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We started working on Xtensio over a year ago, internally at Fake Crow (Our startup friendly creative agency) as a side project.

The concept behind Xtensio was to create a fast and easy way for companies to create beautiful and interactive business profiles. But before we started designing anything we wanted to validate the idea, to see if there was any interest for a DIY one-pager-builder among startups and entrepreneurs:

“Coming Soon” Page
To gauge interest, we created a coming-soon landing page and started collecting emails. But more importantly, we started looking at analytics to answer questions like: How many people are we able to drive to this landing page (through sharing on social media and startup-related sites)? And how much of that traffic is converting (signing up for updates)? We also tweaked our signup process by adding 3 survey questions to our signup form for users to answer after giving their email. This survey performed very well (over 90% of the people who signed up also answered our 3 questions), and we received lots of good feedback for the next phase.

Here is our blog about “Making the most out of your coming soon page”

Social Networks
We knew that we would not be able to spend a big budget on marketing, so we started being more active on social media and secured our main vanity URL’s.

Why Your Startup Should Secure These 13 Vanity URLs

Every day we are learning more about which of the social networks perform better for us (e.g. we realized that, being a SaaS product, Facebook is not the real target for us and we closed our Facebook page).

Feedback Loops
We started talking with more target users and considered their input as we put together the basic requirements for our MVP.  Going forward, these user feedback loops we established early on will be invaluable as we course-correct our long-term product roadmap.

Design Ready
After designing for over 50 companies we knew that no matter how small we might try to keep the MVP, there will always be lots of design work for the details. We made an early commitment to vigilantly avoid scope creep and keep the feature set light, so we could spend time getting the details right.

Read more about unpredictable UX/UI bombs: There Will Be Design

UX/UI for the MVP
Using what we’d learned so far, we created our user personas and studied them. Once we had enough research to get started (and could agree on a feature set), we started sketching ideas and moving them around on our white board using sticky notes. Being designer-founders, this is the most fun part for us and as a design studio this is also our strong suit. We’ve even invented ways to get the most efficiency out of this UX to UI phase:

Shortening UX to UI time: a different approach to MVP design

We actually approached Xtensio a little differently than other projects. The first thing we designed was what the user generated Folios would look like, and then we worked backwards to define the interface that would allow users to build them.  We went through a lot of early iterations before we arrived at its current form, and of course we are always making small improvements to this day. Good design is a process, not a result, and our work is never done.

Think Big, Start Small
Once we had our UX flows and UI mocks, we turned the designs into development tasks and began building. We were accepted to Microsoft BizSpark so we started setting up our servers on Azure and executing the basics.

We use Trello for all our project management and Slack for team communications. Here is what our Trello board looks like:The New Homepage

Once we knew how the product would look and function, it was time to update the homepage. After going through various iterations and an in-house “design-a-thon“, we locked down the new look and the content for the site.

So far this has been our most successful landing page. This page is converting at a high rate of 20%!

New Signups
The new homepage got picked up by a couple of startup related sites/portals and we gained about 500 more signups in just a month.

Intercom, Mailchimp, Mandrill Integrations
We setup a fairly complex system early on where each signup gets pushed to Intercom (our favorite user management and communications tool) and Mailchimp (our favorite choice for newsletters). Our transactional emails are handled by Mandrill (email confirmation, notifications, etc)

Intercom lets us drill down and focus on a segment of users and connect with them directly inside the app or through email. For example, we can search for our users who have more than 1000 twitter followers and send them a targeted message (Intercom rocks!).

The MVP
We are currently on-boarding beta users in batches. With each batch we are able to see bugs, potential problems, and new requests. At this phase, if you haven’t logged in for more than a week, you’ll see lots of changes/improvements when you do.

Nothing we’ve done is final. Keeping it lean, we are constantly improving on the experience.

So far we’ve built an easy-to-use product with basic features and we’ll be steering it with user feedback to find its market fit.

Some of the features we’ve built so far:

Main responsive structure
Navigation

Sign in, Sign up flows
Default “Folio” with basic modules: Cover, Funding Chart, Text/Image Editor, Email collection
Add/Remove/Reset modules
Sharing (whole folio or individual modules)
Inline Editing
Edit, Preview and Public views

Currently we’re working on a couple of major additions (resizing and drag/drop) as well as some bug fixes. Moving forward, we’ll create weekly posts for product updates.  Stay tuned!

And if you haven’t had the chance to see Xtensio for yourself, please have a look and sign up for our beta release at www.xtensio.com.

Xtensio is designed and built by Fake Crow (a startup friendly creative agency) in Los Angeles, CA.

EDIT 1: Couple of crazy things happened I since I wrote this post. We did a “Soft Pivot” and made some major changes to our product and how we positioned it. The results are amazing. I’ll tell you all about it when the storm calms down a little.

EDIT 2: We’re being featured by Product Hunt. Purely excited.

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