Thanks for raising the topic and sharing your thoughts.
I too have been exploring the possibilities that other software can offer. There seems to be an explosion of online systems aimed at teh education market, from grade books, to portfolios, to quizmakers, to fully-fledged LMS'.
I think there is a definite need for easier to use UIs for both teachers and learners. I particularly like the way Wordpress.org works both from the admin and the front end. I also like the social aspects of Elgg.org (like if Facebook were designed for learning) and it's interface feels familiar and intuitive. It doesn't have a grade book which can be a plus if you lean towards being a qualitative assessor (formative assessment), or a minus if you're from a more quantitive camp (summative assessment). I'm less impressed with LMS' and I think Moodle.org have their work cut out for them to come up with an easy to understand UI. I agree with the many who say that Moodle is just too complicated and too difficult for "normal" teachers to do the things they want.
However, I've yet to find an LMS that is as fully-featured as Moodle. From a pedagogical perspective, I can implement a wide range of learning and teaching approaches, methodologies and techniques. I read papers on learning and teaching research and can usually find ways of implementing strategies and techniques that they're observing and reporting on. It'sklunky though and this can be a bit of wet blanket on the flow of interaction between learners, teachers and everyone involved. Having such a large tool box and such a well integrated system may be daunting but ultimately, I think it's what we all need to give teachers and learners what they need to make great learning happen.
So we have a dilemma. Too complicated to learn but the alternatives don't seem to be complicated enough (for me). Then there's the added cognitive load of the differences between online interaction and face-to-face. It has deep implications for learning and teaching strategies, especially when we're talking about SocioCultural Theory and learners co-constructing knowledge. Too much to learn too soon?