Software as a service (SaaS) is hardly new. Many businesses have used SaaS platforms to create viable, service-oriented enterprises that deliver consistent quality and value to their clients. Unfortunately, a great many more businesses have tried and failed due to any one of a myriad of possible mistakes.
In order to succeed in the competitive SaaS market, you have to master not only your SaaS design, but develop it into a viable online service that will be appealing and useful to users.
Having said that…
Know Your Users
The key to a successful SaaS business is the creation of a successful user interface. In order to create a successful user interface, you need to know your users. Simple enough, right?
By remembering that the product you are creating—the software—is going to be delivered as a service—use of the software platform—you can clearly see the essential nature of the user interface. If you don't know who your users will be or what they will need, you cannot create a user interface that will meet their needs.
Keep Your Design Process Agile
Any number of processes can produce a successful design, but an agile design process can combine the input of designers and developers throughout the process to produce a superior quality product. Not to mention, it allows for flexibility in case any major changes need to be made along the way.
The agile process follows an iterative cycle of concept, prototype, and testing that draws in the input of designers, developers, and users to produce a successful outcome.
Pair Up Your Consistency
Consistency is a key attribute in any successful business venture. While the tools and techniques we use need to be agile and adaptable, we still want to see consistent results. Consistency is especially important in SaaS products, because users are going to rely on the outcomes or reports produced by the software to make key business decisions.
If your SaaS product isn't consistent, your users aren't going to be either. By pairing external consistency (how the software looks and feels to users) with internal consistency (how the software operates within a given context), you will produce consistent outcomes your users can rely on with confidence.
Improve Your Users' Efficiencies
The primary reason businesses invest in SaaS platforms is because they improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the business's operations. Simply put, businesses need to make better decisions faster in order to remain competitive.
Successful SaaS platforms help their users to do that. This means that users should be able to easily identify how to perform a specific task or function, and that the interface should have tools and shortcuts that enable users to perform frequent tasks and functions more quickly. This requires a degree of personalization and accessibility to be built into the software.
Give the Help Users Need
One of the reasons businesses have gravitated towards SaaS is because they're tired of unsupported software. It should not take 24 or 48 hours for a business to access the assistance they need to leverage your product; that is why they are paying for your product as a service.
Helpful hints and tools should be built into the user interface, of course; but, access to personalized, personable assistance should also be built into the interface. Users should be able to click a button to navigate to the helpful resources—including chat boxes and other ways to connect with an actual person—they need to navigate their way through a problem.
Don't Forget the Creative Touch
Software can be practical and useful without being overly utilitarian or spartan. Personality, creativity, and beauty should be built into your design, your development, and your final product. The user interface is going to be the go-to place your users go to use your service. This means that your user interface should be sufficiently well branded to be identifiable without the user needing to see a name, logo, or URL to know where he or she is.
You don't have to be flashy or annoying to achieve this result. Ideally, your branding shouldn't detract from the user's experience in any way. Nevertheless, you want your brand to be present in your interface so they never forget to whom they can turn.