SaaS Trends of 2021 Every Business Owner Should Know
mins to read
The Software-as-a-Service industry is one of the lucky ones who not only survived the pandemic but managed to grow and attract new clients and investments.
As a SaaS design agency, we know very well how dynamic this business is. To capture all the freshest SaaS trends, consulting companies have to keep a finger on the pulse 24/7.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that forecasts are very unsure. Well, not only forecasts... Here, we are bringing up the trends that shape the future of SaaS right now, without trying to make any crystal ball foretelling (ok, maybe just a little bit).
SaaS tech trends
AI has been on the top SaaS trends list for quite a few years. Yet it will remain on the list in 2021 as well. Let’s look at the Gartner hype cycle for emerging technologies to see at what point is the AI now.
Gartner hype cycle is a curve that illustrates the life cycle of every innovation, technology, trend, or novelty concept. The X-axis is for expectations, y-axis for time.
When technology first appears, it receives lots of attention, before any effectiveness or profitability is even proven. This stage is called Innovation Trigger. Current starting technologies: AI-assisted design, private 5G.
Then, the curve rises rapidly and reaches the Peak of Inflated Expectations. The new technology already had investments and different applications, both successful and not. As for 2021, embedded AI and social distancing technologies are at the peak.
After reaching the peak, the curve of expectations falls to the Trough of Disillusionment. At this point, the failure of many experiments becomes obvious. Only those few that can prove the efficiency of the new technology receive investments.
Next comes the Slope of Enlightenment. The successful early adopters continue to improve their products, new applications are being found, but this time it is conscious usage rather than hyped experiments.
The slope goes steady until it reaches the Plateau of Productivity when the technology is known and accepted in mass. Technology is working and the investments are not as risky as at the start.
Artificial Intelligence is such a massive trend, that Gartner dedicated a separate hype cycle to it. AI stays at the peak of SaaS trends because there are new types emerging constantly: formative AI, composite AI, generative AI, Augmented Intelligence…
AI is taking over and the question is not about being the first to use it- nearly everyone is doing it already, so the most important is to avoid the itch to innovate for the sake of innovation. First of all, we have to think about how it can help solve the existing problem (if it can, of course).
The most promising fields to use AI in 2021 are:
• Data security
• Support service (chatbots, onboarding, etc)
Statistics claim that using AI for environmental applications will account for a -6,1% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in North America in 2030. Because if AI doesn’t save the planet, only a miracle would.
And if you are not yet convinced in the potential of this trend for SaaS, here are the numbers. The global artificial intelligence (AI) software market is forecast to grow rapidly in the coming years, reaching around 126 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.
Low-code or no-code
The trend for using no-code or low-code tools for developing parts of the product is a blessing for SaaS business owners. Benefits are cost and time savings. Using no-code tools lets all team members partake in the development process, not only the professional developers.
Another benefit is that the product will have a unified structure, unlike custom-built code that will be hard to understand once a developer leaves the company and you hire a new one.
Low-code and no-code tools are great for improving customer support, building chatbots, notification managers, or a whole application. Your developers will thank you for taking away boring tasks and letting them focus on core functions of the product.
We at Eleken are all-in for no-code and low-code solutions. Our website is built entirely with Webflow, a great tool for making landing pages. Without using any code we could focus on what we do best: UX/UI design.
SaaS market trends
The main trend of the SaaS market is very simple: the market is growing even during the crisis. SaaS adoption trends leave no doubt in the future of the industry. According to the report by BetterCloud, in 2020 companies were using on average 80 SaaS apps (5 times more than in 2017 and 10 times more than in 2015).
Tendencies that defined the market in the past years continue to rise: micro SaaS (small companies focused on one solution) and vertical SaaS (products targeted at a particular type of business rather than providing solutions to everyone). To learn more about long-playing industry trends, read the SaaS market overview.
One more trend that is worth mentioning is how SaaS starts relying more and more on branding rather than development.
White labeling is the business of licensing generic SaaS products to other enterprises so they can brand them, use them, and sell them as their own. Buying a ready solution is often cheaper and faster than developing one from scratch, especially when you have little expertise in the field.
White labeling has been around for a while, but the market is growing constantly. Call it a long-term trend that is here to stay. In future, white-label SaaS may become popular not only as a side app but as a principal product. When you have a strong brand and good marketing, development can be secondary.
Some examples of white-label SaaS are LevelUp (payment/loyalty program app) and AppInstitute (app builder for small business owners).
SaaS marketing trends
Marketing trends go hand-in-hand with tech: AI opens new opportunities for the personalization of communication, no-code tools help with email automation. Yet there is a specific trend that is very relevant in SaaS marketing in 2021.
Times when SaaS products desperately tried to stuff more features into different subscription plans are gone. Well, not gone completely, but that is not a rule of thumb anymore. Now that people understand that less is more and overserved customers often experience frustration. Often having so many features that you are not using makes you feel like you are wasting money.
The solution came in unbundling – splitting features into separate products that can be purchased separately. This trend opens new possibilities for upselling: once customers are happy with a product, they are more likely to try an additional feature.
SaaS pricing trends
Pricing models in SaaS become more and more diversified with time. Monthly or yearly flat-rate subscriptions or freemium is not the default choice anymore. Companies tend to have a custom approach to pricing. In some cases, the right pricing model is more efficient than the simple “cheaper than the competitors” approach.
Nowadays 38% of SaaS companies charge based on usage, and it helps to solve a common issue of “wasted” software that enterprises pay for but don’t use. It works like a classic gym business model, where the majority of revenue comes from those who buy a year-long membership but never go. What is good for a gym, may not be good for a SaaS: in the long-term, it will end in high churn rates and lack of positive referrals.
SaaS pricing will be reinvented in the next few years, and not just once. A survey by OpenView shows that 77% of companies revisit their pricing at least once a year 43% of them do it even more often.
SaaS design trends
Adjusting the design for mobile devices before making a desktop version is not a new thing in UX/UI design. Designers do it not only because the number of mobile users grows all the time, but also because designing an app for a small screen is more challenging than for a full-size desktop.
If you want to see what mobile-first design looks like, look at the case of our client, PublishXI, a corporate learning management system.
Now the number of people who use mobile devices for work tasks has grown so much that the mobile-first approach defines not only the designer workflow. When the app is designed for a smartphone, its functionality may be different from the one designed for a desktop. It also has an impact on marketing, sales, and development strategies.
When we think of mobile apps, the ones that come to mind first are individual-use messengers, lifestyle, games. However, smartphones are being used for business more and more. That is how mobile-first became a leading trend in B2B SaaS as well.
Larger size of UI elements
You may say it’s not the most cutting-edge design trend over there, right? True, but think of what it means for the advance of inclusive design. When so many designers strive to provide solutions for people with all sorts of disabilities, sometimes their products are not accessible for 60+ y.o. folks whose eyesight is not as sharp as it used to be. So yes, this little shift in font/button size is a big step towards inclusivity.
Hopefully, now you understand a bit better what direction the SaaS industry is moving in 2021. Technology means a lot, but often it’s marketing, pricing, or design that makes the biggest difference. The trends are a tricky thing, but those who notice them first and use them wisely, stay one step ahead of the competitors. There are just a few of SaaS trends for 2021, but that’s just the beginning.
Does SaaS business sound like a good place for you? If this article made you interested in joining this dynamic world of emerging technologies, read our article on how to launch a SaaS product.
Product Manager vs Project Manager: Main Differences in Goals, Responsibilities, and Skill Sets
Product manager vs project manager - potato potato - one may say and of course will be wrong. Project managers and product managers are vital roles in tech companies. However, if you're struggling to get the difference between product and project manager, the good news is - you're not alone.
Eleken is a design company for SaaS businesses with years of experience. And in our day-to-day work we get to cooperate closely with both product and project managers. In this article, we'll break down the main differences between product managers and project managers to help you understand which one is better for you.
Defining the role of a product manager
A product manager is a person responsible for a product and managing other teams to build, launch and maintain a successful product. A product manager is a key role in most technology companies.
Product managers need to be able to oversee the entire product life cycle, from concept to implementation. They usually need to have more diverse backgrounds and have to be very flexible and able to constantly learn new things, while interacting with different teams. Their goals are not predefined; moreover, their job is to determine goals for both themselves and the product. The result of their work is a solution that fully satisfies clients' demands and meets the company's expectations.
Product managers work closely with designers to make sure that the product’s design fits customer needs, as well as with engineers to make sure that all design features can be implemented without affecting the functionality. They also work with the marketing department to make sure that the product is effectively marketed when it is released. A product manager is also responsible for taking and analyzing input from stakeholders and users and passing it to the development team.
Now let’s look at a project manager.
Project manager definition
In a nutshell, a project manager is a person that organizes and coordinates the team to deliver a particular project on time and within budget. So, to better understand the project manager’s role, we first need to understand what the project is.
Project is usually defined as a sequence of steps or tasks that need to be completed to achieve a certain result in time and without using extra resources. Anything from designing a new application to building a house can be a project. Projects can vary by field and size, managed by one or many project managers, but the goal (and therefore the job of a project manager(s)) is pretty straightforward: to complete the project in time and without exceeding the budget. That’s why, it's safe to say that planning the timeframe, resources pool and objectives is a modern project manager’s responsibilities, while the ability to mitigate the risks is their superpower.
Product manager vs project manager: main differences
As you already noticed there are some key distinctions between the two roles that set them apart. A project manager is responsible for delivering the project without breaking the bank, while a product manager is focused on ensuring that the product developed meets customer needs.
Product management is responsible for a whole product creation, while and project management focuses on a specific stage of product development.
The key difference between product managers and project managers lies in how each role approaches the management process. Product managers focus on long-term strategy and goals, while project managers tend to focus on the project execution.
Project managers handle tasks within the scope of one project (or initiative). Product managers manage multiple initiatives across different teams to ensure alignment with business goals and objectives.
Now let’s explore the main goals, responsibilities, key performance indicators (KPIs), and skill sets of both project managers and product managers.
Responsibilities of a product manager vs a project manager
There are key distinctions in terms of responsibilities and deliverables of product manager and project manager roles that you should be aware of:
As you can see two roles have some common ground. Close cooperation with the team and lots of communication involved are typical for both positions. And no matter the role, both need to advocate for users’ needs and communicate with the team daily. Both roles also have to focus on idea implementation, need to have strong management skills, and be result-oriented.
Let's summarize: product managers are typically involved in defining products, setting direction, creating product vision and strategy of a product, choosing features, and managing roadmap prioritization. A product manager can be involved in developing products, but they usually don't actually build them.
KPIs of a project manager and product manager
Key performance indicators of the two roles we're talking about emerge from the goals of their work. A product manager's KPIs are determined by a key goal to oversee the development and growth of a product, while a project manager's responsibilities are united towards completing specific projects within defined resources. A product manager typically focuses on metrics such as customer satisfaction, increased sales, user acquisition, retention rates, and other metrics related to product performance. Project managers monitor metrics such as project budget, schedule adherence, and quality control and focus more on team performance metrics.
Project and product manager skill sets
Here we can see that product manager skills of and project manager skills are quite different.
Product managers need to have strong business skills, as they'll be dealing with the market, stakeholder’s expectations, and product’s development and performance. They also need to have a good understanding of technology so they can make decisions about what features to include in a product. They often are expected to have some basic skills in marketing, engineering, and design as well.
In contrast, project managers need to be great organizers and have strong problem-solving skills. The project manager's superpowers include managing users' expectations, dealing with ambiguity and sudden changes, budgeting, and creating timelines. Project managers are more niche-oriented and have technical knowledge in particular directions. They should be stress-resistant as troubleshooting upcoming problems is one of the project manager’s challenges. Project managers have to keep the team’s course on the defined goals, which is why this role is most appreciated for their efficient diligent approach.
Collaboration with designers: project manager vs product manager
When it comes to design, both product and project managers can be involved in managing the design team. However, the way both of them collaborate with designers is different.
Project managers define and manage the scope of tasks, organize efficient team collaboration, making sure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and keep an eye on the team’s progress and deadlines. They help designers to estimate the timelines and set milestones for the team. With a project manager in the team, the workflow becomes more structured and often more efficient, everyone is on the same page and the project manager is the rockstar in this case.
Product managers work with designers differently, they are more like chief operating officers for the product and their job is to align everyone with product goals. Their collaboration with designers is essential for the product's success, since the design team will create the product’s look and feel. That’s why product managers share the vision and make strategic design decisions together with the designers. Product managers prioritize work for designers and help them to see the bigger picture. With the product manager in the team designers feel more motivated and have a better understanding of the products they work on.
But when it comes to the question of who is more important - product or project managers - we can't just point at one side and say "Those are not needed". From our experience, both roles are irreplaceable and Eleken designers enjoy working with both project and product managers!
I’m sure that by this point you have a solid understanding of the two roles and see that they are not the same and can't be neglected. In fact, both roles complement each other.
Project and product management together is a bit like… running a farm.
A product manager keeps in touch with the market and potential customers to understand what is in demand. Based on that decides what vegetables to plant, then ensures that farm workers know what is their end goal and everything goes according to the plan.
A project manager gets instruction from the product manager about what they want to produce for the autumn and takes care of delivering that: calculates the budget to buy seeds and pay workers, then manages workers to plant and harvest the best quality vegetables in time.
Project managers and product managers work closely with each other along with other members of their department to coordinate tasks so that all parties are working towards one goal: releasing an effective solution that matches clients' expectations.
If you are now motivated and want to learn more, we have a great article on how to become a product manager.
Unlocking the Potential: An Overview of the Developer Tools Market
Today, software products have become the heartbeat of countless industries. As we witness a growing reliance on technology, the demand for cutting-edge developer tools has skyrocketed as well, resulting in a market loaded with diverse solutions. From ingenious code editors to cloud-based SaaS tools, this realm is all about innovation and competition.
At Eleken, we work closely with developers and startupers to ensure their vision is translated into a sleek product with a stellar UI/UX design. So when you're thinking of creating a startup catering to the needs of developers, you've come to the right place! In this article, we'll take you on a tour of the developer tools market, exploring its multifaceted nature and discussing how you could contribute.
One thing is certain, the developer tools market is growing rapidly
So, what is a developer tool? In a nutshell, it is a set of software applications, platforms, and programs designed to help software developers write code, as well as test, debug, and manage it. Their ultimate goal is to streamline the software development process.
Software development tools market size is increasing fast. The projected annual growth rate (CAGR), according to different estimations, is between 7% to 14% or even 17%, with expected market volume of US$234.70bn by 2028. One of the key drivers is the COVID-19 pandemic and shift to remote work, which made many investors rain money on promising startups.
The developer tools market is still piping hot, with customers eagerly seeking novel solutions to streamline their development processes, reduce time-to-market, and enhance the overall software quality. So if you're looking to join the competition with your idea, developer tools might be the thing to look into. But what exactly is in demand right now?
Popular categories of developer tools
The list of tools the market offers developers is quite huge, but they can be grouped into various categories, each catering to developers across different programming languages, platforms, and development methodologies. Here are some of them:
Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)
IDEs are among the most in-demand developer solutions. They offer comprehensive environments that consolidate various tools, code editors, and debugging capabilities in a single interface.
Key features of an IDE include:
- Code editor with features like syntax highlighting, code completion, and code suggestion, making it easier for developers to write code with fewer errors.
- Compiler/Interpreter for various programming languages. These tools help developers convert their code into executable programs.
- Debugging tools within an IDE assist developers in identifying and fixing errors in their code. They allow for step-by-step execution, breakpoints, and variable inspection to understand how the code behaves during runtime.
- Many IDEs integrate with version control systems like Git. This allows developers to manage their codebase, track changes, collaborate with the team, and revert to previous versions if needed.
- IDEs provide project management features to organize code files, resources, and configurations. This helps developers keep track of various components of their software projects.
- Graphical user interface (GUI) designer. For languages that involve graphical user interfaces, IDEs often include tools for designing and creating user interfaces through a visual interface.
- Autocomplete and code generation. IDEs offer features that suggest code snippets, functions, and variables as developers type, enhancing productivity and reducing the need to remember every detail of a language's syntax.
- Code analysis and metrics. IDEs can analyze code for potential issues, such as unused variables, code smells, or potential runtime errors. They may also provide metrics on code complexity, which can help developers write cleaner and more maintainable code.
- Integration with external tools, such as testing frameworks, build tools, and documentation generators.
- Many IDEs support extensions and plugins that allow developers to customize the environment to their specific needs, adding additional features or language support.
Popular IDEs include Eclipse, Visual Studio, IntelliJ IDEA, PyCharm, and Xcode.
Collaboration and project management tools
This type of tools grew in popularity after companies had to go remote. Such tools provide a structured framework for planning, tracking, and collaborating on tasks, ensuring that development teams can effectively manage their workloads and achieve project goals. Their functionality covers:
- Task organization and tracking. Project management tools help break down complex projects into smaller, manageable tasks, making it easier for developers to understand what needs to be done. Developers can prioritize tasks, set deadlines, and allocate resources accordingly.
- Project and task management tools facilitate communication and collaboration within development teams. This reduces the need for scattered communication channels and keeps all relevant discussions linked to the tasks they pertain to.
- Many of these tools provide visual representations of workflows, such as Kanban boards or Gantt charts, to give an overview of task progress, identify bottlenecks, and allow for easy adjustments to timelines and priorities.
- For teams following Agile methodologies, these tools are essential for managing sprints, user stories, and backlog items. They facilitate sprint planning, help estimate task complexity, and allow teams to adjust priorities based on feedback and changing requirements.
- Project management tools enable managers to allocate tasks to team members based on their expertise and availability. This helps balance workloads and ensures that tasks are assigned to the most suitable team members.
- Many tools offer reporting features that provide insights into project progress, task completion rates, and overall team performance. This data is valuable for evaluating the efficiency of development processes and making informed decisions.
Popular project and task management tools are Jira, Trello, Asana, Microsoft Planner.
Continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools
Continuous integration (CI) and Continuous deployment (CD) tools are essential components of modern software development practices. They help developers automate and streamline the process of integrating code changes, as well as testing and deploying them to production environments. This approach ensures that software remains functional, stable, and up-to-date, while reducing the risks associated with manual interventions and human error. Their major functionality includes:
- Automation of integrating code changes into a shared repository. With each code commit, these tools trigger automated tests, ensuring that new changes do not break the existing functionality. This helps catch bugs early in the development cycle.
- CI/CD tools enforce coding standards and quality checks. Code reviews, automated linting, and static code analysis are often part of the CI/CD pipeline, maintaining code consistency and reducing technical debt.
- By integrating code frequently and running tests automatically, developers receive rapid feedback on the quality of their changes. This accelerates the development cycle and reduces the time taken to identify and fix issues.
- CI/CD tools integrate with version control systems like Git, allowing developers to automate the process of building, testing, and deploying code changes as they are committed.
- While CI focuses on code integration and testing, CD takes it a step further by automating the deployment of code changes to production environments. CD tools help ensure that code changes are not only tested but also deployed to production seamlessly, reducing the time between development and deployment.
- CD tools often include strategies for rolling back or rolling forward changes in case of deployment failures. This minimizes the impact of issues and ensures a stable production environment.
Some notable tools include Jenkins, Travis CI, CircleCI, and GitLab CI/CD.
We discussed how tools can be classified by their purpose. Now let's take a brief look at how they function.
On-premise vs cloud-based developer solutions
If you're thinking about entering the dev tools market, the choice between the on-premise model and cloud is crucial. Here’s a brief overview of both models to help you make the right decision
On-premise solutions involve hosting and managing software and infrastructure within an organization's own physical premises, such as data centers or servers. This approach provides a high degree of control and customization but requires significant upfront investment, ongoing maintenance, and expertise in managing hardware and software. On-premise solutions are often used when security and data control are critical, or when specific regulatory requirements must be met.
While they have their merits, cloud-based solutions are not only already more popular than on-premise ones, but will continue to grow more actively as well, so let’s focus more on their types.
Platform as a service (PaaS)
PaaS provides a platform and environment for developers to build, deploy, and manage applications without worrying about underlying infrastructure. PaaS offers tools, libraries, and services for application development, and it abstracts much of the infrastructure management.
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
IaaS offers virtualized computing resources over the internet. It provides organizations with virtual machines, storage, networking, and other resources on a pay-as-you-go basis. Users can set up and manage their own operating systems, applications, and development environments. IaaS is suitable for developers who want more control over their infrastructure while still avoiding the physical hardware management.
Software as a service (SaaS)
Finally, SaaS delivers software applications over the internet, with providers hosting and maintaining the software on their own servers. Users access the software through web browsers without needing to install or manage it locally. SaaS solutions are cost-effective, as they eliminate the need for hardware setup and maintenance. They're ideal for collaborative tools, project management software, and other applications that can be accessed from any location.
SaaS solutions also excel in scalability, enabling developers to easily adapt their toolset to meet the needs of projects of varying sizes and complexities. As development teams grow, they can effortlessly upgrade their subscriptions to add newmembers, making SaaS tools an attractive choice for startups and enterprises alike. Additionally, SaaS tools typically come with regular updates and maintenance, ensuring that developers have access to the latest features, security patches, and improvements without the burden of manual updates.
Simply put, if you're looking to create an easily scalable, monetizable tool which will solve the specific pain points of developers, SaaS is likely to be a good choice for you.
Developer tools trends
As the software development market continues to evolve, new trends and innovations influence the development tool ecosystem. Two notable trends that have gained momentum are low-code/no code platforms and artificial intelligence, so let’s focus on them.
Low-code/no-code development platforms
These platforms are one of the key B2B SaaS design trends. They let non-developers create applications with minimal coding knowledge. They provide visual interfaces and drag-and-drop components to streamline the application development process. As the McKinsey review points out, low-code platforms influence the whole process of development, from start to finish.
Examples include platforms like OutSystems, Mendix, and Bubble. Website builder platforms, including Webflow which this website is built on, also belong to this category.
Integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI):
AI-driven tools are becoming increasingly prevalent, aiding developers in tasks such as code completion, bug detection, and automated testing. AI enhances code quality and accelerates the development process.
Tools like GitHub Copilot, Microsoft IntelliCode, and DeepCode are utilizing AI to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of developers' workflows.
Finally, a trend we need to discuss concerns UI/UX design. Considering the target audience, developer tools tended to focus less on usability and simplicity in comparison to the apps created for less tech-savvy audiences. However, the situation is changing. Smooth user experience and a clean interface are exactly the things that bring additional value to developer solutions and distinguishes an app from its numerous competitors.
Designing tools for developers
When it comes to designing tools for software developers, it's a whole different story that requires a unique approach. As a design agency specializing in SaaS, we at Eleken know that crafting effective developer tools demands a deep understanding of the software development process and the specific needs of developers, as well as smooth designer-developers collaboration.
Let’s consider one of our recent cases to better understand how it’s possible to achieve flawless design that every developer will find easy to use. One of our clients, PicaSaaS, offers ready-to-use modules of code their clients can choose via the platform and add in minutes to their own website or application, automating the product development process. So, our goal was to make the UX as simple as possible.
From the very first screen, we made the users' lives easier by adding login through integration with different services. This significantly saves the time for registration and allows quicker onboarding.
We made sure that the devs can create and customize one's workspace with drag and drop. It's a perfect balance between leaving the users with the ability to tailor their workspace for their needs while leaving the user flow as simple and intuitive as possible.
The dashboard is minimalistic and clean. Clear visual hierarchy, distinct fonts and buttons ensure the user can get all the necessary information at first glance without any confusion. No superficial elements distract the user, everything is to the point.
In the end, when you're designing for developers, everything should be straightforward and frictionless.
In our work, we rely on best practices and design systems examples from leading companies that allows us to ensure any dev tool we work on is perfect for their users. After all, developers are only humans, and, just like everyone else, they love solutions which are easy to use and look good.
So, if you think of entering the developer tools market, ensure from the very beginning that your product's UI/UX supports your vision and not hinders it. At Eleken, we have vast experience of creating interfaces that boost developers' work. So, if you're looking for a design partner, drop us a line!