SaaS UX Design
In today's competitive market, the success of a SaaS business heavily depends on offering a well-designed product with a great user experience (UX). A user-centric design ensures that users can easily interact with the product, find what they need, and have the best experience possible. This article will explore how design influences the growth potential of your SaaS platform and the best practices for designing a SaaS application with smart UX.
- The Importance of UX Design in SaaS Companies: User engagement is a critical factor in the success of any digital product, and SaaS products are no exception. A well-designed UX/UI can increase user engagement, which ultimately leads to higher revenue growth. UX principles play a significant part in this process, as they guide the design decisions throughout the design process.
- Key Features of SaaS UX Design: When designing a SaaS product, it's essential to consider key features that can help users make the most out of the application. Design elements such as intuitive navigation, clear visual design, and well-organized design systems ensure users can easily interact with your SaaS platform. Additionally, icon design and UX writing are crucial in helping users understand how to use the product effectively.
- Design Patterns and Best Practices for SaaS: Many SaaS products share common design patterns to improve user familiarity and reduce the learning curve when using your product. Best practices for designing SaaS applications involve creating design patterns that are consistent, user-centric, and align with your brand identity. Leveraging these best practices can lead to a great SaaS product that customers enjoy using.
- Saas UX Design Improving User Experience: Good UX design ensures that users can easily find what they need within your application. By integrating user-centric design principles, users can have a seamless experience while interacting with a product. This, in turn, can help reduce churn rates and unlock the growth potential of your SaaS business.
- Designing for Product-Led Growth: Design plays a crucial role in a product-led growth strategy. By understanding how to use the design to help your product, SaaS companies can boost revenue growth. Key performance indicators (KPIs) related to user engagement and satisfaction are often a direct result of a well-designed SaaS product.
Designing a great SaaS product with excellent UX/UI is vital for a successful SaaS business. A user-centric approach, best practices for designing, and understanding the potential of your SaaS platform can lead to unlocking product-led growth. By focusing on smart UX, design components, and visual design, you can ensure your users have the best experience while using your SaaS application. Remember, bad UX can hinder your growth, so investing in a well-thought-out design process is essential for the long-term success of your SaaS business.
How is a SaaS Product or Business Unique?
What separates a SaaS or cloud computing business from other businesses, such as an insurance service provider, is that the product experience drives growth and new revenue.
Insurance businesses can issue policies on paper, so the digital aspect of the business is not essential for its growth. However, a SaaS vendor is entirely dependent on the product experience. The term "UX" (user experience) refers to the overall experience that users have with a digital product. A great UX is essential for a SaaS business to succeed.
At its core, a SaaS business is a product that drives revenue and growth. This is why some people use the term "product-led growth" exclusively for SaaS businesses. Product-led growth is the process of using a great product experience to acquire, activate, and retain users.
A well-designed SaaS (Software-as-a-service) app can turn into a self-perpetuating growth engine. The core components of such an engine are:
Onboarding with a cloud service
The onboarding process is essential for SaaS business applications because it helps users get started with the product and understand its value. A good onboarding process should be clear, concise, and easy to follow. The software vendor should make sure that the process is personalized to the user's needs.
One of the most important factors in designing an effective onboarding experience is continuity of message. The messages you use in your marketing campaigns should be fully aligned with your onboarding messages. For example, if you market your product as being able to create invoices in 3 easy clicks, you need to make sure that your onboarding experience reinforces this message.
Another important factor is to establish a lifecycle marketing engine that is hooked up to your onboarding. This will allow you to automatically target users who opt out of the onboarding funnel with follow-up messages and incentives to get them back in the funnel.
In our podcast episode, we discuss this topic in more detail with Andy Carvell, partner at Phiture.
Here are some additional tips for designing an effective onboarding experience:
- Keep it short and sweet. Users are more likely to stick with your onboarding experience if it is short and to the point.
- Use clear and concise language. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that your users may not understand.
- Use visuals to illustrate your points. This will help users to understand your product more easily.
- Personalise the experience. Address users by name and use their interests to tailor the onboarding experience to their needs.
- Make it interactive. Don't just bombard users with text. Give them opportunities to interact with your product and learn how to use it.
- Track your results. Use analytics to track how users are interacting with your onboarding experience and make changes as needed.
By following these tips, you can create an onboarding experience that will help you to convert more users into registered users and active users.
Operation - Use SaaS Solution
This is the part of the AARRR model that relates to retention. Your SaaS growth is solely dependent on usage. The SaaS market for every product category is heavily competitive, and there are many apps out there competing for customers' wallets. SaaS companies need to offer solutions that solve only the core, repeating, and urgent pain points of their target market. One of the biggest mistakes a SaaS provider can make is to beef up their software-as-a-service model with too many features. "Feature creep" is a well-known term among software development teams.
This is often a faulty mistake and short-sighted mindset. Product teams often believe that SaaS applications and services that can outcompete the competition in terms of the number of features will win the market in the end. This is wrong. There are many examples of software applications that offer fewer use cases but dominate a major portion of a market.
Based on the SaaS data we have gathered from working with different clients, we see that product teams that craft a very clear product strategy and laser-focus on a set of core pain points for users often manage to retain their users.
For example, a CRM app is all about prospecting, lead management, and lead closing. Everything else is "icing on the cake" or additional features. If your CRM cannot send follow-up messages or track lead activity, then how can a full-blown task management system help them?
You don't need 10 sets of features to own the market. There are many great HR apps that only provide recruiting solutions, and that's it. But when it comes to HR work, recruiting is only one part of it. Why is that? Because the product teams of those apps made a bet on this part of the HR team. They predicted that since recruiting is the most time-consuming part of HR work, why not focus on it and deliver a great, differentiating SaaS service?
After laser-focusing on a set of pressing pain points for your target market, you want to design app solutions in the form of a graphical user interface (GUI) that offers the fastest, easiest, and most seamless way to complete those repeating tasks. To do so, your interface design must follow these guidelines:
Start with user research (SaaS Data)
Before you start designing your UI, you need to understand your users. Who are they? What are their needs? What are their pain points? Once you understand your users, you can start designing a UI that meets their needs.
Keep it simple
The simpler your UI, the easier it will be for users to use. Avoid using too many colors, fonts, or graphics. Use clear and concise language. And make sure your UI is consistent throughout the application.
Use clear and concise labels
Your labels should be clear and concise, so users know what each element of your UI does. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that users may not understand.
Use consistent terminology
Use the same terminology throughout your UI, so users don't have to learn a new vocabulary every time they use a new feature.
Use visual hierarchy
Use visual hierarchy to guide users' attention to the most important elements of your UI. This can be done by using different colors, fonts, or sizes for different elements.
Use whitespace effectively
Whitespace can be used to make your UI look more organised and inviting. It can also be used to separate different elements of your UI and make them easier to scan.
Affordances are visual cues that help users understand what an element of your UI does. For example, a button with a plus sign might indicate that it's used to add something.
When users interact with your UI, they should receive feedback so they know that their actions have been successful. This feedback can be visual, auditory, or both.
Be consistent with your design
Use the same colours, fonts, and styles throughout your UI. This will help create a cohesive and unified look and feel.
Test your UI with users
Once you've designed your UI, it's important to test it with users to make sure it's easy to use. This will help you identify any usability problems and make necessary improvements.
Inform and Communicate
As your users start using your application on a recurring basis, they start forming a habit. Habit-forming UX design is a key to delivering a sticky experience. When a product becomes indispensable, it is because it fills a gap for an individual to get their things done on a daily basis.
As a user uses your SaaS app more and more, there is a need to communicate with them constantly about their progress. Notification functionality is a vital feature for any successful SaaS product. Another way to inform users about their progress is through reporting. For example, if you have an accounting SaaS app, it is crucial to inform users about their weekly revenue and expenses. This is one of the key differences between SaaS and a traditional application.
By frequently offering updates to a user, they can make better daily decisions and navigate their work more efficiently. Here are some examples:
- Slack: Slack is a communication app that allows teams to collaborate more effectively. It provides users with real-time notifications, so they can stay up-to-date on important conversations. Slack also offers a variety of reporting features, so users can track their progress and make better decisions.
- Asana: Asana is a project management app that helps teams stay organised and on track. It provides users with a variety of views, so they can see their tasks at a glance. Asana also offers a variety of communication features, so users can collaborate on tasks and share information.
- Google Analytics: Google Analytics is a web analytics tool that helps businesses track their website traffic. It provides users with a variety of reports, so they can see how their website is performing. Google Analytics also offers real-time notifications, so users can stay up-to-date on changes in their website traffic.
- Hootsuite: Hootsuite is a social media management tool that helps businesses manage their social media accounts. It provides users with a variety of features, such as scheduling posts, tracking analytics, and engaging with users. Hootsuite also offers real-time notifications, so users can stay up-to-date on important social media activity.
- Trello: Trello is a project management app that helps teams stay organized and on track. It provides users with a variety of boards, lists, and cards, so they can visualise their projects and collaborate with others. Trello also offers real-time notifications, so users can stay up-to-date on changes in their projects.
SaaS apps can be a growth vehicle for your business if they are designed well. They can drastically reduce your sales and marketing costs. If you can solve a recurring and pressing need for a target market, your users will become evangelists for your product and introduce it to others. This is what differentiates you from other SaaS providers. If your SaaS app cannot produce referrals, it will essentially fail. You will need to rely heavily on paid advertising to grow your user base, which will deplete your runway.
When designing a SaaS app, you need to come up with unique referral strategies. Here are some examples of successful SaaS providers leveraging referrals:
- Dropbox: Dropbox offers users 500MB of free storage for each referral they make. This is a simple but effective way to incentivise users to refer their friends and colleagues.
- Ahrefs: Ahrefs offers users a free trial of their service for each referral they make. This is a great way to get people to try your product and see for themselves how valuable it is.
- Slack: Slack offers users a free month of their service for each referral they make. This is a great way to get people to try your product and see for themselves how it can help them collaborate more effectively.
These are just a few examples of successful SaaS referral strategies. The best strategy for you will depend on your specific product and target market. However, all of these strategies have one thing in common: they offer users a valuable incentive to refer their friends and colleagues.
Cloud-based SaaS vs. Traditional Software
To fully understand the power of SaaS and how it has evolved significantly compared to traditional on-premises software, we need to dive into its history and its impact on the software industry. SaaS stands for "Software as a Service," and it is a cloud-based software delivery model where the software provider hosts the customer's software and delivers it over the internet.
In contrast, traditional software requires the customer to install the software on their own hardware or servers. This difference in the computing model has brought about significant changes in how software is developed, distributed, and used.
In the past, software was primarily delivered through packaged software, where customers would purchase a physical copy of the software and install it on their computers. This required significant upfront costs and ongoing maintenance, as customers had to manage their software and hardware infrastructure.
SaaS revolutionised the software industry by shifting the burden of software maintenance and management to the software provider. Customers no longer need to worry about installing and maintaining the software on their own servers. Instead, they can access the software through a web browser and pay a subscription fee for its use.
The benefits of SaaS are numerous:
- Cost-effectiveness: SaaS eliminates the need for customers to invest in hardware and IT infrastructure, reducing upfront costs. Instead, they pay a regular subscription fee, which is often more manageable for businesses of all sizes.
- Scalability: SaaS allows businesses to scale their software usage up or down based on their needs. This flexibility is especially valuable for startups and small businesses that may experience fluctuating demand.
- Accessibility: With SaaS, users can access the software from anywhere with an internet connection, enabling remote work and collaboration among teams spread across different locations.
- Automatic Updates: Software providers are responsible for maintaining and updating the software, ensuring that customers always have access to the latest features and security enhancements.
- Faster Implementation: Since there is no need for complex installations, customers can start using the software almost immediately after subscribing.
These advantages have made SaaS a popular choice for businesses looking for efficient and cost-effective software solutions. Many SaaS companies offer a wide range of applications and services, catering to various industries and needs.
A notable trend in the SaaS market is the rise of vertical SaaS solutions. Unlike general-purpose SaaS apps, which target a broad range of industries and customers, vertical SaaS focuses on specific industries or niche markets.
Vertical SaaS solutions are designed to meet the unique needs and workflows of a particular industry, such as healthcare, finance, real estate, or education. By tailoring the software to the specific requirements of the industry, vertical SaaS providers can deliver a more specialised and effective solution.
For example, a healthcare-focused SaaS app might include features for patient records management, billing, and appointment scheduling, while a finance-focused SaaS app might offer modules for accounting, invoicing, and financial reporting.
The advantage of vertical SaaS is that it provides a deeper level of customisation and functionality for a specific industry. It allows businesses within that industry to adopt software that aligns closely with their needs without the need for extensive customization or integration.
SaaS Application UX Design Stack
To craft a successful SaaS application, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the core components that contribute to a great product experience. The SaaS Application UX Design Stack, developed by the Bonanza UX Design team, provides a roadmap for SaaS businesses to build their product strategy effectively.
The core components of the SaaS Application UX Design Stack are:
- Onboarding: The onboarding process is essential for SaaS businesses as it helps users get started with the product and understand its value. An effective onboarding experience should be clear, concise, and easy to follow. Personalisation is key to cater to the user's needs.
- Education: Once users are onboarded, they need to be educated on how to use the product effectively. This can be achieved through in-app guided tours and knowledge-based content. Tailoring the education to the individual user's role, experience level, and interests is crucial for success.
- Operation - Use: This component focuses on the core value-delivering part of the product, where users interact with the software to achieve their goals. A well-designed user interface, based on thorough user research, simplicity, and feedback mechanisms, ensures a smooth and efficient user experience.
- Inform and Communicate: As users continue to use the application, they form habits, and it becomes essential to keep them informed about their progress. Real-time notifications and reporting features are vital for user engagement and better decision-making.
- Grow: SaaS apps have the potential to be growth vehicles for businesses. Referral strategies that offer valuable incentives to users can turn them into evangelists for the product, driving organic growth.
By focusing on these core components, SaaS businesses can create a product experience that drives growth, increases user retention, and fosters customer loyalty.
The rise of SaaS has transformed the software industry, offering businesses cost-effective, scalable, and accessible software solutions. SaaS applications and services have evolved significantly compared to traditional on-premises software, shifting the responsibility of software maintenance and management to the providers. This has led to the emergence of a wide range of SaaS offerings, catering to various industries and needs.
To succeed in the competitive SaaS market, businesses must prioritise user experience design. The key to SaaS product growth lies in delivering a seamless and user-friendly product experience. The SaaS Application UX Design Stack serves as a roadmap for businesses to craft their product strategy and create a product-led growth engine.
By focusing on onboarding, education, core product usage, communication, and growth strategies, SaaS companies can build thriving businesses and stand out in the market.
As technology continues to evolve, SaaS will continue to shape the future of software delivery and pave the way for innovative solutions to meet the ever-changing needs of businesses and users alike.