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How to Build SaaS Applications – A Beginner’s Guide

What is Cloud? What is SaaS?

Put simply, a SaaS application is an essential component of cloud computing. There are three main components of cloud-based computing: Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

A SaaS-based application is basically any software you run that’s not on your premises – a few popular examples are Slack, Salesforce and Dropbox. In the main, most SaaS-based products are run via a web browser or similar. They’re not a plugin, they don’t sit on your devices – they’re usually hosted in the Cloud.

SaaS-based products have been widely available since the 90’s tech boom. That’s when there was first a need for a wider array of cost-efficient computing which led the way for software to be hosted centrally. This way it could be distributed to meet the demands of rapid scale of a SaaS company which are often globally growing businesses.

Advantages of SaaS

SaaS offers multiple advantages over traditional software. Here are the key ones:

Speed – with SaaS, there’s no need to wait for lengthy installations. Because everything is in the Cloud, no drivers need to run and all updates happen instantaneously.

Scalability – SaaS solutions are hosted in Cloud environments that are totally scalable and have integrations with other SaaS offerings. Unlike the traditional model you don’t have to buy another server or any software, you simply enable a new SaaS offering. You also have the flexibility to scale your SaaS use up and down as you need it.

Cost – there are no upfront purchase or installation costs with SaaS solutions. There are no on-going maintenance or upgrade costs either. SaaS applications can be easily downloaded and maintained.

Usability – for small business, SaaS gives access to expensive, high-powered software. This type of software would be out of reach if purchased in the traditional way.

Compatibility – with SaaS, your subscribers can simply log-on to already upgraded services. By contrast, conventional software requires installing and then updates that can involve expensive development and lengthy installs.

SaaS Checklist

Before any start-up company thinks about building a SaaS platform, application or product, there are three steps it is essential that you take if you want a chance of it being successful:

1. Research the market – define your competitors, learn from what they are doing and try to find gaps in the market.

2. Know your target consumer – research potential customers and create user personas.

3. Understand how customers can use your SaaS product – define how your solution can solve their problems.

How to Build a SaaS Application

Having completed the above SaaS platform checklist, how do you actually go about building a SaaS application? Our 5-step guide keeps things simple and clearly explains the process:

Step 1: Analyze the market

Having initially researched the market, you’re in a position to analyze your findings and have a clear understanding of both the competitors and consumers who occupy this marketplace. How many of your competitors use a SaaS platform? Do your potential customers prefer a one-off upfront cost or a subscription-based model?

Step 2: Discuss the SaaS platform requirements

What exactly do you want your SaaS platform to do? Not just now, but in the future, too. Flexibility and scalability are two of the big advantages of a SaaS platform over traditional software. Clearly set out your launch, mid-term and long-term requirements of the software.

Step 3: Find an experienced SaaS software developer

One of the most important decisions you will need to make is selecting the right technology partner who has a fully scalable technology stack. AVAMAE has built multiple SaaS platforms using leading technologies for a wide diversity of clients, sectors and uses. We ask all our clients to view it as a long-term partnership as we’ll be working together collaboratively not just until launch, but as the SaaS platform develops and grows. Whoever you choose, try to avoid cloud software developers who outsource or who aren’t completely open and transparent regarding timings and costs.

Step 4: Define the SaaS platform MVP

The MVP (minimum viable product) encompasses the basic core features of your SaaS platform. This is what your entry product will offer. Will you provide a basic free product with several subscription plans offering greater functionality and benefits? Do you offer a free trial to enable customers to experience the full product and therefore see the value in subsequently subscribing? To help you decide, your customer personas will help you define which is the best route and also assist in creating a pricing structure.

Step 5: Launch, test and improve

Once your technology partner has developed your SaaS platform, it’s time to launch. It’s not simply a case of hitting a button and putting your feet up. Launch is a crucial time. It’s where you see whether all the research and decisions you’ve made convert into users. You may make a “soft” beta launch and use that time to test different features and price points. This can give you valuable real-world feedback which you can use to then make further refinements prior to a full-scale launch. Post-launch, as you amass customer feedback and findings, you can make informed decisions on improvements to the SaaS platform.

Monetising your SaaS Platform

Having answered the question what is SaaS, explained the advantages and revealed how to build one, we’ll finish with the ultimate proof of its success... does it pay?

There are several ways in which you can monetise your SaaS platform and profit from all your hard work and investment:

Free services – a completely free service offered to consumers which provides revenue with the use of advertisements.

Subscription model – offer your SaaS platform as a simple all-inclusive monthly or annual subscription.

Freemium – allow customers to use the service for free but provide the option of extra-cost services.

One-off purchase – enable users to make a one-off purchase to buy unrestricted lifetime usage, which includes regular updates for free.

Let’s talk SaaS

Interested in our bespoke SaaS development services? Want help developing, launching, testing, improving and monetising new SaaS solutions? Simply call +44 (0) 20 7509 6992 or email robert.mcewan@avamae.co.uk for a chat.

2 February 2021
Blog Author
Rob McEwan
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