SaaS Product Development Best Practices

Building any software product is challenging as one has to consider everything from usability to feature enhancements and SLAs. The market for SaaS products is growing, which means competition is increasing (including that from traditional desktop or client-server products that continue to sell). Customers can switch from one SaaS product to another at any time, so innovation and ease of use are important in order to retain customers.

Focus:

Focus on one problem at a time, instead of trying to solve many of them at once. Focusing on one will help you see it from all angles so you can successfully solve it before moving on to the next. Choose a single business process and perfect it over time. This is the best strategy for your product.

Usability & Design:

UI is a key factor in any product’s failure or success. It is important to ensure that the interface, styling, colors, and pallets reflect your brand, following a defined design language across the product. Browser compatibility is to be kept in mind and you need to decide whether or not to support legacy devices, browsers, and more, depending upon what your UI demands are.
SaaS products are designed to be self-servicing. Involve your potential customers in alpha or beta testing to get helpful feedback. The honesty you’ll receive is invaluable.

To aid in the easier adoption of the design by a new user, include a walkthrough so that the users become aware of the interface and options available to them. Knowledge bases & Wikis can further help in the self-servicing needs of users. Customization of the layout by the user as per need is another intuitive way of making the users comfortable. Dashboards, such as those used in Google Analytics, that are completely customizable as per need, will help the users get the information they require faster.

Features:

Success or failure all comes down to which features set you apart from your competition and how well you implement them. Keep two lists — one of customer generated ideas and one of team generated ideas. Separate and prioritize all of these ideas. Use tags such as “must have”, “nice to have”, and “low priority”.

Always discuss all planned features with the development team before committing to implementing any of them. You never know when one small feature can end up having a huge impact on your budget.

Legacy and Third Party Integration:

Use the same software across your entire business. It is a bad business practice to have one department use a software that the other departments do not use, or that will not work with the software the other departments have. Having SaaS configured to “talk” to other software applications can help interlinking and exchange of data. This is where APIs come in handy and let you integrate existing enterprise software to your cloud, allowing access to information existing on any system across departments.

It is also a good practice to have the option of connecting to third party services via APIs, allowing you to expand functionality without the need of developing the feature yourself.

Companies that are completely new to the SaaS product development era have knowledge only about the product they are going to build and have limited knowledge on non-functional aspects of the service. They almost always won’t have enough time, cost, and resources to build the entire architecture, the base infrastructure, or framework to build their dream product on top. This is why it’s ideal to look for third party components and frameworks to build their SaaS product, such as for error logging, performance management, and even providing multi-tenancy.

Use of existing open source frameworks helps reduce development costs significantly. Companies such as WSO2 provide multiple open source products for implementing these integrations seamlessly. Big firms such as eBay have utilized these to power over a billion transactions a day. Learn more about SaaS Application Development information here.