XtGem Blog
blog post Springboard, revamped login system and upcoming social features!

First things first - happy new year!

2012 was a huge year for XtGem: we made great progress improving our tools by making them more accessible and powerful than ever, grew our team (hi, Mindaugas!), publisher network (+1.5 million new sites!) and traction (our traffic more than doubled during the year - to well over a billion pageviews per month!) - and we even managed to leave our cozy Lithuanian offices for a 3-month-long adventure overseas - opportunity courtesy of Springboard.

Springboard

Springboard Mobile is an intensive 13-week accelerator program, designed to help startups grow by cramming years worth of knowledge, experience and exposure into just three short months. We've had the privilege to participate in the latest iteration of the program, which was focused on mobile, among with 9 other world-class startups (Flitto, iJudgeFights, We Are Pop Up, AppTheGame, Shhmooze, Likeminds, House Map, BuildGauge, GiftCannon).

It was an amazing experience - we had a chance to meet over a hundred mentors with various - yet universally impressive - backgrounds, experience London's tech scene and brought back multiple notebooks worth of ideas for XtGem.
The program started in September of last year and culminated in December, with demo days in London, New York and San Francisco - with audiences of prominent VCs, Angel Investors and entrepreneurs.
Words can't describe how proud we are to have graduated from Springboard - it truly kicked ass - both in terms of being awesome, and in terms of being immensely exhausting. Yet we persevered - and made an astounding amount of progress as a result.

One of the things we set out to do after Springboard wrapped up was to make XtGem more social. While we have a vibrant and active community over at XtBoard, Twitter and facebook, user sites, and the tool itself, feel isolated and more lonely than they need to be. We have started paving the road for the next big update, which will make the whole experience more social and collaborative - including updates to the blogging functionality and an ability for XtGem sites to run their own communities and share content.

As a result, we have launched an updated account system - one based on e-mails, instead of site URLs. This change allows us to make a clear distinction between users - our customers - and user sites. Existing users are able to sign up for an e-mail based account and import their sites - we put in a lot of effort to make the transition as straightforward and easy as possible - it takes less than a minute.

While a significant change, the new account system is just the beginning - we will be rolling out lots of new features to compliment it in the coming months - as fast as we can build them. Stay tuned!

P.S. Springboard's next program is starting soon and will be focused on hardware - if you run a startup that builds cool gizmos, there is still time to apply - they got our stamp of approval. Application details are here.

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blog post Page content quick-setup wizard and new block types

It's a very exciting day for us at XtGem today as we have just launched a sizeable update that we have been working on for the past couple of months!
Screenshot
We have added a large number of new building tool block types, covering a very vast range of functionality: starting from click-to-call and click-to-email links and all the way up to a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, form builder.
Here are some of our favorites:
Poll - very handy for figuring out your visitor opinions regarding various topics.
Maps and vCard support - Display the location of your business on a map and allow users to easily import contact details to their phone address book.
mCommerce - Implement PayPal and Google Checkout buttons to sell various services and goods right from your XtGem site.
Image gallery - makes maintaining an image gallery a very straightforward task.
Contact form builder - allows building custom multi-purpose contact forms using a WYSIWYG interface.

We have also launched a page content quick-setup wizard in the web version of XtGem. You can now go from zero to a functional, fully customized multi-page site in less than 3 minutes.

We are very eager to hear your feedback - please do let us know your thoughts on these new updates!

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blog post MyWibes, Containers and more!

A number of weeks ago MyWibes users were informed that the service was shutting down. In light of those news, we have gotten in touch with their staff and offered to continue hosting MyWibes accounts on our servers and integrate them into our building tool, to ensure that the sites remain available in the future and users can continue to maintain them. We have completed the move and MyWibes users will be glad to know that they can now login into their sites via http://xtgem.com/mywibes

In other news, we have a meaty update for XtGem planned within the next few weeks. Namely: Updated site templating, container support and a completely rewritten markup parser.

Color preset preview

Markup parser is the core technology of XtGem, providing the link between the building tool and text editor. Current parser, while does it's job, has not aged well - it has been in use since the very first day of XtGem. More advanced XtGem users are well aware of it's negative nuances - having to use the text editor exclusively to ensure that the building tool does not mess up their markup. Those same users will be very happy to hear that, after a lot of careful planning, we have rewritten it from scratch. Once it is deployed into production, building tool and text editor will work in harmony and you will not have to worry about losing code indentation, whitespace or, in extreme cases, code.
Since this is an update to a very critical part of XtGem, we will be running a beta test to make sure that it works as expected and we have the opportunity to squash the remaining bugs. Keep an eye out on XtBoard for more information once it becomes available!

This updated parser has allowed us to expand the functionality of the building tool as well - and the very first thing that we focused on is container support. Containers are basically separate builder blocks that can contain blocks within themselves. They allow for a better separation of page sections - for example you might want to have a container for header elements, another one for navigation items and the third one for page content. You will be able to collapse them and have complex content hierarchies, which will speed up content maintenance by a lot.
But we did not stop there! XtGem will be able to recognize block context from the parent container and support blocks that are specific to it. You will, for example, be able to create a navigation container and add navigation items to it, or set up a gallery container and add images to it using a dedicated UI.

Containers

Given the support for more markup structures and blocks, we have spent the past couple of months working on another huge feature - updated site templates.
Currently site templates simply apply a basic CSS file to the whole site - which works fine, but leaves something to be desired. Updated site templates will be a lot more sophisticated, providing professional-quality look, vast configuration options and device-specific functionality. You will be able to tweak template look on the fly (or choose from a bunch of predefined presets) and XtGem will generate cross-device-compatible markup and CSS - including appropriate containers, stylesheets and code that will make your site work on a variety of devices, from feature phones to smartphones to desktop browsers. Site templates and containers will launch shortly after the updated parser hits production.

Color preset editing

We are very fortunate to get as much feedback and suggestions as we do. Since adding support for PHP, some of the most-requested features were FTP and MySQL support. I won't disclose the specifics yet, but assure you that we are currently testing various ways to implement these two technologies into XtGem. Stay tuned! ;)

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blog post WEB tool has been updated!

After months of development, extensive private and semi-open beta testing, we are finally releasing the completely-reworked XtGem building tool to public!

WEB v2 preview
Click for full-size image


To make the transition easier for users, existing WEB tool will remain available for now - to access the updated version, either click a corresponding link on xtgem.com or head straight to http://xtgem.com/v2

Here are some highlights of what's new:
Much faster and smooth user experience. We called this updated tool a 'WEB application' for a reason - it acts and feels like a proper desktop application - except you won't need to install anything and it's always accessible, wherever you are!
(1) Easier file management. Navigate through your files with ease, create and upload new ones or manage existing content without having to worry about opening new browser windows.
(2) Building tool has been updated to be more intuitive to use as well as speed up content management.
(3) Preview changes right away. See how your site looks on a smaller resolution screen - and if something doesn't seem right, all the tools you will need to make the changes are readily available.
(4) Easily switch back and forth between different content editing modes. Add or modify content, tweak looks with an updated WYSIWYG CSS tool or switch to a text-mode for the nitty-gritty.
(5) After you're happy with your site, we have made it much easier for you to let others know about it.
(6) All the tools, settings and other details are neatly placed for easy access.

That's just a quick overview of main changes - many more things have been improved and we did put in a lot of attention to detail - we really hope you will appreciate the redesign. Let us know!

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blog post XtGem is 5 years old!

XtGem competition

We are very excited to announce that XtGem has turned 5 recently. The service has indeed came a long way since the very first public release - back then it was a single-man hobby project, built out of passion for mobile web and without a clear vision for the future. Nevertheless, it grew at an unprecedented pace, quickly gaining momentum and traction. Fast-forward to current day, it is an amazing feeling to reflect on all those years, full of 7-day work-weeks, sleepless nights, caffeine-fueled coding sessions and maintenance headaches, and realize how influential this little service of ours has become to thousands, if not millions, of people. We are loving every minute of this experience - and we are doing our best to make sure that you are too!

Although we are celebrating half a decade's worth of progress today, there still is a long way to go until perfection. And we aren't planning on slowing down any time soon! There is a long list of features and improvements that we are planning to implement and we really hope that you will stick with us for the foreseeable future!

To commemorate this event, we are running a competition and giving away domain names, premium subscription upgrades and XtGem-branded merchandise - make sure head on over to our Facebook page and check it out!

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blog post XtGem's new WEBapp - call for beta testers

As some of you might recall, we have been working on a completely fresh look and user experience for WEB users. As we near the public release, we would like to receive some feedback from existing users, work out any of the remaining kinks and polish the leftover specks. To do that, we have decided to make an open call for beta testers.

Web2

Basically, here is how it works:
1. Head to http://xtgem.com using a web browser (make sure you are using the WEB template) and log in.
2. Click here: http://xtgem.com/poll/web2
3. Fill out the application form - it's very brief and straightforward, just 3 fields.
4. All done - we will select a limited number of beta testers and get in touch with them.

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blog post Next up: Revamped WEB version

It has been quite a year since we incorporated last October - we have completely re-written the backend (the inner workings) of XtGem, introduced paid options, opened the widget marketplace, launched a rich mobile version, re-worked the standard mobile interface and as a result of all the hard work we put in, XtGem's traffic more than quadrupled!
We have now spent the past month working on the next iteration of the WEB interface and we cannot be more excited about things to come.

Teaser

We are ditching the dated web-service feel and are going for a fully-featured web-app. It will allow for a more streamlined site building experience, as well as contain many significant user interface tweaks.

It is not live yet, although we plan to do a closed beta test in October. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to be notified!

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blog post Mobile template redesign

Since we have launched a touch-friendly XtGem webapp we have received plenty of positive feedback from our users claiming that they love the look of it, so we have taken upon ourselves to update standard mobile version of XtGem accordingly.

XtGem mobile

I am happy to announce, that today updated mobile version goes live. If something doesn't work or shows up weird on your browser, let us know!

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blog post Blogging support

We are glad to announce that we have just pushed a couple of new features into production. One of them allows for developers to publish content more easily and collect feedback from their users about their work.

Blog

Although the current implementation of the blog is pretty basic and as bare-bones as it gets, it is still perfectly functional. We will be improving and fleshing out the system in the future - feel free to send us your suggestions and requests.

Another feature we have recently introduced will help newcomers to set up their sites a lot easier.

When user logs in into XtGem for the first time, he or she will be prompted to select a default look... [Continue reading]

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blog post More experiments with Ads

XtGem is a free service (we only charge for premium features that cost significantly more to maintain) and all of our revenue comes from ads published on user sites. We spend a lot of time tweaking our ad delivery system and while most of the tweaks that happen are invisible to the end-user, we are currently rolling out an updated ad display.

Picture

Instead of a plain text link we have been displaying previously, an updated ad look has begun rolling out into the production environment. Let us know how you like it!

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