How to Launch a SaaS Product — From Idea to Realization
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Have an idea of a cutting-edge product that would conquer the SaaS market? We understand your desire to immediately show it to the world, but the launch campaign is not the process to hurry up with. It usually takes long months to go through all the stages to successfully launch a SaaS product. Since Eleken has collaborated with a number of successful SaaS companies, we have prepared a checklist to have everything done in advance.
Find your competitive advantage
Before launching your business, determine whether your idea is effective. The most obvious way to do that is to discuss it with as many potential customers as possible. Besides, you can test your idea for adequacy answering this list of questions:
- What problem does it resolve?
- Will people buy it?
- Does your product have a market niche?
- Who are your competitors and what are their advantages?
After you find the answers to the questions above, you can come up with a clear description of your business idea and understand its unique value. As soon as you have studied your competitors in the niche, you should determine a competitive advantage that will allow your product to stand out.
A lot of SaaS businesses try to compete on their market, establishing low prices either directly through cheap services, or indirectly through sales and discounts. This allows attracting more users, but on the other hand you will struggle to win their loyalty. It means that in order to retain them, you will have to constantly stick to low pricing strategy.
Competing on value implies producing the best quality products. The opportunities to add value to your product are endless. All you need is a strong team and enough investments. On the other hand, this may be quite challenging and requires lots of resources.
Besides, you can always mix low price and high value strategies in the proportion that best fits your business.
Set your goals and targets
To achieve the result, you should understand how to measure it. That is why goal-setting is important. Start with the market investigation. Make competitive research, predict the timeline of your product development, and establish the metrics to check up your project at different stages.
You must have already heard about the SMART concept. It means that the goals you set should answer five criteria, such as specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. How does it work with SaaS? Let’s see an example.
Imagine, you are ready to launch your product and want to increase your sales by the end of the quarter. This goal meets only one SMART criteria - it is time-bound and you have chosen your deadline to review the results. Nevertheless, this goal is neither measurable nor specific. And it is quite difficult to define if it is specific or attainable.
What would SMART goal look like?
S is for accuracy what you want and how much you want it
M is for specific numbers that would allow you to determine if you have achieved your goals and analyze your results
A is for the real market situation that allows your product to grow
R is for your internal situation, resources you have and abilities of your team
T is for establishing checkpoints to review the results.
Thus the SMART goal looks like: “I expect a 20% increase in customers, 50% website traffic growth, and 15% conversion growth by the end of the quarter resulting in $100,000 revenue.”
Develop your brand story
Imagine you enter an extremely competitive niche with products similar in price and quality. Even if you have chosen your competitive advantage before, you need to communicate it properly for your customers to find and follow you. Proper branding is your key solution. The best way to incite customer’s emotion is to develop a proper brand concept. Transmit this concept through the design of your product, website and marketing materials; storytelling strategy, brand voice and values you communicate.
One of our customers launched a startup missioned to promote deliberate and eco-friendly lifestyle. The founders have chosen the concept of handprints as a symbol of eco-contributions done by every person in the community, such as travelling to work by bike rather than by car, or planting a tree. The project is called Handprinter. It is a unique product with no analogs on the market. We needed to clearly communicate the idea and create both human and eco-friendly app design with unique and understandable visuals to reflect the main concept. You can study the case precisely and see the results of our work on our website.
Involve influencers to test your product
Influencers are social-media celebrities often connected to a specific market niche. They are highly trusted by their audience, and, according to BigCommerce, influencer marketing is growing at enormous speed. Nearly 89% of all marketers agree that influencer marketing is comparable to or even better than other channels.
SaaS market can benefit from influencers with the same effectiveness as e-commerce. For example, Canva, which is a graphic design software, is closely working with niche influencers and industry leaders. Their cooperation with Guy Kawasaki, an Apple marketing specialist, allowed them to stand out in their segment and reach out to users all over the world.
Looking for influencers to speak for your brand, you should consider their industry, audience, and professional status. According to the statistics gathered by BigCommerce, Instagram and Youtube are the most impactful social media platforms, while Snapchat is considered the least important marketing platform. However, you should follow your target audience and channels they use. You can look for influencers by yourself, or collaborate with a professional agency that can suggest the list of influencers according to your requirements.
Survive during the pre-launch period
The pre-launch period is a very important phase to test your business livability. You attract your first users, start a marketing campaign, test your product, and receive the first feedback. For this reason, let’s pay special attention to this phase.
Announce a product launch
The first thing you should do is estimate and announce your product launch date and prepare a Coming Soon Page for your website. Your main goal here is to create intrigue and motivate people to subscribe to your page. You can use different strategies, but the most popular one is to ask people to bring their friends in order to receive a free subscription for a certain period.
Find beta testers for your product
You should also find beta testers for your product through beta platforms or relevant treads on Quora, Reddit, or Hackernews. There are no recommended numbers, but the more people from inside of the industry know and like your product, the more chances it will produce hype after the release.
Prepare a strong product description and short pitch video that will explain your product to users. Prepare to gather feedback and make changes on the spot, as your main task here is to fix all the bugs before the official release.
Consider Freemium VS Free Trial
Freemiums and free trials are specific SaaS business customer acquisition models that help you show the benefits of your product to your target audience. But before you decide, whether to choose freemium or trial, let’s have a closer look at both.
Freemium allows your customers to receive part of your product functions free of charge, while free trial gives full access to all of the functions for a limited time period. Depending on your product specifics and go-to-market strategy you choose, you can mix these two models.
Dominant Growth Strategy
This strategy is aimed to win all kinds of users. This is a strategy used by market giants, such as Netflix or Uber, and is based on a combination of freemium and free trial acquisition models. However, it usually works well with high-quality products acting on a big market with a big pool of users. Customers need to understand clearly the value of your product and how it functions. Besides, your niche should be of a really high demand for lots of users. Here you will need to focus on the user experience and attract them with premium features. Otherwise, you will simply give away your product for free without establishing customers’ loyalty.
Differentiated Strategy Model
This model is used when you want to compete with popular products that monopolize the niche. You discover their disadvantages or underestimated services they don’t suggest and create your own product that covers them all, attracting those users who need these specific features. This strategy usually works with free trials and demos.
Disruptive Growth Strategy means that you create products with more simple features, compared to competitors and charge less. This may not seem to the best idea, but it actually works. For example, Canva functions are much simpler and less variable than those suggested by Photoshop. Nevertheless, they attract those users that don’t use all the features, suggested by a more expensive competitor. Disruptive strategy works well with the freemium model mostly, as you need to stick to lower prices.
Prepare to Act Fast
Once you go through all the steps above, you are ready to finally launch your product. But, predicting what happens next, you should understand that the things that worked well during testing and pre-launch period might go wild when you get your first real customers. So, prepare your team to cope with that.
Right after the SaaS product launch, you should gather as much feedback as possible and be ready to make on-the-spot improvements as fast as possible. Work well with your team, build up agile processes, and assign responsibilities in advance. You should be flexible and suggest the best customer experience, despite all the shortcomings.
All in all, starting a project on an extremely competitive market, such as SaaS, has never been an easy task. But we have thousands of successful examples from companies that won their customers and turned into successful businesses. Eleken has prepared design for some of them. Check their cases and get inspired.
UI/UX Trends: Balancing on the Dizzying Path Between Unique and Usable
Two decades ago, in the year 2000, Jakob Nielsen declared that Flash design is 99% bad because it kills usability. What's being said between the lines is that everything that kills usability was bad.
Mr. Nielsen was the voice of a new trend that revolved as a reaction to the websites from the 90s — the ones with acidic colors, prominent blue hyperlinks, wild graphics, and all those amazing GIFs.
Web design took its very first steps back then. It wasn’t limited by user-centered principles, Nielsen Norman Group guides, or Apple’s flat aesthetic. First websites weren’t made for users, they were made for “pure art”.
No wonder that new UI/UX trends turned to simpler, cleaner, and clearer interfaces. In one word, minimalistic. Over decades of user research, designers figured out minimalism is what people want from interfaces. Jakob Nielsen’s voice was heard.
In the same year, in response to Nielsen’s minimalistic manifesto, Joel Spolsky wrote a little note stated the following:
“You get the feeling that if Mr. Nielsen designed a singles bar, it would be well lit, clean, with giant menus printed in Arial 14 point, and you’d never have to wait to get a drink. But nobody would go there, they would all be at Coyote Ugly Saloon pouring beer on each other.”
It was a voice of brutalism in web design, manifested 15 years ahead of its time.
Minimalist UI/UX design
A minimalistic movement encourages designers to simplify interfaces by removing unnecessary elements or content that doesn’t support user tasks. Google, Microsoft and Apple pioneered such simplification two decades ago, and since then, the UI and UX design world has gradually come to be dominated by minimalistic aesthetics.
Minimalism is very commendable. It helps users understand the content and complete their tasks, it looks polished and professional, it is a really good trend on so many levels that it’s no surprise this trend has become so… hmm… popular.
When we all have one recipe that works better than anything else, we naturally end up in an almost homogenized web. It was clearly felt, but not so clearly seen (for me, at least) until this tweet from 2018 by Jimmy Daly.
Jimmy is speaking about almost identical anthropomorphic illustrations top SaaS brands have, but you still can’t tell the difference between which landing page is which even if you forget for a moment about pictures. Look at those rounded sans serif fonts, black & white interfaces, rounded rectangle buttons.
App design blurs even more and becomes literally invisible: link is link, text is text, navigation is all the same and suddenly everything in your phone feels like one big white application.
Is it bad that our designs look like clones?
Not really. The product’s visual identity and junior designers’ ego may suffer. But for users, uniformity in product design is a good thing, because...
When people use their GPS navigators and banking apps or scroll through a long article like the one you’re reading, they don’t want to focus their energy on an interface. They want to focus on the job. And since they have dozens of apps on their phones, uniformity across everyday digital products helps to switch between them smoothly.
If you want to set yourself apart from the rest of the apps by unique design, consider the case of Snapchat’s redesign disaster.
In 2018 the company shocked its fans with innovative user interface design and unfamiliar navigation patterns. The reaction was not long in coming — you see the dramatic drop in consumer sentiment.
Close to a quarter of all downloaded apps are deleted after just one use. And annoying people with overloaded interfaces is not the best strategy to stay afloat, even for the brightest brands.
When minimalism is not enough
For a few months already, I’m struggling through Ulysses by James Joyce, probably the most challenging text I have ever read. The plot of the story is pretty elusive, buried under the layers of Greek myths, Irish history, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Dante, and 19th-century memes. Most of the time I hate this book. But in the moments when tiny dots come together in my mind, I’m the king of the world.
Sure, I don’t want all my life, or, God forbid, my apps, to feel like Ulysses. But there are situations when people want to be annoyed with some level of mystery and complexity. When they want to solve some puzzle.
Minimalism’s aesthetics feels way too boring sometimes. When we've had enough of well-lit, clean bars with giant white menus, we started looking for Coyote Ugly saloons.
Brutalist web design
Remember Morgan Freeman’s office in Bruce Almighty? That pure white sterile space recalls me of some bare-bones minimalist white websites. Brutalist web design came as a reaction to standardized visual design and spray-painted some punk stuff onto walls of minimalism.
Since 2014, the Brutalist Websites page has been collecting the brightest brutalist web design examples. Back then, these were personal portfolios of designers and coders who were tired of the mainstream.
In 2016, the Washington Post said that “the hottest trend in Web design is making intentionally ugly, difficult sites”. And that was the point when businesses started careful experiments with their interfaces. Digital agencies, creative media and fashion labels, all the cool kids turned their attention to provocative brutalist tricks — broken grids, random colors, ugly fonts. Some experiments turned out to be more successful than others.
In October 2017, Dropbox’s rebranding blew the collective mind of the worldwide designer community. The company was known for its design system that helps users handle files with minimal distraction. And suddenly it went wild with a plethora of colors and 259 (!!!) fonts. Sounds like lots of destruction.
The idea of rebranding was to change Dropbox’s positioning from being just a place to store files to being a workspace for creative teams. So the new design was speaking to creative teams. But it looks like the target demographic turned out to be more moderate than Dropbox expected because most of the feedback I’ve seen on the Web was negative.
You’d say that we can’t judge the effectiveness of a redesign by comments from the web, and you’d be right. But we have something much more valuable to consider — how the users behave in the redesigned pages.
Here’s how Arlen McCluskey from Dropbox comments on pricing page redesign:
The bold rebrand color palette negatively affected trust and clarity. As a result — a drop in several key metrics. So shortly after the makeover, Dropbox returned its pricing page to a more discreet design.
You may want a creative web page, and your brand may need a brighter identity, but any moves towards design diversity may decrease usability. And if you're in business for money, you can’t ignore users voting with their dollars against bad usability.
So current UI/UX trends are all about balancing on the dizzying path in between great usability and a brave outstanding brand.
Some of 2021 UI/UX design trends
#1 Edgy typography
Making fonts bigger and bolder is a very noticeable trend. Complex typography looks fresh and entertaining, it adds some spice to your design but doesn't usually impact its functionality and navigation performance.
Quirky fonts often act as design accents on SaaS landing pages. Take Dropbox’s squashed-up Sharp Grotesk typeface or Whyte Inctrap font that earned Figma a place in Eleken’s landing pages ranking.
#2 Consistent visual language
UX is not an excuse for lack of visual identity. If you don’t want to dissolve your brand’s personality in standardized interface elements, you may come up with your own visual language, just like Miro did.
It all started with shapes that reflected the company's key values — spatiality, fluidity, agility, and distribution. Later, Miro incorporated brand shapes into all the UI elements. They use them as photo frames, backgrounds and illustration patterns, creating a recognizable look.
#3 Going loud with colors
Moving away from white is a drastic change from minimalistic designs that makes your landing page stand out for users who go through hundreds of light-colored websites in a day.
Look at Zendesk's website. This one, in its 2018 edition, appeared in Jimmy Daly’s tweet as one of four identical websites with creepy illustrations. Since then, Zendesk differentiated itself with colors, and today you can barely mix up their page with any others.
Psst… If you want more trends, we have more trends.
Spice it up, but keep it functional
Latest UI/UX design trends are definitely moving from perfection to uniqueness, but it’s all about context.
If we’re speaking about a SaaS product, your first concern is making the app extremely functional and pleasant for the user to navigate. You probably want some experiments with a landing page that works as a colorful wrapper for your product, but be careful and check how changes impact your bottom line. More experiments with design probably make sense if you’re dealing with a personal portfolio of a website of a creative agency.
The main thing you have to remember is that any design should be usable, because if it isn’t, no matter how pretty it is, it is a bad design.
Eleken product design agency can help you with good design, great from the user experience perspective and still unique.
Interested? Let’s talk.
Why User Feedback Is Important: Proofs It Works and Methods to Collect It
Though as a product owner you may think you know better than your users in which direction to move business, listening to your customers’ opinions is essential at all stages of the product life cycle.
Gathering qualitative insights from users helps business owners to validate their idea at the research phase, and lets the brand evolve, scale and improve together with users’ needs and preferences during the rest of the product’s lifespan. After all, in the first place, your product exists to solve clients’ problems.
As a SaaS design agency, we perfectly understand why user feedback is important as we base each of our design decisions on user research to help businesses develop products that people love and need.
In this article, we are going to explain the importance of customer feedback, provide you with possible ways to collect it, and give an action plan on what to do after you’ve gathered the reviews.
The importance of customer feedback for business
We all know that putting positive users’ feedback on your product/service website makes your company look more trustworthy. Many businesses do so.
But is it the only benefit you can get from collecting customers’ reviews? Of course not. Here are 4 more reasons why feedback from customers is beneficial for your business’s prosperity.
- It shows areas for improvement
Sheer guessing or the feeling of your heart is not a reliable basis for making any business decisions while gathering user feedback can go a long way in deciding which product area to optimize.
Capturing users’ thoughts about your company’s product helps you track overall customer satisfaction and provide a clear understanding of what customers want in particular. Use the collected information to identify problem areas and efficiently solve the issues users face. When users have a positive experience, they will not only come back again and again for your product or service, but also will recommend it to their friends and family.
For example, to resolve the onboarding issue (high customer churn after the free trial version), Groove, a SaaS customer service software, decided to add one question to their welcome email: “Why did you sign up for Groove?”
Numerous answers from their potential customers not only guided the company on how to set a better onboarding experience but also helped them find out what product features customers expect to see in their software.
- It promotes customer loyalty
In the age of smartphones, customers conduct more research than ever before. According to a study by marketing agency Fan & Fuel (2016), 90% of online customers read reviews before making a purchase decision. 84% of people trust online opinions and reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 74% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust local businesses more.
Customers look to testimonials to better understand the product. The more positive reviews you have, the better. Regardless of your industry, positive feedback will increase your company's credibility and help build your reputation as a market leader.
- It helps you develop a better customer experience
A satisfied customer is the one who quickly and easily solved their problem with the help of your product/service. A well-thought-out customer experience (CX) at each touchpoint is a factor that provides successful achievement of the user's goal. Consequently, the better customer experience you provide, the happier your users are, the more successful your business is.
To make CX better, you need to know what areas work bad, and what needs to be improved first. The easiest and most effective way to find this out is to ask those who use the product and experience all issues in real life.
For instance, as a part of our user-centered design process at Textmagic, we turned to users’ feedback each time we created a prototype. It allowed us to come up with new ideas and improvements that eventually helped us create an intuitive and consistent user experience for a complex client experience platform.
- It makes users feel valuable
By taking the time to review your product, users are more likely to feel loyal to you and keep coming back. By leaving feedback and thus establishing a relationship with the company, customers feel they are part of the organization and you value their opinions.
Customers kind of fulfill their public duty to other clients by giving them reliable information about their experience with your service, and at the same time giving the business a motivation to become better for their clients.
In 2018, Mozilla decided to rebrand Firefox. For that purpose, they created two variants of design systems and asked their users to choose which they liked more. This way, by involving customers in the Firefox growth, Mozilla increased users’ loyalty and gave a sense of familiarity to a new design.
How to collect user feedback
After we’ve discussed why collecting feedback from customers is important, it’s time to move to more practical knowledge and learn some effective methods that promote users to cooperate with you.
A survey is one of the most commonly used methods for collecting feedback. You need to create a list of questions and send it to customers via email, put it in-app, or ask through your UX customer support team. Moreover, there are a lot of survey tools that simplify this process, like Surveymonkey, SurveyKing, Google Forms, and others.
However, designing a survey that is informative is quite challenging. After all, you need to:
- make the person want to answer. For example, Slack shows you a small intro before the survey that makes you feel valuable and states the exact amount of time the user has to spend.
- don’t get your users bored or frightened with questions. For instance, Uber keeps their in-app polls short and straight to the point to keep users engaged.
- in case you want to get user feedback on a website/app make sure it appears on a relevant screen that a user is viewing at that moment. Google Meet asks about audio and video quality right after you left the meeting.
Gathering feedback with the help of live chats is fast and easy, as you actually don’t have to ask or convince customers to do anything. Users start chatting with you when they need it: at the time they face some difficulty, have a question, notice some changes in the product’s work, and so on.
One more advantage of live chats is that in this short live conversation you can quickly ask an important question too. Such customer feedback is important to define a direction for improving small, ongoing issues.
To learn details about user problems, it’s better to directly talk to users. These can be live conversations or in correspondence. Interviews allow you to receive higher-quality feedback. Open dialogue provides an opportunity to understand feelings underlying user decisions and the public's reaction to the brand or company decisions.
Follow these tips when conducting user interviews:
- Use open-ended questions - how? why? what can you advise? Such questions provide a clear understanding of the picture and help to identify product weak points
- Start the conversation with broader questions about the brand, and then about the product itself
- Be an active listener. To get helpful ideas, it is important to be open and receptive. Reflect on the key points you hear from customers.
Customer feedback is essential for UX researchers as well. While surveys and live chats mostly help to identify minor issues that customers regularly face, conducting usability testing can help a UX researcher to reveal problems that you and your users even don’t know about, and this way to make the user experience better.
To understand how important feedback is in user research, let’s take the example of Shopify. With the help of usability testing, they wanted to find out how to make Expert Profiles on the Shopify Experts Marketplace more valuable for users.
Collecting user feedback through usability testing led them to the following result:
Social media and specialized platforms
Don’t neglect the importance of gathering feedback from different sources including social media and websites that focus on your specific industry.
On social networks, user activity is usually much higher than on corporate websites. People love expressing their feelings on various social platforms. There is also more trust in reviews there, since you can always go to the author's profile and make sure that this is not a bot, but a person.
Phone calls are not that popular nowadays, as more and more people prefer to type rather than speak. Still, customer phone calls are a very personalized way to get feedback. The key point here is that the call must be sincere, and questions for feedback are not a mere formality.
To get the most out of this method, reach out to clients at the right time. Research has shown that people are more likely to respond from 10 to 11 am and from 4 to 5 pm, while from 7 to 10 am is the worst time to call.
The greatest advantage of this method is that you get first-hand feedback. What's more, by hearing voices and tone of your customers, you can feel their satisfaction level.
Use customers’ reviews effectively
Collecting user feedback alone has no use if you do nothing with it. To start benefiting, you should learn how to act upon this valuable data.
Here are five basic steps on your further actions:
- Classify feedback. As soon as you have a number of insights from users, your task is to segment them into meaningful groups so that you can easily analyze and prioritize issues. For this purpose, you can order them in accordance with buyer personas as each customer type has its wants and needs or according to their problem area.
- Add some analytical data. It’s often difficult to define what change to implement first, and you probably won’t be able to complete each user request. To put the right priorities, back up the feedback with analytical data. For example, you can support your ideas with usability metrics.
- Incorporate user feedback into your product roadmap. Product roadmaps explain to different team members not only what you are developing, but also why you are building this or that feature. Your employees will regularly use a roadmap to align with the company strategy. That’s why supporting goals in a product roadmap by user feedback can help workers have a better understanding of what they are doing and why.
- Share the insight. To successfully achieve your business goals, your whole team should understand in which direction you move and why. To have a strong understanding of common objectives, make sure everyone in your team has access to all documents that contain feedback (product roadmaps, buyer personas, and so on).
- Bring in the changes. Final step is obvious, but the most important at the same time. The purpose of asking users for feedback is to turn it into action. The problem here is not to spend your time and budget on something that won’t bring value to your business and users. That’s why, follow the above steps to correctly choose which change to implement.
Instead of summing all the information we’ve learned in this post, we’d like to give you some brief, but actionable recommendations on how to improve your business with the feedback. Maybe such pieces of advice sound obvious, but companies often forget about them from time to time.
- Always thank your user for the feedback.
- Make sure you react to each review you receive and customers feel you care.
- Track your competitors’ reviews.
- Offer a reward to encourage users to express their opinion.
- Never ignore negative feedback.
- Let each of your team members access user feedback.
- Let your users know about changes you’ve made based on their feedback.
At Eleken, we help our clients not only design their products, but go through every step of SaaS product design including collecting customer feedback surveys. Learn more about our product design process.