Have an idea for a cool app? Or maybe you’ve stumbled across a software gap that might be helpful to other business owners? How you create your SaaS product is crucial if you want to make it a success, so let’s dig a bit deeper into the 8 important steps to creating a SaaS product that’s a hit!
1. Focus your initial idea and talk to people before you invest
This is the bit that most people won’t tell you – The initial idea of your SaaS product is more critical than you think and a well-thought-out software that answers a true need is much more likely to become a scalable SaaS business.
Successful SaaS products focus on one thing, or a very small number of things and try to do those very well. Really great examples of SaaS products are where they do that one thing not just well, but for a very specific niche user, whether that’s a demographic or a persona.
Often SaaS products come as a result of fulfilling an internal need a company has for something. There isn’t anything on the market that meets this need, or answers this problem and so they create it. Once you have an idea, take some time to explore it before you put money into it. Ask the people you know who would be likely to use it – What do they think? What would the benefits be? Is this something they would pay monthly for? You can do this by asking through forums, using Reddit, doing some online research, or checking Product Hunt.
2. The planning stage
Having a clear idea of what you want to create and how this will serve your defined user base will lead you nicely into the planning stage of your product.
The planning stage is a great place to get a UX designer involved, because you’ll gain a holistic approach to user experience, meaning when your potential clients come on board they stick around.
At Strafe Creative our planning stage includes:
- Research that goes beyond concept validation – Essentially we include user research, objection hunting and persona building to define the project brief and user identity.
- Detailed user flow planning – Creating a map of the user’s experience through the software.
- A very first look at a wireframe – Creating a prototype that allows us to focus on the navigation and user experience rather than the aesthetics
Throughout this stage, it is important to go back to your user focus groups to gain their insights on the product and the mechanics of the build through early beta testing.
Honestly, we think the more interaction you can have with users at this stage, the more likely you are to hit the nail on the head when it comes to the final design.
The other thing we have found is that if the product meets user needs at this early stage you can often gain early discounted subscriptions, which is great for project funding and deeper beta testing.
3. Discovery Phase
The discovery phase is made up of 4 essential documents which will help guide you and your team in your SaaS product design. These are:
- Tech specification (SRS, or Software requirements specification) – This document covers the scope of your project and includes your objectives, user persona, as well as technical specifications and product features.
- Risk assessment and mitigation plan – Essentially documentation that covers the risks you might face in creating your software and how you plan to deal with or minimise those risks.
- Feature breakdown list – Everything you are planning to include in your SaaS software along with design, build and testing deadlines.
- Cost estimate – Your budget for the SaaS application build and launch. Here’s some help on what to expect with costs in our experience.
Documentation does two things: one it helps you talk to investors to gain your SaaS funding, and two it helps you identify and build or hire the team of people you need to create your software.
4. Application and architecture
Once you know what your SaaS product function is and you have an idea of how that might look in a wireframe you can start building out your application and architecture design.
If you have been paying attention you will already be ahead of the game and have your UX designer (or team) on board. Now it’s time to find your other SaaS specialists.
You won’t necessarily need all of these team members on board at once, so take some time to plan out your launch strategy, this will give you an idea of when to bring in key team members and for how many hours per week.
You’ll also be looking for your platform as a service (PaaS) at this stage, which you will use to develop your app onto. A PaaS business will provide you with the operating systems and tools you need, as well as data centre storage and security.
5. If you haven’t got your UX team in place, then here’s the crunch point
Typically SaaS startups are founded by developers who have the technical know-how but not always the design knowledge to get the UX right. This is the crucial make-or-break point to get your UX designer in place.
If you are still finding yourself asking “do I really need a UX designer?” The answer is YES.
Not only will a UX designer help you create a product that users don’t want to put down, but they also increase your conversion rates and ROI 100x. Want to know why? Check out our guide to why UX designers are crucial in developing a killer app.
There are three options at this point:
- Have an agency do all the design work (Hey, how you doin’?!) – They will design your product end to end and hand it over to you for an easy build.
- Hire a new UX team to design it internally
- Have an agency do the design and build work
6. Development, testing and creating your minimal viable product (MVP)
At Strafe, we believe that creating an MVP at this stage is super useful because it allows you to test elements quickly and seek feedback from your user groups. It doesn’t have to be the final fully designed bit of tech, instead focus on creating a usable prototype.
Working in sprints you can take your learnings from beta tests and use them across your design, iterating a better product each time. This agile approach allows you to beta test with live users on discounted paid options, allowing you to “earn as you learn” which keeps investors happy.
Don’t forget to use your user testing to go back and update your planning and discovery stages, as well at the application and architecture level. This will give you the opportunity to bring on yet more users during each following stage of pre-release testing.
It also means that when you come to the final aesthetics, they work with the power of the usability of your design. There’s literally no point wasting money on making something look good if it doesn’t work well!
7. Handover to UI and development teams
You cannot underestimate how smooth this part of the process should be, because it’s often the part where one team takes over from another unless you hire an agency to do everything for you.
There isn’t a clear point at which this should happen necessarily, either. This is because creating your MVP often includes coding. So it’s safe to say, depending on your SaaS product and how you have hired your UX help there may be a handover period, instead of a handover moment.
All that said, you do need to make sure that one team can hand over effectively to the next whether they are in-house or not. Errors or gaps in understanding or documentation can translate to a lack-lustre product.
8. Maintenance and further development
Now it’s time to look back at all the data you have gained on user behaviour and app performance to realise your SaaS product for the official launch.
It’s also a great time to share with your beta users all of the paid options, taking them from discounted pre-launch functions to fully-priced and fully-featured plans.
One thing you will have learnt by working with a UX designer is that development doesn’t stop when you launch. Instead, you’ll need to create a plan to regularly relook at data and performance in order to fix bugs with your dev team and design new features with your UX and UI designers.
Creating a successful SaaS product
Your success as a SaaS company relies heavily on creating a product that your user wants and delivering it in a way that keeps them hooked daily. We hope to have given you the best starting place for your next killer idea.