Design team

updated on:

7 Feb



When Your SaaS Design Team Falls Short: Addressing Common Frustrations and Finding Solutions


min to read

Stan Murash

Writer at Eleken

Stan Murash

Writer at Eleken

Table of contents

In comparison to traditional businesses, SaaS companies are easy to scale because the barriers of physical infrastructure are non-existent. However, to maximize this potential, a SaaS startup owner must be prepared. A well-defined product roadmap is a must. Technology architecture should be flexible enough to accommodate scaling. UX must always be a priority. When these criteria are met, the company is ready to scale. However, with scaling come specific issues one must be prepared for. Let's take a closer look at potential troubles your SaaS team might face and, most importantly, their possible solutions.

Overworked team

Scaling always involves more work for you and your team. And when you start noticing that the quality of work is dropping, you’re missing deadlines, and the work environment is overall stressful, those are clear signs your team is overwhelmed and can’t keep up.

The solution here is quite simple: consider team extension. This way, you can ease the burden on your existing team without sacrificing quality. This approach ensures timely project delivery and lets your team not get burned out. What’s more, team extension allows you to get the required talent fast without wasting resources on hiring and onboarding. 

At Eleken, we often partner with companies following the team extension model. For example, one of our clients, Enroly, was looking to scale and reach 30% of UK universities using its software. But the problem was, their design team only had one UI/UX designer, who was also a Head of the Product, so the mission was close to impossible. To reduce the workload and achieve their business goals, Enroly came to us for help.

After collaborating with Enroly for seven months, we helped them design a unique SaaS solution with a killer analytics feature. 

Enroly screenshot

Now Enroly collaborates with one in five universities in the UK and has raised £1.5m in funding to empower their international expansion. And what's more important, their Head of the Product didn't get burned out. 

Hiring nightmares

The hiring games have long ago started to look like Hunger Games, and for many reasons. Recession, layoffs, the COVID aftermath, you name it. So when you're looking to hire THE designer to strengthen your team and scale, be ready to spend months looking for that unicorn and then onboarding them.

In this regard, team extension is a good solution to this problem as well, as you get an experienced designer on board and eliminate the need for an exhausting recruitment campaign. What’s more, you might be surprised by the niche expertise these hired guns can bring to the table. For example, the Astraea team made the most out of our designers' experience working with geospatial data products – not something you can easily find when searching for an independent UI/UX designer.

Astraea screenshot

An agency isn't a good fit

As we're a design agency ourselves, it might seem like we're trying to praise agencies and encourage you to collaborate with one. But in reality, a traditional agency might have its own pitfalls. Poor communication, different work styles or even lack of expertise in your domain - all these factors can lead to bad experience and make you abandon the idea of collaborating with an agency.

Our piece of advice here would be to collaborate with an agency with specialized expertise. For example, Eleken works only with SaaS products, and we are probably the best in the game (sorry for bragging).

For example, we've been working with Greenventory for two years and counting. The app works with data-driven maps. Finding a designer with experience in working on geospatial products was not easy, but it paid off and our UX designer became an indispensable part of their team. 

Greenvenory branding

Integration challenges

As your SaaS company shoots for the stars, the need for seamless integration among various departments becomes paramount. Designers must collaborate effortlessly with engineers, product managers, and other cross-functional teams.

You can tackle this challenge head-on by implementing a rock-solid UX design system. This blueprint ensures that design components, guidelines, and communication methods are consistent across teams. You also need your designers to develop specific soft skills necessary to communicate with developers.

Eleken's designers know very well how to work with a developer as a designer, ensuring smooth integration without headaches. Our designers are encouraged to communicate with developers directly. This way, they can explain one's decisions, learn whether they are realistic to implement and make necessary adjustments.

We worked on developer tools as well. We designed from scratch TechCore, a solution allowing developers to concentrate on their coding tasks. While the devs came to us with just a couple of clickable screens, our designers researched the competitors, and came up with a list of features. Constant communication and the deep understanding of developers' pain points allowed us to come together and bring the best in each team to create a new product. 

TechCore screenshot

Lack of design leadership and mentorship 

Scaling up your design team means nurturing the growth of junior designers and providing effective leadership. Without proper mentorship, your design team might hit a creativity plateau. 

This is another case when bringing outside help might benefit your team. Getting a senior designer to work with them will boost their long-term performance and allow you to grow a mentor within your team. 

At Eleken, we value the growth of our designers. This post on our in-house mentorship approach shows how it works from the mentor's perspective. In general, our new employees are trained within the team for three months before they are allowed to work on a project independently. Even then, they always have the support of senior designers when necessary. One of our lead designers regularly conducts UI mini school in which junior designers can practice their skills and get feedback. Designers with niche expertise often hold mini-lectures in which they can share their experience with the others. All in all, we value our design talents and foster their skills and creativity. 

Unexpected downturn

Life can throw curveballs, and your SaaS business might experience an unexpected slowdown. It would be best if you had a plan that allows you to adapt swiftly without putting your team at risk.

In this case, the flexibility of a team extension service can also be a good solution. Whether you need to scale up rapidly during a boom or downsize efficiently during a downturn, this approach offers the agility you need without the typical risks associated with full-time hiring.

Many of our clients capitalized on Eleken's ability to expand and downsize the team as needed. For example, when we were working on Highpoint, they enlarged the team from one to three and then five designers to tackle specific tasks quickly and then downsized again when the workflow returned to a more steady pace.

HighPoint screenshot

Final thoughts

When you're looking to scale your SaaS business, challenges are inevitable. Finding a reliable partner can go a long way in making sure you can tackle them. 

We at Eleken know how much of a difference a qualified design team can make for a product. If you feel your team is struggling in a crucial moment of its growth, let us help. Contact us today for team extension services.

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