Designing SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) products is a difficult and delicate task. With there being so many moving parts in the product design process, it’s very easy to lose sight of the core problems the product aims to solve and instead get entangled in feature ideas, unprioritized feedback and more.
Let’s take a look at the most common mistakes that designers make when designing SaaS products and how to avoid them.
1. Overfocusing on New Features and Unprioritized Feedback
When it comes to SaaS businesses, customers must be retained as well as acquired. If the quality of the product drops, customers will consider unsubscribing to it. This makes product teams feel anxious, especially when trying to scale consistent growth in addition to retaining the customers they already have.
A common reaction to this is to add more value to the product by designing more features. However, this makes SaaS products feel convoluted if those features are unwarranted.
Customers don’t want to see their favourite products become bloated and difficult to use. Sometimes,, the best improvements that designers can make are small ones even if customers don’t necessarily notice them. In fact, the value proposition of a product can sometimes be its price or user experience - not necessarily the problem it solves, but rather the way that it solves it compared to its competitors.
Ultimately, designers should be constantly reevaluating user needs using a variety of user/UX research methods, including price sensitivity surveys, focus groups, competitor analysis and usability research.
This applies to feedback too. Designers should evaluate all stakeholder feedback to see if those concerns align with real user concerns and also assign priority to all feedback in general to avoid fixing minor design flaws that aren’t that important.
Instead of thinking of tasks in terms of features and feedback, reframe them as opportunities and assign priority based on what stands to have the biggest impact. This keeps products (and the design process overall) lean.
2. Overlooking Role Management
Users favor simple SaaS products, but sometimes complex products are needed to solve complex problems. B2B (Business to Business) products often cater to various user roles that each use the product in different ways, and are more productive when they have access only to the features and interfaces that they need.
Implementing role management is typically the best way to provide users with a tailored experience. This helps users carry out their tasks without tools designed for other user roles getting in the way.
As an added bonus, customization can go hand-in-hand with personalization, where users are referred to by their name and gender. This tiny detail often makes products more enjoyable to use, especially when the product has collaborative features.
3. Forgetting to Help Users Level Up
It’s important to teach users not only how to use the product but how to become pro-users and get the maximum value out of their subscription.
This starts with designing an engaging onboarding experience that helps users acquaint themselves with the product as quickly as possible (this is important because these users are likely trying out your competitors during this time too). Walk users through the core product by letting them complete common tasks. For complex products, let them choose a user role and specify tasks to carry out.
Designing a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section is another fantastic way of ensuring that users are able to level up. Terrific usability should make FAQ sections unnecessary in most cases, but no product is perfect and users will sometimes need to seek out solutions to problems that they’re having with the product.
In fact, using analytics to monitor which questions are getting the most attention can highlight which aspects of the product are most confusing to users. To go a step further, implementing search into the FAQ can highlight critical issues that may be flying completely under the team’s radar (that is, if analytics are showing that those questions are returning no results).
Lastly, designers should consider creating useful in-app hints. With FAQs being something of a last resort, and the fact that many users will skip the onboarding steps, offering hints contextually – or even randomly – is often the best way to help users get better at using the product.
4. Failing to Maintain Efficient DesignOps Processes
DesignOps outlines organization-specific frameworks for research, testing, handoff and more, as well as the workflows and tools to be used. A product is only as good as the team behind it and the DesignOps processes they put in place.
Maintaining efficient DesignOps processes ensures that designers are able to identify and prioritize the most valuable opportunities for improvement in addition to teams being able to implement them in a reasonable timeframe.
Design teams often implement a design methodology (such as design thinking or human-centered design) into their DesignOps process because they provide clear frameworks that push projects forward at a steady pace. This is particularly important to the design of ever-evolving SaaS products and it’s simply a case of finding the right design methodology that works for your team and product.
Designing SaaS products is one of the hardest tasks to do as a designer. This is because they not only need to sell but also remain useful and competitive in an environment where user needs and the competition’s product offering are constantly changing.
It requires staying focused on the product’s core value and ensuring that all customers - new and old - are able to use the product easily and continue to believe that it’s the best option available.
As mentioned earlier, this means eliminating unimportant features to reduce clutter. It also means possibly implementing role management so that users are only getting access to the features that they need, which also reduces clutter. Onboarding users smoothly is critical too, as well as making sure that they’re constantly leveling up and getting more and more from their subscription over time.
Finally, none of the above is possible without having DesignOps processes in place to facilitate productive design workflows and efficient design collaboration. Designers and other stakeholders being able to collaborate with maximum efficiency is the most important thing when designing SaaS products.
Sympli is a Saas company that creates tools for design collaboration, handoff, and version control. With more than 5 years on the market, we had helped thousands of designers and developers work together by providing a single source of truth and reducing back-and-forth communications, resulting in faster delivery.