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The reasons why software as a service (SaaS) is becoming so popular software trends are obvious today. The SaaS concept is attracting a lot of attention for its rich technical capabilities and ability to meet the current needs of users. Whether you’re starting your own startup or upgrading an existing platform, SaaS application development fits most business needs.
That’s why we decided to share our professional knowledge based on real cases from our development background.
So, in this blog post, you will:
- Understand what a SaaS application development is;
- Find out how the SaaS concept differs from the traditional software model;
- Explore the benefits of SaaS for business owners and product end-users;
- Get a complete checklist and expert advice for creating a SaaS product;
- Learn how to solve SaaS application development challenges;
- See how we’ve helped our clients’ projects succeed in the market.
What Is SaaS Application Development?
A SaaS application is a web-based application hosted in the cloud of a SaaS provider. It is important to note here that not all web applications use the SaaS model. Software as a service means delivering applications via the Internet. This way, users can access your application without the need to install, configure and maintain software. The service provider’s cloud handles all administrative tasks. Plus, service providers are responsible for the privacy, reliability, and performance of the application.
Unlike traditional licensed software, users are free from the need to buy a software license and install it on a particular device. Instead, users choose their preferred subscription model, which gives them access to the software features they need.
So, let’s look at the table that summarizes the core differences between SaaS and traditional licensed software:
The popular examples of successful SaaS apps are:
- Cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox);
- CRM software (Salesforce);
- Video conferencing solutions (Zoom);
- Collaboration software (Slack, Google Workspace, Office 365);
- Creative software (Adobe CC, Figma, Canva);
- Video-streaming service (Netflix);
- Online appointment scheduling software (Calendly).
4 Reasons Why SaaS Application Development Is in Demand
According to Statista, the global SaaS market will reach $208 billion by 2023. These numbers point to the reasons why various startups and large corporations choose SaaS services. Businesses today need digital solutions that enable consistent internal collaboration and communication. Plus, worldwide influence forces businesses to become agile while minimizing upfront and ongoing costs.
While you may already see the benefits of SaaS solutions, there are four reasons why SaaS app development can become your top priority.
Scalability on demand
The SaaS delivery model gives SaaS providers the right to control the platform despite the requirements. Such technical characteristics allow you to regulate the use of SaaS up and down. This means that when you activate a new SaaS product, the SaaS provider will handle server capacity planning. In other words, SaaS businesses subscribe to the services they need.
Large customer base
SaaS-based application development allows you to attract a large customer base. Using SaaS apps, users can get:
- Greater flexibility;
- High level of data protection;
- Instant access from any device;
- Affordable tariff plans.
These benefits also help reduce usability issues while engaging a wider audience to meet your business needs.
High data protection and security
The SaaS model provides a high level of data protection through third-party integrations and standard security protocols, including SSL and TLS encryption. This allows providers to protect users’ communication and data.
In the case of a special industry, the integration of additional security protocols is obligatory. As such, the healthcare industry requires HIPAA compliance for US startups and GDPR compliance for European applications. The SaaS model allows such integrations for any industry.
Flexible monetization model
A variety of subscription models allows customers to choose the option that they can afford. This means that SaaS applications allow their users to pay on a monthly, quarterly, yearly, or another required payment period. For example, there are popular monetization models used by many popular SaaS application providers:
- Flat rate pricing (CartHook);
- User-based pricing (Canva);
- Usage-based pricing (Salesforce);
- Feature-based pricing (PandaDoc);
- Freemium (Dropbox, Spotify, Trello, Slack).
As a result, this flexibility makes the software accessible to both startups on a budget as well as end-users worldwide.
6 Steps For Successful SaaS Application Development
Let’s go through the SaaS product development checklist to understand what you need to keep in mind before starting a successful SaaS application development.
Step 1: Formulate and validate your product idea
Every software project starts with a preliminary market research and business idea validation. This step involves business analysts and project stakeholders to:
- Gather all the necessary information about the product;
- Evaluate target audience;
- Define business value.
When studying the market, it is important to analyze direct competitors, understand user pain points and find the best solution to solve them. The output of this phase is a product roadmap covering the completed market research and approved application concept.
On the way to achieving it, you need to:
- Identify your target audience and their core needs;
- Determine the feasibility of your product through market research;
- Choose the right monetization model to achieve your business goals as quickly as possible
- Gather and analyze feedback from your direct customers on your app idea;
- Define functional and non-functional product requirements;
- Consider the list of app features you need to implement;
- Finalize business requirements.
After you complete the business idea validation, your startup is ready to move on to the implementation phase.
Looking for a winning go-to-market strategy for a SaaS startup? Learn how to build a profitable SaaS startup with our expert advice.
Step 2: Conduct in-depth product discovery
Product discovery equips product teams with a powerful tool to understand customer needs, aiding the process of developing products that meet and exceed their expectations. Prioritizing features is made easier through this invaluable approach which can form an integral part of ensuring top-notch results.
Here is a list of essential steps for effective product discovery:
- User needs research. Comprehending your user base is the key to creating a successful product. Whether they are current users or prospective, investigating their wants and needs will provide indispensable insight into how best to design an engaging experience for them all. To truly understand who these people are, it helps to personify demographics with personalized user profiles; this practice also encourages increased empathy towards audiences using techniques such as customer interviews, surveys, feedback collection tools and session recordings of similar products on the market.
- Problem definition. Analyzing various user stories can uncover insights into common problems that users are facing. Using this research, we craft broad and specific hypotheses to understand our clients’ needs better; verifying these theories through testing helps us ensure an accurate representation of their thoughts and feelings before moving forward with any solutions.
- Possible solution listing. To encourage creative problem-solving, involve stakeholders from various departments in the brainstorming process and utilize tools like mind mapping or storyboarding for optimal results. While wild ideas are welcome during this phase, make sure that there’s room for refinement since not all solutions will be implementable!
- Solution validation and prioritization. Comprehensive internal and external validation can ensure that your solutions are viable and feasible. Consult with stakeholders, survey current or potential users, and run A/B tests – these steps will help you make informed decisions on the usability of any potential solution.
Step 3: Start UI/UX design
The UI/UX design process consists of several main steps:
- Sitemap creation. The project research should be translated into an engaging visual sitemap. This user-focused representation of the product’s structure is invaluable for effective planning and gaining key insights, as it allows us to illustrate complex ideas in a simple yet visually compelling way.
- User flows creation. User flows offer a great opportunity to visualize product journeys and decision points. Not only do they provide an accurate map of the user journey, but their simple structure can be adapted into complex pathways depending on how detailed you need your analysis.
- Wireframing. With three different types of wireframes, from low-fidelity to high-fidelity, we can quickly sketch out an initial product framework for our designs. However, if time isn’t on your side, then the mid-fidelity stage may be skipped in order to expedite development.
- Prototyping. Prototypes give designers the opportunity to create a near-realistic replica of their product and leverage it for user testing. This invaluable feedback provides useful insights into how users interact with the design, allowing them to optimize usability before launching.
- User testing. It is paramount to ensure your prototype works for the user. It needs to be tested with different groups and usability assessments conducted. Additionally, creating user stories helps validate that the solution fulfills its intended purpose in a way satisfactory to users.
- Design system creation. At this step designers should create a visual design language. Your SaaS product should be composed of carefully selected components. Be mindful of creating a visual design language that fits into four core categories (Colors, Typography, Sizing and Spacing, Imagery), and consider how each plays its part when constructing the interface.
Step 4: Move to the development phase
Now it’s time to transform your design into a working product. Most often, for this stage, our team assigns 2+ developers for the main stages of development (front-end and back-end development). Let’s look at the main stages that make up the SaaS application development phase:
- Tech stack & documentation. Development team determines technologies that will be appropriate for the project. The team compiles technical documentation describing all features and functionality and the relationship between user roles.
- Software architecture plan. Developers create the basic structure of the product. On the back end, they choose whether it will be, for example, a monolith or microservices and choose the controllers and types of APIs they will use. On the front end, developers determine how the user interface will be implemented and schematically depict which parts of the product will interact with each other.
- Sprints planning. At this stage, the team determines the priority and sequence of features creation. This stage is critical because the entire product development plan is based on it.
- Infrastructure setup for testing + CI/CD to the test servers. DevOps set up the production-like environment for running the developed application on the cloud. The customer has access to it and can also test the product. The team configures the system so that all changes the team makes to the product automatically appear in this environment.
- Client and server development & QA. At this stage, client and server parts of the product are developed (development of UI components, API, etc.) and tested.
- Regression Testing. QA tests the entire product thoroughly. We fix bugs that may have appeared when we were adding new features and product components.
- Production Infrastructure setup + CI/CD to the prod servers. The development team creates a separate, more flexible and scalable environment on the cloud that is production-ready. They configure domains and the system so that all changes developers make to the product automatically appear in this environment.
Step 5: Deploy your SaaS application
This stage is the final one in SaaS application development. You can release the finished product. At this stage, we recommend tracking reactions and feedback from first users. They will show you what needs to be improved in the product or changed in the future.
Step 6: Maintain and support your SaaS application
Work on your new SaaS application is not over. You will need to correct inaccuracies and improve your product from time to time. Support your SaaS application throughout its entire life cycle, then success is guaranteed to you.
How to Build a Cloud-Based SaaS Application With Northell
When it comes to ensuring your business has a competitive edge, Northell SaaS development services are here for you. Our expertise and passion for cloud solutions make us uniquely qualified to help build or manage a secure, scalable application around any of your organization’s needs – all at lightning-fast speed!
Backed by modern software development standards and practices, our award-winning team crafts exceptional products that stand out from the competition every single time. At Northell, we can provide you with the following SaaS application development services:
- Cloud computing architecture development. Businesses of all sizes are leveraging the power of cloud computing to manage their data effectively, securely and with unparalleled access. Our team can design an architecture tailored specifically for your organization that combines service-oriented and event-driven strategies – bringing you closer to success in a connected world!
- Migration to cloud. Our team can ensure a seamless transition to the cloud, selecting an appropriate migration model for the smooth integration of data and applications. You’ll enjoy uninterrupted business operations without sacrificing any information in the process.
- SaaS web development. Our senior engineers specialize in customizing secure, scalable SaaS web applications to enable businesses of all sizes to maximize their potential. With comprehensive end-to-end support and conversion optimization strategies tailored precisely to each client’s needs, we are the go-to experts when it comes to launching powerful digital solutions.
- SaaS scale services. Let us help you unlock the full potential of your project with our SaaS scaling services. Our experts will work with you to identify an efficient strategy, devise a step-by-step plan, and accompany you at each stage along the way – ensuring success in scaled growth for your software solution.
- Cloud solution development. Leverage new cloud-based technologies and unlock their full potential with the assistance of our knowledgeable team. With expertise in SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and more – we will guide you as your business takes advantage of cutting-edge solutions for growth.
- Cloud-native apps development. Northell’s specialized processes guide businesses on their journey toward digital transformation. Our inventive cloud-native applications and industrialized solutions allow companies of all types to quickly create, test, and deploy sophisticated technology for driving success in the modern marketplace.
- Custom cloud development. The developers at Northell are renowned industry leaders with an impressive track record of engineering bespoke cloud applications. From developing new solutions to tailoring existing ones, they have the skills and competencies to ensure every business has its needs met on time and within budget.
We offer our clients a personalized approach that looks the following way:
- Product discovery. Our team kicks off every project with a comprehensive assessment of the client’s idea, business operations and requirements. We assemble all required information for successful development through research on their unique needs and goals.
- UX/UI design. Our skilled team of engineers, architects, and designers craft reliable cloud application logic systems with high-quality wireframes. We strive to create a design system that meets your company’s needs while our UX lab ensures the navigability and functionality are up to par. All this is done so you can be sure about the quality of your app’s performance when it hits production!
- Development. At our company, we go the extra mile to ensure superior development for each project. Our team of experienced engineers creates fully functioning cloud applications using the latest technology stacks and best practices. All code is rigorously tested by both automated processes as well as manual QA testing – resulting in a top-notch product every time!
- Deployment & Integration. Our QA team is hard at work ensuring that the cloud application runs seamlessly for product users. After running through rigorous tests, we release it to beta testers so they can put it through its paces and provide valuable feedback. Of course, no stone is left unturned, as our development teams consider all user suggestions while addressing any bugs or making improvements. Ultimately, this ensures a smooth and dependable experience with an accuracy on par with Swiss watchmaking!
- Maintenance. We are dedicated to ensuring that you experience only the best quality when it comes to our cloud applications – this is why we offer comprehensive maintenance services for any issues or repairs which may arise down the line. You can always rely on us being just a call away!
One example of a SaaS application project our team has worked on is MeetAlfred, an easy and advanced all-in-one sales enablement software for LinkedIn, Email & Twitter.
Our customer had an existing working platform with 30,000 users. MeetAlfred’s main requirement was to move the platform from the desktop application to Cloud SaaS. Also, our customer wanted to do platform rebranding.
To implement our customer’s idea, we first started reviewing and analyzing design and branding sketches. Based on this review, we have identified several areas for further work:
- Move to Cloud SaaS platform. One of our customer’s requirements was moving from the desktop application to Cloud SaaS to improve product usability and user experience. Our team has expanded the product’s functionality by making it a full-fledged Cloud SaaS platform.
- Do platform rebranding. Since our customer changed the positioning and concept of the product, we decided to update the UI / UX of the product completely. Thanks to the new design, information architecture and branding elements, we have improved the product logic, navigation and user experience in general.
- Create a new marketing website. We also decided to create a new marketing site because MeetAlfred would change its target audience and niche and expand its capabilities. Therefore, it was vital that the marketing site could fully convey its current unique value.
Northell team managed to meet all the needs and requirements of MeetAlfred, namely, moving the legacy desktop application to a SaaS platform, rebranding and filling the platform with new functionality. As a result, we enhanced the product’s usability, the platform’s visual appearance and user experience.
We successfully made the inner and outer parts for the MeetAlfred platform. We have already received a lot of positive feedback from the test users. Existing users have gladly accepted the updated design and the updated version of this platform in general.
If you have an idea for a SaaS project that you want to turn into reality and you are looking for a reliable team to help you, get in touch with us today! We are ready to discuss your project.
Benefits of Custom SaaS Development For Business Owners
As a startup, you need to see the full picture of the SaaS product’s benefits to meet your commercial goals. Plus, this will encourage you to move into SaaS software development as soon as possible.
Reduced investment costs
The usage of cloud-based environments doesn’t force your business to purchase a license. In addition, there are no hardware maintenance costs associated with traditional licensed software. You simply pay for what you are going to use.
Less time required to launch a project
Given the technical capabilities of the SaaS model, you can start your business shortly. You don’t have to deal with the user’s hardware or spend time installing and configuring licensed software for your specific business needs. Once users select their preferred subscription offer, your SaaS app is ready to use.
As we’ve already mentioned, the flexibility of monetization models benefits both parties: the business itself and the end-users. Plus, this benefit allows you to track earnings within a specific time period (month, quarter, half a year). Thus, you attract a solid client base that brings you a stable income.
Benefits of Developing SaaS Applications For End-Users
Once you’ve weighed the benefits you can get early on in SaaS app development, it’s time to consider why users choose SaaS apps.
When using SaaS applications, users subscribe to the appropriate subscription plan with the desired set of features. This ability to adjust payments up and down provides cost-effectiveness for end-users.
Cloud infrastructure security protocols provide your platform with high data protection and reliability. Compared to physical servers, cloud servers have a higher level of security. In addition, customer data protection can be enhanced through third-party integrations.
Optional service packages
Customizable service packages entitle the user to purchase only the required features. These benefits increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, adding value to your product in a crowded software market.
Instant application updates
When users download SaaS products from the cloud, they do not need to update the applications themselves. Instead, such applications are automatically updated without any downtime. This saves users time while providing quality and exceptional services.
The Essentials of SaaS Product Development Lifecycle
A SaaS product’s life cycle requires careful consideration, for it is far from traditional software. From development to final delivery and beyond, each stage needs special attention in order to ensure the success of your business solution – including implementation, maintenance & support services such as bug fixing or system enhancements. Here are the main steps that make up the SaaS product development lifecycle:
Crafting a successful SaaS project requires foresight and critical thinking. To ensure success, stakeholders like investors, managers, marketers, and architects must be involved at the earliest stages of planning to assess business scalability. Thoughtful consideration now will help protect against costly mistakes in the future.
It is essential to ensure the cloud platform meets project requirements, offering reliable scalability and disaster recovery capabilities. Proper evaluation of its architecture and functionality will guarantee a successful outcome for any given initiative.
As a key part of the preparation process, all crucial choices for your SaaS project must be determined. Making sure stakeholders agree on terms and conditions is essential, as well as plotting out how to move forward with creating a roadmap and mitigating any potential risks along the way. This will set you up for success in delivering an effective solution!
For the next step, it’s time to commit to your chosen cloud provider! You’ll make any necessary architecture and pricing decisions. Planning a comprehensive subscription management strategy is key – it should cover backups, disaster recovery plans, and all other details for maximum efficiency.
The development process doesn’t take off until the earlier stages are complete. At this point, teams get to work configuring and testing their environment before adding in functionality, security protocols, integration adjustments and all those necessary support services checks. Time-consuming? Yes – but essential for success!
Once the development stage has been completed, it is vital to transition into operations properly. Ensure all aspects of the product are thoroughly examined and that person can effectively use it; be ready for extra tweaks, bug fixes, and reviews as needed.
Following this process will ensure you take full advantage of every opportunity – ultimately making your project a success!
SaaS Application Development Challenges and How We Recommend to Overcome Them
If you want to know how to develop a SaaS application the right way, you should consider all the challenges you will encounter along the way. Otherwise, you may experience additional overhead and lose more time. So, let’s take a look at 5 popular challenges and figure out how to solve them effectively following Northell’s team experience.
Third-party services integration
Problem: The payment functionality integration into your SaaS platform is possible through the integration of third-party APIs. Today, most payment solutions are ready to provide their APIs, which makes the process smoother. However, developers need to learn all the technical aspects of payment integration to prevent application crashes.
Solution: At Northell, we focus on creating manual and automated tests to verify the quality of the product after the integration of these services. We’re running a series of tests to make sure that the app’s payment system works correctly.
Management of a subscription model
Problem: If you already know how to develop a SaaS application, don’t forget to properly manage the subscription model. You can face a lot of risks when creating your own subscription management solution. This will require features such as subscription, tracking, updating, resubscription, and cancellation. You will need more time and effort to properly deliver and test this solution.
Solution: Our development team recommends choosing off-the-shelf products like Stripe. You will need to pay for using this solution. However, this method is simple and convenient, as it provides its own API and clear documentation for SaaS systems.
Secure database and regulatory compliance
Problem: As a SaaS provider, you are responsible for protecting customer data and privacy. That’s why you will need to develop a robust database design that follows compliance with main regulations. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for the European Union and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for health software in the United States.
Solution: At Northell, we suggest considering your product requirements in the early stages of product development. Then create test cases to perform unit and integration testing to make sure data access is restricted.
Problem: In the list of steps required to learn how to develop a SaaS application, make the availability of the SaaS system a high priority. There are situations when new versions of the system are released, but users cannot get full access.
Solution: Our development team offers you to use a zero-downtime deployment strategy. This strategy assumes that the service is fully responsive during deployment. This way you ensure that your SaaS solution is completely reliable.
Problem: During SaaS application development, customization features are highly important to long-term business success. This task will require time and cost to customize product features such as colors, layout, and subdomain for each tenant individually.
Solution: Even though customization is resource-intensive, our development team offers to handle these requirements. In this way, you will achieve greater commercial value and the long-term viability of your product in the market.
Real SaaS Development Cases From Northell
The Northell team is highly experienced in understanding how to develop SaaS applications for various industries.
Starting with product strategy definition and market analysis, we can create your solution from scratch or update an existing one. Let’s discuss two real cases from our portfolio to give you a clear idea of how we helped launch these products successfully.
Building an advanced mentoring platform from scratch
BridgeX is an educational mentoring platform that helps aspiring entrepreneurs assess the feasibility of their business idea by completing a questionnaire.
Building a platform from scratch is always a challenge. That is why our client hired us to bring his idea to life.
So, we were responsible for:
- Product discovery;
- UI/UX design;
- Frontend and backend development;
- Testing and deployment.
After our team finalized the app concept and design, we defined the product roadmap. Based on the platform’s specifics and goal, we decided to get started with SaaS app development. Thus, this platform will be able to cover all initial product and business goals.
So, the main goal of the platform was to make the platform subscription-based and highly customizable. Thus, entrepreneurs could choose the appropriate subscription plan and get the required service faster. In turn, mentors will be able to provide step-by-step assistance in a timely and consistent manner.
So, for the BridgeX project, we started with:
- Definition of functional and non-functional requirements for the product;
- Description of user roles;
- Writing technical documentation and product specifications;
- Finalizing product strategy and goals;
- Establishing timeframes and cost estimates for the project.
Following an agile approach to project management, we:
- Prepared a design system from scratch, making it simple and user-friendly;
- Created full-featured dashboards for both mentors and entrepreneurs;
- Developed personas profiles;
- Implemented onboarding feature to simplify the user’s interaction with the platform;
- Added calendar for setting deadlines for professional mentor consultations;
- Implemented a subscription-based model and payment system into the platform;
- Create questionnaires to help startups grow.
After all SaaS application development jobs were done, we deployed a clickable prototype to our client. The client released the fully tested product, allowing his business to increase commercial results. Today, this platform helps aspiring entrepreneurs build their businesses with almost a few clicks.
Redeveloping existing platform to fully-fledged cloud SaaS platform
Our next case is MeetAlfred platform – sales enablement software for LinkedIn, Email, and Twitter. This application allows different companies to find their target audience and create effective campaigns to improve business results.
Our client came to us with an existing desktop application that needed to be rebranded and redesigned for a SaaS cloud platform.
The main goal for us was to expand the functionality of the platform, improve UI and UX.
So, we were responsible for:
- Product discovery;
- UI/UX design;
- User testing.
As a part of product discovery, we:
- Conducted stakeholder and users interviews;
- Defined project goals;
- Completed market research;
- Described personas for four target audiences of the application (marketing and advertising, professional services, IT and software, recruiters);
- Created customer journey map.
Nextly, we moved to the implementation stage and created such solutions:
- New design system preserving product identity and core message;
- Updated UI design in a minimalistic and stylish manner;
- Implemented login features;
- Developed the onboarding function for the user to help him get acquainted with the functionality of the platform;
- Created customized dashboards for the required campaign launch;
- Added new functionality for the contacts page;
- Redesigned the marketing website so it can reach different audiences.
As a result, our team managed to redevelop the platform while maintaining its original value for business and users. Today, more than 100,000 users use the SaaS platform to grow their businesses and run workable multiple campaigns.
Looking for professional help to get started with SaaS application development? Just choose a project type and our experts will develop a detailed proposal to meet your needs! Contact us.
How Much Does SaaS Application Development Cost
The cost of developing a SaaS platform directly depends on the following criteria:
- Business model;
- Features package;
- Expected time to market;
- Development approach (hybrid, native, cross-platform);
- Team location;
- Team size;
- Team expertise;
- Hiring model.
During the product discovery phase, business analysts evaluate all aspects that affect the final cost of your project and develop a proposal for you. However, let’s look at a table that shows the average cost of SaaS software development services, divided by project phase.
As you can see, all the time and cost variables depend on many factors. However, the best value for money you can expect is from Eastern European countries. Either way, the Northell team is here to advise you on a SaaS app idea within your budget.
SaaS Application Development: Final thoughts
Hope we’ve managed to help you put priorities when considering how to develop a SaaS application. Today, there are many approaches to distributing digital services. Yet, there is no silver bullet here that fits all business needs.
At least, SaaS application development has become a popular model because of the competitive advantages it can provide to both customers and business owners. So, when you understand what tools and steps are needed in this process – there is little left to achieve your goal.
Looking for SaaS application specialists to create your product development roadmap? Let’s make your business idea viable together!