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Ning Staff Blogs (59)

Well-designed Ning Networks

We've collected Ning Networks that have inspiring design here in the past. Here's a post on Socialbrite, where LauraO shares some of her favorites. The collection includes Ning Networks focused on commercial efforts, those that are non-profit based, as well as a couple making best use of the Groups feature.

Some will be familiar, but there are definitely a few Ning Networks new to me!


What do you think of those mentioned? Which do you think should be joining as a best-designed Ning Network?

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Jim Burke, High School English teacher and Ning Network Creator, recently won the 2009 Edublog Award for Best Educational Use of a Social Networking Service. When I came across this article announcing the Edublog Award, I was interested to hear what inspired Jim to create English Companion Ning and what he learned along the way. With over 11,000 members, it is clear that English Companion Ning created a much-needed space for High School English teachers. Jim discusses how he found his audience, and uses his audience to build and maintain a successful environment. Thank you Jim, for sharing this advice, and congratulations on the Edublog award!
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Tom Humbarger has written a fascinating read on the importance of active management to the success of an online community.One of the most interesting sections to me is the Google Analytics snippet. We don't often get to compare our network metrics to others. In a year and a half, the group grew from 0 to 4,000 members, and in the final full year saw just under 200,000 pageviews.
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Manny Hernandez, Network Creator and Guide here on Creators, is up for a ShortyAward for his network, Tudiabetes. Shorty Awards honor the best producers of real-time, short form content on Twitter.Let's help out a fellow Network Creator and vote! Tudiabetes, a "community of people touched by diabetes", is currently in 4th position in the health category. To vote, just tweet:I nominate @tudiabetes for a Shorty Award in #health because...(add reason here)Visit Tudiabetes.org to see the amazing work Manny has done so far then add your reason in the tweet. You can do this on Twitter.com, with any Twitter client, or using the voting box on Shortyawards.com.

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Photo Finish Records is an indie label with bands such as 3OH!3, New Medicine and The Downtown Fiction. We were so impressed with its hip and funky 3D design that we asked Edith Levin of Edith Levin LLC, a freelance designer for Atlantic Records, to walk us through how she came up with the design, and offer up some of her own design tips.
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Welcome to the second in a series of Ning Creators blog posts focusing on simple design tricks you can use on your network.

Trick #2: Centering the Navigation

The following code, used on Carmen Electra's official community, will center your network's navigation area in all web browsers.

CarmenElectra.com

To do this, just visit the "Appearance" area inside the "Manage" tab, then paste the following CSS snippet inside the "Advanced" section (underneath any other code that may already be there):

#xg_navigation ul {text-align: center;margin: 0 auto;}#xg_navigation ul li {display: -moz-inline-box; /* inline-block for earlier versions of FF */-moz-box-orient: vertical; /* inline-block for earlier versions of FF */display: inline-block;vertical-align: middle;*display: inline; /* ie7+ hack */*vertical-align: auto; /* ie7+ hack */text-align: left;float: none;}#xg_navigation ul li a {display: inline;}

When you're done, click the "Save" button. Your navigation should now be centered. Enjoy!

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Hi everyone!

Since there's an active discussion on critiquing each others Ning Networks, here is a web page on hints for critiquing a site -- http://www.digital-web.com/articles/web_design_critique/ -- okay, it's on slightly different subject (actual HTML design rather than Ning Networks) but it's still pretty useful. I'll highlight the major points here:[NOTE THAT THE FOLLOWING TEXT IS FROM THE ABOVE LINK, PARAPHRASED IN THE CONTEXT FOR PEOPLE CRITIQUING NING NETWORKS. THAT SAID, I PRETTY MUCH AGREE. :) ]

Asking for an opinion

The more experienced a designer is, the less s/he's likely to ask people for opinions on her designs. After all, everyone else that hangs out on a list or message board is less experienced than you are, right?

When you are offering up your wares for the world to rip into, it can help to be as specific as possible about what you want them to look at. Here are some suggestions:

- Clearly state what the objective of the site or page is.

- Be specific about what you want comments on - and hope that people will read that before they start offering opinions.Taking it

It can be hard to take criticism, but as I've already said, sometimes it can be tremendously useful. While the tendency may be to listen only to people whom you know and perhaps whose work you admire, this can often shut you off from those out-of-nowhere responses that really make you think.

First of all though, I do tend to listen far more carefully to the opinions of people whose work I admire--that's just natural.

Also, I do tend to discount the type of opinion which says something along the lines of "I don't like your design at all, it's just not my style." (Even worse is that very helpful "your design sucks".) That's not really the point--everyone has his or her preferred styles, or colors, but a decently educated eye can tell the difference between good and bad design.

On the flip side, not all positive feedback is useful either. "I just love everything you do!" is not too in-depth or constructive... it's flattering for sure, but is it useful?

The best type of criticism tends to be very specific, in my opinion. Comments such as "the use of the navigation can be more user-friendly if arranged such a way" or "the color contrast would be better if." etc. are specific and critical without being negative.

When asked for an opinionTaking criticism can be tough, but often dishing it out can be harder. I don't think that anyone wants to hurt someone's feelings; but then again, what can one do when confronted with a design you can't stand? Do you lie? Well...it depends.

Beware of newbies

First of all, consider the source. Is it someone who is seriously considering becoming a professional web designer [or a hardcore Ning user -Ern] --or perhaps someone who already calls himself a pro? If so, then I think that you should be as tough on them as any of their clients might be. On the other hand, if it were someone who is doing this as a hobby, or just starting out, you would probably want to be much gentler.

If you see something positive, it might be good to emphasize this first--especially if you see some kind of potential. Perhaps their designs are way too busy and cluttered (a common problem for beginner-type pages) but perhaps their use of color is unique; then you can latch onto that.

When there's some more potential:

Mentoring

If the person is asking for a critique, and you think their work is worth offering opinions about, then it's a different story. At which point, if you have any experience yourself (and the other party respects your opinions), it's a chance to become a mentor. This can be a truly rewarding experience. It can be a joy to see someone blossom as they absorb the criticism they receive.If the person is not being specific, as is detailed in the above section, ask them those questions. Who is the intended audience? Unless the work in question is a pure for-fun piece, it doesn't necessarily matter how beautiful it is--it also has to be practical. Consider your "student's" goals--are they doing this just for fun, or do they want to make a living at it? Maybe they are very good at doing sites with lots of complicated decorative elements, but if they're aiming for business clients perhaps they'd appreciate some tips on how to make more "boring" sites. And so on.

Hope this helps.- E

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Alice Yoo is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of My Modern Metropolis, a Ning Network and community blog where artists, trendspotters and design lovers share today's best modern day experiences. Alice shares some great tips with Ning on welcoming new members and rewarding active members.
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Furqan Khan is the 21-year-old whiz kid behind Kicks on Fire, a Ning Network for sneaker aficionados (or "kicks", for the uninitiated). Furqan regularly runs promotions and contests on his Ning Network to engage members and even drive new membership. He chatted with Ning about Kicks on Fire, the promos he runs and what's coming up.
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Here's a handy way to load Ning Creators from your iPhone's home screen as a fullscreen standalone app (rather than a window within Safari):1. Visit https://creators.ning.com/fullscreen.html from Safari on your iPhone. You'll immediately be redirected to the iPhone version of Ning Creators.2. Click the back button in Safari and you'll go to a blank white page. Don't panic, this is normal.3. From this blank white page, press the "+" button at the bottom of the screen and choose the "Add to Home Screen" option. You'll see a preview of the Ning Creators icon and an option to edit the name. You can leave things as they are, then click the "Add" button in the upper-right corner.4. All done. You can now click the newly-added home screen icon to experience Ning Creators as a fullscreen standalone app.Enjoy!

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Welcome to the first in a series of Ning Creators blog posts focusing on simple design tricks you can use on your network.Trick #1: Adding an Arrow Indicator to Navigation DropdownsThe pulldown menus created by our Tab Manager feature are extremely popular, however some Network Creators have expressed interest in displaying an arrow indicator next to tabs that have a dropdown menu (to make it clear to members that there's more content inside that tab). You can see this in action on Enrique Iglesias' official social network.To achieve this effect, visit the "Manage" tab, then the "Analytics" section. Paste in the following snippet underneath anything else that may already exist (don't delete anything):<script type="text/javascript">if (typeof(x$) != 'undefined') {//Adding "dropdown" class to nav tabs that have subtabsx$("li.xg_subtab[dojotype='SubTabHover']").addClass("dropdown");}</script>Save the changes. Now visit the "Manage" tab again, followed by the "Appearance" section. Click on the "Advanced" tab.If you have a light background color on your network, add the following code underneath anything else that may already exist (don't delete anything):.dropdown {padding-right:5px;background:url(https://static.ning.com/creators/design/black-arrow.png) no-repeat right center;}If you have a dark background color on your network, add the following code underneath anything else that may already exist (don't delete anything):.dropdown {padding-right:5px;background:url(https://static.ning.com/creators/design/white-arrow.png) no-repeat right center;}Save the changes. You're all set. You can adjust the "5px" number above to tweak the spacing that appears to the left of the arrow, and if you want to use a different arrow image or support legacy web browsers, you can create a new image with an image editing program, then swap out the existing black-arrow.png or white-arrow.png URL with your custom image's URL.Note that this technique works best on themes in which tabs don't have a separate background color when selected, though certainly feel free to experiment. Happy dropdowning!

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Building Strong Ties

World AIDS day is observed every year on December 1st to raise awareness and cultivate a strong community of support. Network Creator Robert Breining has taken these values online with his network, POZIAM. Robert is dedicated to developing a welcoming and supportive community, and it really shows. Since creating his network, Robert has established techniques for building strong ties within POZIAM. Thank you Robert for sharing!
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Meet Greg from Ski Dazzle

Let the Network Creator interviews begin! Each week, we would love to spotlight a new Network Creator to find out how they have built their network in a unique way. The interviews should be yet another way to share tips and best practices.I recently had the opportunity to interview Greg Hendrickson, the Network Creator of the Ski Dazzle networks.
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Making the Ning Blog awesome

If you read the Ning Blog regularly, you'll know my name — I write a lot of the posts, along with Nick (he does most of the product updates). We're constantly working on making the Ning Blog full of interesting, fun and relevant content, but I know we can always do more. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on what types of blog posts you like seeing... highlights of awesome Ning Networks (besides your own)? Tips and advice, like how to create a custom gift? Interviews with other Ning Network Creators? If there are things you'd like to see more of, please let me know!
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