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Building Loxi — Behind the Scenes

From a high-level view, building and launching a new product looks deceptively easy. Many of the articles out there make the process sound pretty simple: brainstorm it, evaluate the market, prototype it, test it, and promote the heck out of it when you launch.

The actual process, of course, is much more nuanced and complex. There’s a ton of work that goes into creating a new product from scratch. Since most people never see what goes on behind the scenes, we wanted to take this opportunity to share our journey building Loxi.

Starting with What We Knew

In a lot of ways, we were already ahead of the game when we started building Loxi. For over a decade, Modern Tribe has specialized in web development, prototyping, solutions architecting, and more.

Most relevant to the development of Loxi was our experience building event management software. Our WordPress calendar and ticketing plugins have been downloaded over 10 million times, and our flagship plugin, The Events Calendar, is actively running on over 600,000 sites around the world.

Instead of thinking up products for entirely new markets, we looked first to the event calendar space and the gaps we already knew existed there. With those gaps in mind, we started brainstorming new product possibilities.

Sticky notes from our El Segundo retreat where we planned how we would go about building Loxi.

Narrowing down the list wasn’t easy, but we finally came to the conclusion that a new SaaS (software as a service) product was the right direction to go.

Exploring the Idea

The idea behind Loxi was pretty simple. We wanted to build a new calendar tool that wasn’t limited to use on a single CMS.

From our initial ideation sessions, the concept of a hosted calendar platform emerged. A slew of additional discussions and evaluations helped us suss out whether this was the right concept to develop further.

A good chunk of these conversations happened during our Products Leadership Retreat in El Segundo way back in January of 2017. This time-lapse video shows our major stakeholders debating answers to critical questions: Was it a viable product? Did it align with our long-term growth plans and company goals? Did we have the resources available to build it? What was the likelihood of success?

By answering these questions and more, we refined the calendar platform concept we now call Loxi and moved into our discovery phase.

Researching All the Things

When we kicked off our research phase, Loxi was still a nameless, faceless concept. Before we could define the product or plan a strategy, we had a lot of exploration and analysis to do first.

Logos of various content management systems (CMS) we considered when building Loxi

Market research was a critical piece of this process. We were well-versed in the competitive landscape within the WordPress space, but didn’t have the same depth and breadth of knowledge when it came to other CMS communities.

Not only did we need to understand the marketplace, we also needed to understand the audience we’d be serving. We spent hours talking to people to gain first-hand insights into their needs. We intentionally sought out people running vastly different types of websites on a variety of platforms to help us challenge our own assumptions.

And it was a good thing we did. Because that’s how we gained clarity as we headed into our planning stages.

Building a Strategy

Without a great strategy, even the most brilliant product will fail. Product strategy ensures leadership and other stakeholders have a clear understanding of how the product being developed will achieve the high-level business objectives.

Product strategy is a foundation that keeps the team aligned throughout the product development life cycle. It sets forth the vision, goals, and initiatives that move the product from initial concept through final implementation.

With Loxi, our strategy centered around three guiding principles:

  • Make it nimble
  • Keep it effortless
  • Design it to be beautiful

Defining the Product

After all of our discovery work and strategy planning, it was time to move on to product definition—to turn Loxi from a concept into blueprints our team could use to build a prototype.

Writing out use cases and customer stories helped us define feature requirements and acceptance criteria. Take our Event Single view, for example. This is what visitors to your website see when viewing a single event on your calendar (aka the front end of Loxi).

Our high-level Single Event feature definition:

A Single Event is a post on a user’s calendar. If a calendar is a collection of events, then the Single Event is a single instance of that archive. It presents the front-end view of the post that includes content, information, and details about an event.

The feature descriptions we create are pretty lengthy. They dig into conceptual goals we’re trying to accomplish with the feature, expected user flows, specific user stories, and more.

As we defined each feature of Loxi, we sketched out the concepts to start getting an idea of how it could look.

Sketches of the Single Event View that were drawn when originally building Loxi

We built out component libraries to get an idea of how all of the pieces fit together, then created our first interactive prototype in InVision.

Laying the Groundwork for Building Loxi

Up to this point, all of our work was focused on laying the groundwork so we could move on to the actual software development that would bring Loxi to life.

We’ll save the nitty-gritty coding and technology process for another post. For now, we hope you’ve enjoyed this peek behind the curtain at our experience taking Loxi from idea to reality.

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