Why Google, Dropbox (and Many SaaS Platforms) Are Trying to Win the One-Window Test

In the last few months, Google, Dropbox, and GitHub have all launched deeper integrations between their products and third-party apps.

Google launched “composer” connectors that streamline the Gmail workflow, and a task automation API for Google Docs. Dropbox announced Extensions, which allows users to complete tasks powered by third-party apps without forcing users to log in separately. And GitHub launched Actions, app-like functionality that enables all users to create commands or automations hosted on GitHub.

These announcements represent a strategic bet that more and more SaaS companies will make this year: investment in helping end users pass the “one-window test.”

The “one-window test” is a term we use internally at HubSpot, coined by Jingo Mante, our product manager for strategic integrations. How much of your day-to-day work you can handle within a single tab or window is a pretty good litmus test of how well your technology stack is integrated.

Why does this matter?

These four launches share one key commonality: they reduce friction for their end users.

Friction is the enemy of growth. It slows down lightweight processes and can cripple larger strategic decisions. And, crucially, software that creates friction for its users is just unpleasant to use.

That’s why I’ve evangelized software platforms almost my entire career. Platform technologies — like open APIs and deep integrations — enable all of us to reduce the friction in our day-to-day without needing to hire a developer or learn to code ourselves.

These launches are an encouraging sign for consumers, and a bellwether for SaaS companies.

Not all integrations are created equal — and increasingly, passing the one-window test will become a factor in B2B SaaS purchasing decisions.

“Does X integrate with Y?” is a deceptively oversimplified yes/no question. In the cloud, the answer is almost always “yes.” It’s kind of like calling a restaurant and asking if they combine ingredients together. Sure they do. But how tasty is the meal? How attentive is the service? How reasonable is the price?

The concept of an integration between two apps is no longer new. What is new is the degree to which these integrations act as true bridges, rather than yet another obstacle to getting your work done.

For instance, consider the extent to which an app can be integrated into workflows.

A light workflow integration may operate by automatically triggering a simple action in response to a well-defined event. A visitor fills out a form on a landing page, and you enroll them in a list in your marketing automation platform. It’s useful, but limited to relatively basic if-this-then-that sequences.

Richer workflow integrations support conditional logic that triggers different actions depending on the details of an event or the context in which it occurred. More advanced workflows can combine automated and manual steps, for processing requests that require human reviews or approvals. More sophisticated workflows can incorporate custom algorithms, maybe even AI functionality, to dynamically route and respond to events.

As merely having the capability to integrate with other apps becomes table-stakes for SaaS platforms, the quality of the integrations ecosystem becomes more and more important. Deep integrations between apps that don’t stop with passing data between two systems, but actually enable end users to do their jobs more efficiently, will become the new standard for our industry.

Ultimately, customers don’t care about what’s happening in the back end of your integration. They want the software that powers their work to just work. That’s why the one-window test is so important — it’s a vivid illustration of just how effective deepintegrations can be.

This is both an opportunity and a warning for SaaS platforms. The more friction you can remove from your customer experience, the happier your customers will be, and the lower churn will get. If you don’t, there’s a real danger your product will be relegated “off window.”

I expect we’ll see more launches like this from both SaaS giants and new players in the next few years.