The Ultimate Guide to SaaS Development in 2021
Because of its convenience, software as a service (SaaS) has become a widely popular business model over the years. SaaS tools are cloud-based applications that users can access for a monthly or yearly fee. Because they are designed to help organizations save time and money, they have become the ideal solution for many companies, especially those operating with geographically distributed teams.
If you want to learn more about SaaS software and its development, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve written this article to provide you with an insight into the SaaS landscape and help you move from theory to practice.
Is SaaS Development a Good Idea in 2021?
SaaS saves companies from the hassle of developing their own applications from scratch and maintaining them. Businesses can focus on creating SaaS products for other companies. In other instances, an organization creates a system for its needs and then offers it to the public for an additional revenue source.
According to BetterCloud’s State of the SaaS-Powered Workplace report, it is estimated that by 2022, 80% of apps will be SaaS. Moreover, the report reveals that SaaS products will focus on specific needs and niche areas. The growth in SaaS application development will be driven by the following factors:
With SaaS, companies get the tools they need without developing their own software. Organizations only need to customize the products according to their business needs. As a rule of thumb, SaaS providers should deliver timely support, updates, and maintenance.
According to statistics from Finances Online, 44% of SaaS providers offer a free trial. Before making a commitment, users are able to test the features of a system. Consequently, they can make an informed decision when choosing a vendor. Meanwhile, since most SaaS products are available for a one-time license fee or monthly subscription charge, vendors can have a reliable revenue source.
Is SaaS Application Development a Challenging Venture?
SaaS platform development involves several technical aspects. Here are what you can expect:
Single-Tenancy or Multi-Tenancy
If you want to learn the basic concept of SaaS, you’ll need to understand notions such as single-tenancy and multi-tenancy. Tenants represent the organizations that the SaaS provider serves.
In a single-tenant architecture, the developer creates separate databases and instances for different tenants. This structure can also be transformed into a multi-tenant one, which is easier to develop and maintain and is more affordable. In a multi-tenant architecture, the cloud-based application has several instances that are shared among multiple tenants. One advantage of this SaaS structure is how it drastically cuts expenses related to updates and server fees. Moreover, the same coding serves multiple tenants.
SaaS clients expect providers to guarantee the security and confidentiality of their data. Developers can use cloud solutions like AWS to follow through on that promise. Each tenant’s confidential data is isolated. Moreover, every client has a unique identifier that allows them to access their data exclusively. Depending on scalability needs, the data can be stored on the same or separate servers. Even so, user information will not get mixed up.
Access to Features
If you’re planning to offer different pricing plans for your SaaS product, you’ll need to be able to manage different feature sets. This way, users can activate additional solutions, depending on the license or package option they choose. Moreover, if a feature is not available in a certain package, it should be deactivated.
Since cybercriminals work hard to up their game, clients expect SaaS providers to provide timely updates that will prevent data breaches. Meanwhile, the updates should not disrupt the ongoing operations of the user or mess with the collected data. One example here is Adobe Photoshop. Before, users had to install the product using a CD. If they wanted to upgrade to a newer version, they would have to buy a disk containing that version and re-install the program. This distribution model is not cost-effective for both the provider and the client. Now Adobe uses a subscription model, and the tech company is able to lower the price of the program. What’s more, clients can get the updates or upgrades they need online.
Application Programming Interface (API) Integration
When you’re running a cloud platform, you need to add value to your product by allowing integration with other enterprise software, like SharePoint, Salesforce, and Oracle. For security reasons, companies usually avoid transferring their existing database to their SaaS provider’s cloud. With API integration, you can extend the functionality of your product, providing it with a competitive edge. According to Cloud Elements’ State of API Integration report, 60% of vendors believe that API integration influences customer upgrades and renewals.
Multiple Payment Options
You also need to decide how you’ll accept payments. SaaS platforms and programs are usually offered on a subscription basis. Meanwhile, clients expect a free trial that will allow them to test the features and get acquainted with the system. You can also offer a freemium version that comes with all the basic solutions that the user needs. If they want to access advanced functionality, they can upgrade to a paid, premium plan.
What’s Involved in SaaS Software Development?
If you’re an app developer, the first thing you need to do is create a clear core value proposition for your SaaS product. The initial phase of cloud-based software development involves research on the market, your competitors, and customer demographics. During the process, you will discover key elements that validate or contradict your business hypothesis. Moreover, you will know if there is a real demand for the product you want to offer. Without validating this information, you will end up wasting money on developing useless software. So, never skip the research phase before building any SaaS application.
During the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) phase or research stage, you need to identify the problem that your SaaS tool will solve. Along the process, you will discover the key elements to focus on. Here are some questions to ask:
- What is the market size, and is there adequate demand for a new solution?
- What are the pain points that need solutions? Are there available solutions on the market right now?
- What are the weaknesses of the current solutions?
- What can you offer that your competitors cannot provide? Do you think you can do better than them? Are your solutions excellent enough to transform user behavior?
A perfect example here is how Traqq was developed. Even before the pandemic, the founders of the app discovered a huge gap in productivity tools on the market. They also learned about the biggest concern that remote employees had about online monitoring. Since existing time trackers took detailed screenshots of a user’s desktop, employees were worried about their managers spying on them. This was the major pain point that Traqq sought to resolve.
Traqq is one of the few time trackers that promote ethical monitoring. It ensures accountability and productivity by taking random screenshots and video recordings. However, Traqq intentionally blurs them to an extent where sensitive information becomes illegible. With Traqq, managers still have an idea of what their employees are doing, but they won’t be able to read private messages or see passwords.
Once you’ve gone through all the questions we shared above, you will be able to come up with a clear scope of your product’s features. Do not forget that identifying the functionalities of your product is essential in starting your SaaS platform development. As a product manager or business analyst, you will then proceed to perform feature prioritization. After that, you can get the development team to work on your MVP.
SaaS application or platform features typically include the following:
- Functional tools—Canva, a cloud platform, has a visual editor interface that has filters and other graphic design features.
- Analytical tools—Traqq, a time tracking app, has a smart dashboard that features visual reports and statistics about employee productivity.
- Account management—The system should be able to differentiate the sets of features that customers can access according to their plans.
Organizing Your SaaS Development Team
The complexity of your SaaS product will determine the number of members in your application development team. Keep in mind that building an efficient team will also be critical in ensuring the success of your software creation. During the MVP phase, you’ll need a team made up of a project manager, business analyst, UI/UX designer, backend developer, mobile or frontend developer, and QA tester.
The SaaS Program Development Workflow
Once your project has gone through the discovery phase, the software development life cycle will begin. The workflow will look like this:
Business Analysis – This phase involves building user journeys and collecting product requirements.
Design – During this stage, low-fidelity prototypes are generated by the design team. The designers will also deliver a user interface kit to provide an idea of how the product will look.
Development – Once your team gets to this phase, they will develop the product according to the MVP features you identified during the Business Analysis phase. The developers will also make provisions for applicable integrations at the end of the process. At this stage, the project manager should also take note of development costs.
Testing and Debugging – This is a process that goes beyond the deployment phase. The success of a SaaS application depends on its smooth operation and performance. So, your team must test the outcome of every iteration you make.
Product Maintenance – This is another ongoing phase for your SaaS product. Your team needs to ensure that the product is up to date with the latest trends, security requirements, and customer demands on the market.
Best Practices for SaaS Application Development
A recent study from Forrester Research reveals that a better UX design can increase a website’s conversion rate by 400%. Indeed, it is necessary to focus on delivering a high-quality user experience when you want to create a valuable SaaS product. So, you must consider all the primary challenges in developing a SaaS application. In this case, your team must focus on the following aspects:
A Scalable SaaS Architecture
Any SaaS platform needs to grow constantly. As the number of users increases, the application’s capacity should also evolve. This is the reason why it’s essential to build a scalable SaaS architecture. An excellently designed SaaS architecture contains at least three parts—a deployment model, database integration, and in-app resource management. By making the SaaS product scalable, you can offer flexible capacity on-demand. Moreover, as the number of users increases, they won’t be dissatisfied with bugs or lags.
A Queuing System
When you implement a queuing system in your SaaS development, users can interact with APIs and the platform simultaneously. Also known as an asynchronous communication protocol, message queuing allows every user to send the system a data request and receive a response accordingly. All the while, this system allows the user to communicate with integrations and other services.
Keep in mind that this practice is applicable in a specific case. Some large-sized businesses prefer creating their versions of SaaS software solutions. Meanwhile, other enterprises have in-house software that they plan to migrate to the cloud. The development costs for these two scenarios differ. However, what’s important is to guarantee smooth transmission without losing data. In this case, it would be useful to use an integrated approach in developing SaaS applications. This practice can enable efficient data exchange by ensuring the smooth integration of new software into existing business processes.
Choosing the Right Tech Stack for SaaS Development
Once you start looking for the best tech stack for SaaS development, you will discover that you’re spoilt for choice. You’ll need tools to build the ideal application for your market’s needs. You also need to ensure that the technology you select is proficient enough in helping you understand how to create the product. So, it’s essential to consider the mix of libraries, languages, and frameworks that the available tools offer.
Here are some of the tools you can choose to develop your SaaS application:
- Server: nGinx
- Framework: Laravel
- Database: PostgreSQL, MySQL, Redis
- Hosting: Vultr, AWS
- Library: React, Vue.js
- Language: CSS 3, HTML 5, JS
- Mobile Framework: Flutter, React Native, Swift, Objective-C, Java, Kotlin
If you’re planning to develop a SaaS application, your team must have a clear and validated set of production values. You wouldn’t want to end up wasting your time and money on a tool that will be deemed useless on the market. As an app developer, your goal is to provide efficient solutions to the pain points of your customers.