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The 5-Step Guide to Developing a Successful Cloud-Based SaaS Application

In the last twenty years, we've gone from inserting CDs into clunky computers to asking our phones to download apps.

However, more recently, the act of downloading apps has been replaced in favor of the Software as a Service (SaaS) model.

Instead of long download times and local storage, users are opting for cloud-based apps, in an evolution which has become especially important for remote work.

As SaaS apps increase in popularity you may be left asking how you can begin your own cloud-based app development. But first, what exactly is SaaS?

What is a SaaS application?

SaaS is a software delivery method where software is accessed via a subscription and isn't typically installed on individual devices.

Cloud-based SaaS applications, as the name suggests, are hosted in the cloud, meaning they don't typically need to be downloaded, like cloud-based business process automation or other cloud hosted tech. All a customer requires is a device with an internet connection.

Much like Netflix, customers can pay to use the service when they want and have seamless, instant access to the newest software anywhere in the world and on any device, without long download or delivery times.

SaaS brings important benefits to both users and businesses:

  • Regular, longer-lasting revenue for developers
  • Low up-front costs for users
  • Regular, instant upgrades
  • Easy trial periods
  • Simple set-up/fast deployment
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Great adaptability and scalability

5 steps to developing a successful SaaS application

1.    Complete market research and define competitors

Do you need a SaaS application?

Much like the latest dance craze on TikTok, it can be easy to get caught up in the hype of SaaS.

Not every business or product needs to convert to the SaaS model. If the product you have is rarely updated or your competitors have seen no need to transition away from a traditional model, you might not need to either.

But, if the opposite is true, it may be time to change your approach.

Market research is crucial for any business to know what their customers want and what their competitors are doing.

First, find out if your customers are tired of constantly purchasing newer software and if they would be happier with a subscription model.

Next, look at your competitors and the SaaS offerings they have. See what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong to offer your customers an improved service.

Finally, determine if your SaaS platform could provide any innovation or features to help you stand out from the crowd and improve current digital customer experience solutions.

Software-as-a-Service-cloud
 

2.    Define features and functionalities and collect references

Once you've carried out your market research, it's time to write down what specific features and functionalities you want your application to have.

Ensuring everyone is on the same page is vital to the smooth development of your SaaS application. Vague lists of ideas will be detrimental to your success.

Next, collect a few references or examples of what you want your application to be. It could be an example of a user interface or a similar app.

You may want to look to established apps for inspiration, like Google Cloud RPA.

It will give everyone a clear image of your vision when you explain your ideas to the programmer or developer responsible for delivering the final product.

3.    Build a technology stack

A technology stack is a set of technologies used to build and run your SaaS application. It's like the materials used to construct a house.

Choosing the correct elements will give you solid foundations and an elegant design. The wrong ones will cause everything to come crashing down.

Similar to constructing a building, there are tons of options available, such as whether you develop cloud-enabled or cloud native technologies.

There are some well-known options available to develop your frontend or the part of the application the user will interact with directly:

  • HTML + CSS
  • Javascript frameworks (React, Angular, Vue, Backbone, Ember)

The backend is the server-side of the application responsible for storing and manipulating data, and there are a few programming languages (and frameworks) to choose from here, too:

  • Python (Django, Flask)
  • Javascript (Node.js)
  • Ruby (Ruby on Rails)
  • PHP (Laravel)

For a SaaS product, a database is required, such as:

  • MySQL
  • PostgreSQL
  • MongoDB

Finally, you'll need a server to store your application on, like:

  • Nginx
  • Apache
  • AWS (Amazon Web Services)

It's a crucial step, so it's best if you have some technical knowledge going in. If not, or you're hesitant about the options available, the next step in this will give you a helping hand.  

programming laptop 

Image Source

4.    Find SaaS developers

The advantage of a SaaS platform is that it offers constant updates, feature integrations, and regular maintenance.

Unlike the traditional software delivery model, it requires a long-term commitment to product development. Ensuring that you can continue with this commitment will be a defining factor in successful SaaS app retention.

Hiring a team of SaaS developers or outsourcing development and maintenance will be necessary to achieve this.

An outsourcing company can also provide industry insights and advice tailored to you, which is especially useful if you're just starting out.

5.    Pricing strategy

You now have the information required to calculate the pricing for your MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

Pricing strategies can make or break your web app. No matter how good your pitch is, if your customers can find a cheaper application elsewhere, that's where they will go.

Look back at your market research. What are your competitors charging? What are your customers willing to pay? Do you want to include free core features? Are you charging monthly or annually?

Lots of different pricing strategies have emerged in the last few years for SaaS applications. From free trials or freemium services to charging per user or device, it's up to you to decide the pricing strategy that will help you stand out in the marketplace.

You may decide to offer core features as a loss leader to encourage users to upgrade for advanced functionalities or provide free trials, giving users a week to test your application for their needs, for instance.

These options build trust in your brand and give genuine customers peace of mind when finding the ideal software solution for them.

Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules for subscription model pricing. The web-based nature of cloud SaaS applications means you can change pricing models to suit you and your customer's needs.

statista-saas-market-2020 

Image Source

Flexible and convenient

Cloud-based SaaS applications are a scalable, reliable, cost-effective, and secure option for consumers and businesses.

They generate regular income and provide control over features and app deployment.

With a solid, adaptable pricing strategy and regular maintenance, you're only a few steps away from developing a thriving SaaS application.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tammy Wood - Director of Global Technical SEO

Tammy Wood 

Tammy Wood, the Director of Technical SEO at Automation Anywhere, an automation platform that offers cloud native services. She has 20+ years in the SEO industry, often attending industry conferences world-wide. In her opinion the best part of SEO is always the constant learning. Here is her LinkedIn.

Published Monday, October 18, 2021 7:40 AM by David Marshall
Filed under:
Comments
RajeshN - (Author's Link) - October 21, 2021 1:38 PM

Excellent post, nicely articulated. Brilliant explanation about SaaS application. While developing a cloud-based SaaS application is vital to calculate the risk involved in it. And this article with the five steps helps to focus on what needs to do. Thank you.

Cloud-Based Testing for Beginners - the Complete Guide : @VMblog - (Author's Link) - November 26, 2021 7:44 AM
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