Handle access and security features first
The foundation of every successful product is a decent security infrastructure, and the first thing to plan when building your application is the authentication and authorization method. Make sure to invest some serious thinking on how this part should be handled. Aim for flexibility within your multi-tenant architecture. For example, be prepared to handle specific customer requests for SSO, multi-factor authentication, password-complexity control and more.
PRO TIP: Read this piece by Aviad Mizrachi on important aspects of SaaS app Authentication
Don’t reinvent the wheel on UX – Use a solid standard
During the last decade some standardization has been established around how SaaS products should look, feel and behave. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Just as mobile users expect a certain experience, your SaaS users wouldn’t want to be surprised. Achieve your differentiation on your core features, not on the general UX. Start with a comfortable login page, move to a nice top-bar and a side-menu, and then develop the main screens. A lot of examples exist out there, pick the best one and move on.
PRO TIP: A good example for a typical functional SaaS app experience can be found on our live demo.
Build for quick actions – Responsiveness first
In the olden days, the web was perceived as an HTML page containing standard HTML elements limited in look (well, they were quite ugly) and feel (slow and non-intuitive). But we’ve come a long way, and today you can achieve a “native” desktop experience in web applications. Apps like Asana, Slack and AirTable introduced a new standard of SaaS usability through their amazing level of responsivity. Customers thrive on the ability to create quick moves and actions while using only their keyboard, without the need to move their hands to touch their mouse. Aim to provide this kind of experience in your product. This is exactly what makes customers fall in love with your brand.
Keep end-user engaged and connected
Keep in mind that users will not always use your applications. But they do want to feel a part of your product even when they aren’t connected to your web app.
Keeping customers engaged with your brand is very important. It reduces churn, increases upsells, and improves your customers’ overall experience. This makes it more likely they will recommend your product to their friends and colleagues. Using features like notifications, reports and new version announcements can highly improve the level of your users’ engagement and connectivity with your app.
PRO TIP: Very soon you’ll find that customers want to subscribe to your in-app events on the different 3rd party apps they use, whether it’s Slack, MS Teams, their JIRA and others. Make sure you can support these requests early on (check out Frontegg Connectivity for more info).
Validate UX flows with customers
Don’t assume you know what your users expect, especially when building a new product. With the current technology, it’s very easy to validate user experience without actually writing a single line of code. Use (or have your Product or UX designer use) interactive prototyping tools like Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch and others to provide high level mocks of the experiences you plan to provide within your product. When you feel that a critical mass of users approved these experiences, feel free to hand off your designs to development.
PRO TIP: Have your designers invest in a real life mockup and repeating elements within your app, so you can later play with it on your own to demonstrate future capabilities and screens within your app.
Plan for self-service
Most of the products out there will start out with a gated sign-up for one of two reasons. Either they initially want to keep control over who gets exposure to the product, or they aren’t ready for a self-service experience so they engage in user hand-holding in the first stages. Both are totally fine, but keep in mind that providing a full self-service experience should be the goal for the vast majority of SaaS products out there. Make sure to keep this in mind when building the first versions of your app. Integrate tools like WalkMe, Appcues, Pendo.io and others to make the onboarding experience great. Also, invest into the documentation and “getting started” guides, so that customers will always have a resource to turn to when they have some question about your app.
PRO TIP: At the early stages of your product, and especially if you’re not “self-service” enabled, provide a great support experience by opening shared Slack channels with your early adopters.
Tease for future features
You will always start with an MVP and then gradually build your feature set (read here about the different stages of SaaS products). That being said, your customers always want to see signs of growth within the products they’re using. Make sure your platform can provide hints of new capabilities coming their way soon.
Start by creating placeholder screens for new views and make sure to mark those as “coming soon”. When the beta version of your new features are ready you can gradually unveil them to your users by using “feature flags”. tools like LaunchDarkly, Split.io and others will help you with these.
PRO TIP: Don’t keep your coming-soon features for too long, as this can irritate your users.
PRO TIP II: Measure your users’ anticipation for the upcoming features by in-app analytics tools like MixPanel or Google Analytics.