February 11, 2015

  • What we’ve been learning about themes

    The servers have been stable for a while now, and we're starting to shift gears to looking into features.  Our biggest effort has been around researching themes systems, so we can upgrade Xanga’s default theme system to be more flexible and powerful.  Here’s what we’ve learned:

    * Mobile-friendliness: Providing a mobile-friendly version of themes is key.  A key question is how similar the mobile theme should be to the desktop theme.  A lot of themes out there don’t have any similarities at all - it can be tough to make mobile and desktop themes match.

    * Header editing: A lot of people want to be able to do something basic, like edit the header area without having to touch any code.  Bonus points for being able to easily upload a header image!

    * Module editing: Another common feature request is the ability to add and edit modules with basic HTML.

    * One theme versus lots of them: With all the features to support, it’s better to have one theme versus lots of them.  That means that the one theme has to be pretty flexible though, which is a bit tricky.

    * Tradeoff between Flexibility versus Ease-of-Use: It’s easy to provide flexibility by itself, but hard to provide a flexible theme that’s easy to configure and doesn’t require knowledge of HTML/CSS.

    * Security:  We’ve looked at a lot of the themes out there, and many of them have huge security holes in them, so that people’s data can be easily compromised!   This has ruled out a lot of the turnkey solutions out there, alas.

    We’re currently researching theme systems out there, and seeing how they do against these criteria!  Let us know if there are any theme systems out there you’d like us to look at, and we can share our thoughts/evaluations in our next post.

Comments (22)

  • Looking forward to seeing this happen!

  • I'm happy to see your second-to-last point because I am not computer-friendly. I always feel like I'm wrestling an enemy when I boot up my computer, so user-friendly is very important to me. Looking forward to seeing the visible signs of progress.

  • I used to have people who wanted to do html type headers and such set up a post in the editor, then just paste all the code into the proper box, which worked well on the old site. One could do most basic things that way, upload images, center or left/right placement of the image, they could add text, change the text colors, all via that one post that they copied and pasted. Perhaps whatever you use that requires HTML could be made simpler that way. Most people probably know how to use the editor by now. Or you could have a sandbox that allowed HTML work in a controlled environment. OR, you could find a regular WP theme over on the free WP sites...there are lots that are both mobile and desktop useful. After a year, one would think this could happen sooner than later.

  • I like the way tumblr & blogger allow advanced theme tweaks for people who know what they're doing. WordPress is kind of a nightmare- a maze of tutorials and a sort of 'we own your blog' approach, lotta hoop jumping. Blogger has a *neat* mobile option, you can choose how your mobile is going to look and act. If/when you do get to the mobile part, pleazzze make it easy and intuitive. I was so thrilled with the old Xanga mobile before the move, it was absolutely brilliant. WordPress has this 'slug' thing that has totally screwed mobile on slugged posts, I've had many complaints, so I just don't use slugs.

    When I was on old Xanga, my preference was always to start blank and input my own html like I did with AOL Hometown, so all my blogs looked completely unique. Everyone and their dog learned how to do that back in the geocities days, but everything changed when facebook came along. I feel like blogs bind our hands now. I don't mind frames and widgets, those are very handy, and I'll even say ok, I'll pick from a catalog to fill in the canvas, but when the entire theme is restricted that I have to figure out how to hijack the editor (WordPress), it's just not that fun any more. "Ease of use" has become a double-edged sword over the last ten years.

    One of the security issues I had on blogger was someone wanting me to use iframes to feature his site on mine, the goal being my readers could directly access his buttons, which I tried for a couple of weeks. The problem with iframes is that it allowed his music theme to override my blog and I couldn't turn it off, so yeah, that was really intrusive. I've been resisting iframes for several years, but now that laptops and desktops AND devices and mobile are all adapting to them (what a nightmare for awhile embedding youtubes that wouldn't work across devices!) I'm adapting to them, too.

    I'm exhausted just trying to keep my blogs showing up on all the new equipment, I don't know how you guys do all this. o_o lol

    THANK YOU for still working on this. I'm very excited at the prospect of mobile coming back!!!!!


  • It would be good to have a "Punch List" of services you think will be made available that are the most important for community interaction based on your current schedule.

    Example would be:

    1)Community Front Page
    2) Ability to contact members who are set to "private" so they know someone is trying to contact them.
    3) Ability to see outside of Xanga to other WordPress users and ease of communication between outside blogging services like Blogspot and Xanga.
    4) Ability to search for active users.

    All other updates should be secondary to these which are crucial for any social network.

  • I loved the old, old Xanga way where I could create my very own header any way I wanted without a pre-determined "theme", but alas, that has been enough years ago now, that I would have to learn all over again how to do much of anything that wasn't pretty easy. I still prefer to insert my own "bird/wren" photos somehow into a header and would like to be able to do a taller than 1-inch one that I have now ~ it is pretty lame, but at least, its mine! Will look forward to seeing what happens ~ :)

  • I am not very good with computers, and actually, do not understand what you are trying to say. All I would like is a user friendly system of xanga, where we could have a front page of good posts, ease of editing comments if we make mistakes, and allow many others to join the system so every one could be one big friendly family of xanga.

  • A front page is a real community builder as is the ability to "recommend" posts. I wish there was a way to respond to comments that others make on blogs not your own!!

  • How 'bout just calling it a day, thanking those who supported Xanga's good faith effort to relaunch, but acknowledging that it's just not feasable, and then let it go. At this point, with only a handful of active Xangans left and little to no hope that any of the others will return (they have had a year and a half to establish their presence on other blogging sites, after all, and many have), I'd say that Xanga 2.0 has just as much of a chance as Bobbi Kristina Brown and probably even less.

  • Please don't just let it go ~ yes, I would like a front page; yes, I would like to know when someone replies to a comment, even more than themes ~ but please, don't just let it all go ~

  • I agree that we need a way to connect with others. So far, I have not been able to find any of my old friends that I kn9ow are still on Xanga because they comment on sites I do see.
    There's not much community feeli8ng anymore. I hope things improve before my subscription runs out.

  • Still learning and researching? When will we see *actual* changes and updates?

  • The ability to connect with others is what I miss the most.

  • please dont tell me that this part of Xanga off the ground will be another year.

    We need our sites to look good but we also need people to find us.



  • I've officially shutdown my Xanga blog and I encourage others to do the same. Don't be so foolish as to pay for another year of nothing. WordPress.com gives you a free blog with much more functionality. It may not be as good as Xanga 1.0 but anything's better than Xanga 2.0.

  • I'm not sure what the latest is but I've asked about renewing my account and haven't heard back (unless somehow an email got lost in my Inbox...) Are you actually going to allow people to renew? My membership expires on May 1.

  • I was hoping to see us more interactive and connecting to community by now with Xanga. That was one of the neat things that made the previous service so good.


  • @vickyvix: I do have an email from one of the folks that handle the accounts somewhere. I know you can pay through PayPal to get renewed. I will try to find it.

  • My subscription just expired. I will consider coming back in the future. I appreciate any changes that have come but they have been relatively few and slow in coming. I do have some thoughts/ suggestions:

    As long as I can up load my own back ground image I'm good with whatever set up of modules. I would like a bit more of a header but that doesn't concern me. The following is more important
    1. We need a way to contact people with followers lock and request to follow them. 2. We need a functioning front page that helps us link up with others of mutual interest - or bring back the rec button or both. I like the idea of recommending a post of someone's much better than that re-post feature of WordPress.
    3. Footprints were a big plus. I like them.
    4. Private messaging was great. Not a priority but definitely helped people have more in depth conversations about posts not in the eyes of the whole community.
    5. Allow people the option of blocking their email address from showing in comments.
    6. Having the option of a few different profile pics would be great but just a plus - not a requirement at all(original Xanga spoiled me in every way)
    7. Yes - Xanga that works mobile would be a big plus. My theme does not work well on my phone.

    I know someone or a few someones are working hard at doing things for Xanga but don't you think more would stay if the price was more like the old premium price? Consider cutting your price to $25 a year... I feel bad about asking because I have a friend who is a developer & I know it's work but I truly believe more would stay with some little improvments and a lower price. $48 a year is excessive for the lack of features. The only real feature I see over regular wordpress is sign in lock which I love but that's just one feature.

    I love Xanga. I have been here since 2004 and want to stay. Right now I can't justify it with my budget. Please consider a price drop. I apologize for sounding so negative. Xanga 1.0 spoiled me!

  • Oh! It looks like my xanga account expired last month while I was out of work. I wonder how I renew? Its seems like you need a clear and obvious way to join, renew, etc. if you want to keep this place open! Just saying!

  • I am hoping for easier manipulation of themes, or options. In addition to being able to see music or photos being easier to upload or utilize. Old Xanga seemed easier and more robust. Oh well. I'm still here, but really miss the loss of interaction with old Xangans. Not much interaction and I don't know who is out there in the Xanga world anymore.

    Take Care,

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