May 15, 2024

Best Practices for SaaS Design

SaaS (Software as a Service)

SaaS is a cloud-based software model that allows businesses and individuals to use their platforms on a subscription basis. Many types of SaaS businesses, like CRM, content management, enterprise resource management, and human resources, provide a platform for businesses and individuals to use and manage their data.

For example, Trello is a project management tool that allows businesses to organize and plan their projects in a team environment. Instead of manually storing plans and organizing meetings, a business can use a SaaS platform like Trello to collaborate and plan projects with their team.

SaaS companies are very beneficial as they are cost-effective and flexible, and they remove the hassle of storing data on your own servers. Since the designers at these companies are constantly testing and improving upon features, your business can get the latest features for the best price.

The SaaS business model started in 1999 with Salesforce, an American-based CRM company trying to convince businesses to transfer their data to their own servers to save on costs and seamlessly collaborate with teams within their organization.

Initially, people were skeptical of transferring sensitive client data to a third-party organization. Still, with time and good marketing, Salesforce convinced businesses that the SaaS model was the future for businesses. Since then, SaaS has become a norm in the technological world.

What is SaaS Design and Why is it Important?

SaaS design refers to the functional and visual elements of a user interface. For instance, when a user visits an application, the landing page, color palette, copy, buttons, and widgets are all aspects of SaaS design.

Some organizations may not consider hiring a professional SaaS designer to create their platform’s user interface. At the end of the day, their business aim is to provide their software services to the users. A simple Google search can take users to the website or application to fulfill their business needs. So why does it matter if their platform is well-designed or user-friendly?

The reality is that users care deeply about bad design. According to a study conducted by Stanford, in their web credibility report, 75% of users base their opinion of a business on their website experience. So, if a business has all its services available but does not have an intuitive and accessible website, users may not want to use their services. A bad website or application creates a lack of trust in the brand.

If users encounter issues like slow-loading pages, broken links, or complicated navigation systems, they will try to find alternatives. A company’s user interface is where most people are first introduced to a business, so having a well-designed SaaS platform is essential to any SaaS business.

Process of Creating Good SaaS Design

1. Having a plan in place
2. Conducting user and market research
3. Understanding the brand’s voice
4. Creating sketches and prototypes
5. Optimize for desktop and mobile

Best Practices for SaaS Design

1. Quick and simple registration process

When users join any new platform, they must undergo a registration process, which includes asking for information for verification purposes like name, email identification, phone number, etc.

Some platforms require three or four different steps before creating an account. Companies should have a short registration process to create a smooth and easy user experience.

This helps create a sense of security and makes it more likely for users to go through the process of using your product. Nowadays, many platforms allow using a Gmail or Facebook account to log in and start using the service. There are also ways of syncing your work from other platforms to save time and resources.

Zapier registration process

2. Smooth onboarding process

After registration, users get a tour of how to use the software on the SaaS platform. Many users will skip this step and try to navigate the platform independently.

This might lead to them missing out on key features. A solution for this is to create a visual and interactive guide that easily summarizes the platform's features in a few easy steps. This is the best way to go about the onboarding process.

This will allow the business to capture the attention of as many users as possible and prevent people from skipping out on the introductory tour.

Duolingo onboarding

3. Easy-to-use navigational system

Designers should create an intuitive navigational system. This means having a hierarchy of how you anticipate users to navigate your platform.

What features will be visible first, what elements will be present on the dashboard, and how do you navigate between features? All these components are important for a designer to remember when designing a platform.

Try not to have unnecessary popups or too many features available at once. Many services allow users to make features invisible to reduce distraction. Design tools like Hotjar and Dovetail provide real user feedback on platform navigation, which can significantly help reduce navigation issues.

Navigation on the landing page of Adidas

4. Simple and intentional design

Creating a good user interface requires a unique blend of creativity, intuition, and intent. The designer's creativity comes from all the elements they incorporate in their design. Good intuition comes from understanding how to incorporate your creativity with the user’s needs in mind.

So, will the color contrast be visible to users, will the writing style be easy for users to grasp, and will the visual elements be easily recognizable? Being able to identify where certain creative choices could cause usability issues is very important. Lastly, the intent is the purpose behind the design.

Some of the best designers in the world believe in using design as a means of functionality. So, if you are incorporating certain elements into your interface, you need to be able to explain why. How is your copy encapsulating what the platform offers, do the design choices align with the voice of the brand, is there a reason for having so many interactive features.

All three aspects need to go together. As a SaaS designer, you may hold your creative autonomy as important, but good design involves being creative and intuitive while keeping both user and business intent in mind.

Squarespace website design

Bad Practices for SaaS Design

1. Slow loading

Gone are the days when we patiently waited for the screen to load or for a YouTube video to buffer. In today’s day and age customers are programmed to want things instantly. If an application has a technical error or a page takes a long time to load, they will just move on to the next thing.

This is why ensuring your page load speed is optimal for desktop and mobile use is very important. The same goes for visual content. Images of a larger size take longer to load.

Ensure to use a process that helps images load instantly. Since visuals are such a key component of the web interface, it is important to make sure they are not causing a hindrance but rather adding to your web content.

2. Inconsistent design language

Imagine you come across a webpage that has a landing page with a simple black and grey design and few lines of content. As you click on different pages on the site the design language changes. One page is bright and colorful with long content boxes, while another has muted colors and a different design format.

When you don’t have a consistent way of communicating your business idea to users you are bound to confuse them. By having five different ideas that don’t go together, you indicate to the user that you are not confident about who you are as a brand.

Keeping an organized and coherent design format is crucial in building recognition and trust in the users. It also helps in navigating the website smoothly.

3. Broken links

Broken links are one of those no-nos that can be easily avoidable by having a system in place. Imagine how frustrating it can be to come across a link for a product page only to find that it takes you nowhere.

According to research done by Toptal, 88% of people are less likely to go back to a brand if they had a bad experience with the website. By having regular checks we can get rid of any broken links.

There are many software companies available in the market that help detect broken links that can easily be updated or removed.

4. Bland user interface

Many top designers have spoken about the beauty of simple and functional design. However, there is a fine line between simple and bland design. The whole objective is to create something that speaks to users while also communicating the intent of the design.

Not all SaaS designs need to be detailed and comprehensive. If it communicates the platform's vision and the brand is concise and meaningful, it’s doing its job well. Having a narrative and a vision behind your design choices makes a difference.

This is one time you get to speak directly to the users. Since design is what first catches a customer’s eye when they come on a website or an application, why wouldn’t you want to make it something unique and interesting enough for them to want to stay?

5. Complicated interface

Having an interface with too many features can deter a user from using your platform for their needs. If the objective is to create a useful project management tool, having features unrelated to the objective only creates clutter, even if the feature is well-designed.

Your goal as a designer or an organization is to satisfy the user’s needs through your SaaS services. If a user cannot access the right features or understand the company’s offerings, you have failed as a SaaS service provider.

Having too many features that aren’t useful or design that overwhelms a user is not going to lead to a positive result as it is only causing distraction to the customer when they are browsing a website or application.

6. Designing based solely on business needs

Users may not always know what they are looking for. Sometimes, organizations create products or services that users do not anticipate they need. But if it is solving a problem or creating a want, it makes sense for a business to continue innovating based on this process.

But if you completely disregard a user’s needs in the design process, then you are signing up for failure in the future. Knowing how a user will interact with your design is the biggest challenge for any designer. At the end of the day, each user will have a different way of navigating your interface.

Anticipating different kinds of customers, creating designs, and making them accessible to all are extremely important. You can have a design process that keeps your business objectives, tone, and visuals in mind. Still, you also need to incorporate what your target audience expects and anticipate challenges they might face.

7. Hard-to-use features

Usability is one of the most important components of good SaaS design. You can have the best offerings, but if your users do know how to access your features, there is very little point in spending hours designing the product.

Having complicated instructions, using language that is hard to read, poor navigational flow, buttons, and designs that are supposed to be interactive are non-functioning. All of these pose challenges for the users.

From a business perspective, creating a well-designed and accessible interface means more users coming to your website. Around 2 billion people around the world experience some form of accessibility issue.

Unfortunately, almost 90% of websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities who rely on assistive technology. You, as a SAAS company or designer, are missing out on potential users who frustrated by the web usability issues on your site will end up going to the competition.