc. This turns me away very often. On these kind of sites you keep scrolling down forever. I usually leave when I finally scroll down to the end of the page. It's like putting all what you have in the various rooms of your family home on the verandah. Why then should your guest visit any of the rooms?
5. Music Auto-play enabled:
By default we human beings like getting others to listen to what we like to listen to. This is very visible on Ning networks. Automatic music playlists and radio players embedded on homepages are real turn-aways to me except my own website. Yes my own networks too are guilty of this. It's annoying especially when people visit the site while at work or while listening to something else, yet a habit we find very hard to cast away. It's like vistors to your home again, while they feed at your home you want them to know what your taste of music is. Unfortunately the web visitor is different in the sense that he or she visits you unannounced.
6. Too Limited freedom:
There is too much 'dictatorship' in the management style of many ning websites I belong to. If dictatorship is too harsh a word for you call it "too much control". Examples of this kind of control can be seen on features like: Picture upload; very limited number and set to approval, videos; set to approval, blogs, groups, etc. in addition to a long list of community rules. The site owner doesn't enable anything that gives members a litlle freedom to do anything. The everything-on-my-desk-for-approval style. If a network owner puts too many rules around the website features I feel like I don't have any freedom and simply walk away.
7. Eye irritating homepage colors:
It's probably a problem of my poor eye sight but I am afraid I am going to mention it as a turn away because it is really a turn away to me when I browse websites late at night. Suddenly a shouting black, blue, yellow, red, etc. strikes my eyes in a way that I have to blink several time and lean back in order to get my eyes to adjust to the new colors. In addition to the shouting colors there are many scrolling texts from left to right and from down to up making me even dizzier. Yes we all want that smashing homepage but let's be more considerate in our color pick. I once read somewhere that there are several hundreds of colors. Picking two or three that match must be an uphill task. There is a very simple test you can use when picking colors for your website. Turn off all the lights in your room, leave your PC on logged on to your website, take a short nap, then wake up and move your mouse so that the light on your PC screen turns on. That way you might feel the effect homepage collors have on me.
8. Too many email notifications:
As ning website owners we already know the existence of this problem on the platform we are using so when we sign up at a fellow ning website creator's website we immediately know where to click and how to adjust the email notifications settings so that we don't get a load of them. Well this knowledge we have might not apply to other members who are not familiar with the ning platform. In that case they will just walk away when next they check their emails and find 15emails from your ning website. Most, if they don't want to turn off all emails from your website would simply check the emails for junk. In that way a good email service like gmail will henceforth simply send all your trash to the junk mail box. Usually when I sign up at a ning website, I start a little activity in a two weeks grace period during which I choose my email notification settings depending on how many emails I am getting. If it comes to the worst, I usually block all the emails except the turn off all email from xxxxxsite box with the hope that I can still get an idea of what is goign on the website when ever the web admin communicates. Unfortunately, the most radical culprits are us ning website owners as far as emails to members are concerned. Many of us send out tons of broadcast messages turning away even the loyal member who decided to leave that one box unchecked.
As earlier mentioned, this list reflects just real issues encountered as a member of many ning websites. The issues discussed here might to some extent match the descriptions of some websites I belong to. Please do not take it as an offence if you read this blog. If you visit my ning networks you will also find many of the issues discussed above. So I don't mean any harm, I am trying to be constructive in my criticism. There could be many others that I haven't encountered yet. When I do, I might come back to this blog and add them to the list. If you have other issues that quickly turn you away from ning websites not on the list above, you are welcome to share them here with us. We are all striving to help eachother learn and improve. It's the thing that attracts me the most on this website; the fact that the concept is built on the idea of helping others improve.
Shanghai, December 2nd 2011
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