The biggest difference when it comes to SaaS and websites is the functionality each one offers and the technology used to build them.
The easiest way to explain this is to use an example. I want to talk about Slack, our favourite communication SaaS application.
A website is the sales tool
Just like any other software-as-a-service (SaaS) business, Slack has its own website. The aim of the website is to act as their online sales tool. It explains what the product is, what it does, what the features are, who it’s for and what the benefits of using it will be.
The website design is constructed to provide landing pages and sales pages for their ideal client, gaining signups for their SaaS product. Secondary pages act as both awareness and confidence-building content pages.
These might include product tutorials, or educational articles, as well as inspirational and aspirational content (including case studies) that help nurture and build trust with website visitors so they progress to the next phase of their buyer’s journey.
Overall a website is about building online credibility and converting sales or signups.
A SaaS product takes over at conversion
The moment you sign up on Slack’s sales website you are taken to an online login and payment portal for your chosen plan and monthly subscription to their SaaS product.
Once this has happened, you will be transitioned straight into the SaaS. With great UX, a user can click through to the platform, from the website, seamlessly, without even knowing there is a difference between the two (hence this explanatory blog).
Read more: What does SaaS stand for? Your guide
In Slack’s case, their SaaS product is available both via a web browser (which appears like a website) and as a downloadable desktop application. The confusion about the difference between a website and a SaaS product is usually only in reference to the web application, as that transition really makes it appear like one website or platform.
The technology is key
From a user’s point of view, they really should never even know the difference – great UX can help ensure this transition from website to application.
In the back end, however, entirely different platforms will be used for the website and the SaaS application. Take our client Clubs Complete for example. We built a WordPress website for them to showcase their services, explain their USPs and convert schools and parents into users.
Once this conversion is complete and a user logs in, behind the scenes the system has changed to Laravel. This web application framework offers great out-of-the-box features that have enabled us to build an awesome, custom membership and booking platform.
A user who visits clubscomplete.co.uk and logs in to book their child into an after-school club will never know that the platform powering their experience has changed entirely. Each offers the right functionality depending on where a user is in their journey.
So, SaaS vs website?
Essentially, a SaaS company will design and use a traditional website to create a buzz around its brand and act as the initial sales tool. From the signup or login stage, the SaaS takes over onboarding and engaging the user in key tasks directly in the online software product itself.
Next time you find an online SaaS you want to work with, take a note of the URL from the website to the onboarding stages. You will notice you have seamlessly switched from one to the other without even noticing it.