I have a niche site that is ripe for a "community". It is an RC plane site (www.randyRCplanes.com)
There are other RC communities out there, but a large majority (I don't have exact stats but assume 65%+) of RC hobbyist utilize a basic forum structure located at rcgroups.com.
The industry is pretty entrenched in this traditional forum model.
What I would like to see happen is to modernize this "community".
So, a logical choice would be to use Ning as a platform (just like 48days and others).
What are your thoughts on Ning (both feature and functionality wise as well as "community building" aspect) versus a "forum" system such as bbPress or vBulletin https://www.vbulletin.com/
One of the functions I desire is to be able to customize sidebars, etc to displays ads. I know I can do that with vBulletin.
Another comment I have is this: of the Ning communities I am involved in, they do not seem as intuitive and as user friendly to "dive in" and get involved in a conversation. Even 48days (no offense) everythime I log in, I stumble to locate the content that I can interactac with.
Lastly, I do love the ability of chat that Ning provides. I am 99% sure that would not be available via a traditional forum system (unless you all know of one).
Is there a way to make Ning (design wise) function (User Interface) more like forums? Especially since the industry is accustomed to it??
Thanks you in advance for any feedback!
It depends on your familiarity with building such things, but you can build exactly what you're talking about with Drupal. It's got all of those kinds of capabilities out of the box. It's a fantastic tool if you're willing to roll up your sleeves and work on it, and it's open source same as Wordpress, but it doesn't make any assumptions for you, so you'll have to do some work to get it configured the way you want. You could even use it with the Fusion Framework, and use one of their free themes like Prosper and do some pretty awesome stuff, and you can configure it the way you want.
Other than that, you would probably be best off with Wordpress & bbPress. I've never personally found the Ning set up as well done as it could be, plus it's been premium for a long time now.
Thanks for the response Rob.
I am actually very familiar with Drupal. I recently designed/developed a micro-donation platform for an international disaster relief organization that we built upon Drupal 7 and Drupal Commerce.
My thought with the "community" / forum aspect for the particular project this is for is that the site is already built on Wordpress so I want to avoid redesign for Drupal. That being said, I realize I can have a separate Drupal install and simply hyperlink the two platforms for the main site to the "community". Much like Ning's implementation functions. Except that I would "own" the code (on my servers).
Could you recommend the modules for Drupal that you think would create this community functionality I am looking for? Drupal may be my best choice.
I glanced at bbPress and making it functional does not seem as intuitive as Wordpress itself. However, if I go with bbPress all the plugins are in one location whereas with Drupal the "community" modules are mixed in with all the other modules in the community...