Hey Ning – What’s up?

We have used Ning.com for a few client projects.  When working, Ning is a nifty site for setting up social networks with loads of features.  I’m a member of a few Ning networks outside of the office, and have had a good experience with it, as have out clients.  Anyone can set up a Ning site on a Ning subdomain such as yoursite.ning.com and start developing a community very quickly.  We have used a number of Ning’s pro services – using a custom domain, removing Google Ad Sense or controlling the ad content – to positive effect.  It can be free if you want it, and it seems to scale up to a professional site with ease.  The designs are customizable down to the CSS, and you can plug Google Analytics code to measure the traffic and usage.

The unexpected part can recently when this error began popping up when visiting Ning.com.

This webpage has a redirect loop.

The webpage at http://www.ning.com/ has resulted in too many redirects. Clearing your cookies for this site may fix the problem. If not, it is possibly a server configuration issue and not a problem with your computer.

The error is simple enough to clear up – just empty your browser cookies – but this could be a nuisance or a big problem for end users and community managers.  How many users actually take the step of reading an error message the first time it appears?  How many web companies, like us, have fielded calls from clients saying their Ning site was down, or misconfigured? While the error may be simple enough to resolve, it is surely a black mark against Ning’s usability.

I posted a message to Ning’s Twitter account (@NIng) this week saying:

@Ning How is your service lately? Some clients have asked about the downtime.

and did receive a quick response from Laura Oatning, a Community Advocate at Ning (@lauraoatning).  She spent some time troubleshooting the issue with me, although not to resolution.  The concern here is that users should not have to clear their browser cookies to visit the site.  My hope is that this is an isolated spate of issues, and is not effecting a larger group.  We’re about to enter a period of focus group testing on one of our client networks, and this is surely one of the issues we’ll have them monitor.