Product and UX design vary from industry to industry. You might be perfect in one industry but may find it difficult to be impactful in another. It’s not your skills or experience, it’s how that industry works.
Product designers for SaaS (Software as a Service) applications face many unique challenges compared to designing for other types of products. Some of these challenges include:
- Complexity: SaaS products often have a wide range of features and functionality, which can make the design process more complex. Product designers need to find ways to present this information in a clear and user-friendly manner.
- Consistency: SaaS products are typically accessed by users through a web browser, which can make it difficult to ensure consistency across different devices and platforms. Product designers need to consider the different screen sizes, resolutions, and interactions that users may have with the product.
- Scalability: SaaS products are often used by a large number of users, and the design needs to be able to accommodate this scale. Product designers need to consider how the product will perform and look across different usage patterns and traffic levels.
- Security: SaaS products often handle sensitive user data, and designers need to ensure that the product is secure and compliant with regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA.
- User feedback: SaaS products are often updated regularly, and designers need to be able to respond quickly to user feedback and incorporate it into the design. This can be a challenge, as it requires designers to be agile and able to pivot quickly.
- Usability over Aesthetics: Usability is a critical aspect of designing any application, however for SaaS products the focus should be on how the application functions and meets the needs of users, rather than on aesthetics. It is important for designers to prioritize usability and functionality over the visual design until the usability of the application has been fully established.
- Lack of product knowledge: The lack of product knowledge can be a significant challenge, especially for a growing company, particularly for a new product designer who may not have been involved in the product’s development from the beginning. This can make it difficult for them to fully understand the product’s core functionality and how it meets customers’ needs.
Overall, designing for SaaS applications requires designers to have a deep understanding of user needs and behaviours, as well as the technical constraints of the platform. Additionally, designers need to be able to work collaboratively with other teams such as engineers and data scientists to create a cohesive, user-friendly and efficient product.
Many companies focus on the solution they are offering, rather than considering the needs and wants of the end-users. This can lead to products that are not intuitive or easy to use, resulting in poor user adoption and satisfaction.
Designing with the end-user in mind is crucial for creating a successful SaaS product. This means understanding the user’s goals, pain points, and behaviour, and designing the product accordingly. It also means conducting user research and testing throughout the design process to ensure that the product is meeting the needs of the users.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get hold of end users when working in SaaS, however, it’s very important to work closely with end-users whenever you can. The more you collaborate with the users, the more you can create a product that is tailored to their needs, making it more likely that they will adopt and continue to use it. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction, retention, and ultimately revenue.
It is vital to keep all users in mind when designing a SaaS application, as each user group may have different needs and requirements. For example, in the case of Netflix, there are three main user groups: end users who watch videos, employees who manage the content, and business partners who have different needs and requirements. Focusing on more than one user group, such as end users, can lead to a lack of functionality or usability for other user groups. Keeping all users in mind during the validation process helps ensure that the application meets the needs of all users and is more likely to be successful.
Understand The Tech Stack Constraints: As a product designer in a SaaS environment, one of the challenges you may face is dealing with the tech stack. Since these applications often rely heavily on engineers, the technical aspects of the product can take precedence over the user experience. As a result, the user may be exposed to unnecessary complexity or technical jargon that they do not understand or care about. The product designer must ensure that this does not happen and that the user is presented with a simple and intuitive interface that meets their needs. This can involve working closely with engineers and product managers to balance the technical requirements with the user experience.
Know the Financial Impacts: One significant challenge for product designers working for start-ups or SMEs is that many companies rely on large clients for their revenue. When dealing with large clients, there is often pressure to customize the product to meet the specific needs of those clients. This can include adding new features, modifying existing functionality, or changing the overall design of the product.
However, customizing the product for one client can have a ripple effect on other clients, as well as on the overall product strategy and vision. For example, customizing the product for one client may make it less user-friendly for other clients, or it may make it more difficult to add new features in the future.
Additionally, when customising the product for one client, it can be difficult to manage the balance between meeting the needs of that client and maintaining the integrity and usability of the product for all other clients.
To address these challenges, product designers must work closely with the client to understand their needs and determine how best to meet them without compromising the overall user experience and product vision. This may involve finding ways to add new features without disrupting the existing product, or creating separate custom versions of the product for different clients.
Product designers should work closely with their team to ensure that any customizations made for one client do not negatively impact the other clients and that they are aligned with the overall product strategy and vision. Use effort vs impact matrix wherever possible.
Start Questioning: It is the responsibility of the product designer to ensure that the application does not become a “feature factory” and instead focuses on delivering value to the end-users. One way to do this is by questioning the product team and validating the requirements with end-users to ensure that the features being added are solving real problems and meeting the needs of the users.
It’s important for the product designer to critically evaluate the requirements and avoid adding features for the sake of adding them, or because they are “cool” or trendy. Instead, the designer should focus on creating a product that is user-centred and addresses the needs of the target users.
User research and testing can also play an important role in avoiding the feature factory trap. By conducting user research and testing, product designers can gain a deeper understanding of the users and their needs, which can help them to identify the features that will add the most value to the product.
Designers should be open to feedback and willing to iterate on the design based on user feedback. This can help to ensure that the product is always evolving and improving to meet the needs of the users.
Don’t assume: If you are working for an organization where the knowledge of the core product is limited to a small group of people, it can be challenging to align the needs of the business with the needs of the users. In such situations, it is important to be proactive in seeking out information and knowledge about the product. This can include being vocal about the need for more information, actively participating in leadership meetings and decision-making processes, and asking questions to gain a deeper understanding of the product and its functionality. It is important to remember that the goal is to improve the product and user experience, not just make superficial changes. Being assertive and persistent in seeking out information will help ensure that the product aligns with the needs of both the business and the users.
Don’t create a Solution to a problem that doesn’t exist: It’s also important to note that sometimes, it may be the case that we are solving a problem that does not exist, or that the problem can be solved differently. In those situations, the designer must be able to make that call and redirect the team to focus on something more relevant. Your user’s problem needs a solution so even though you think you’ve identified a problem it’s worth checking with your users. They might have a different opinion.
Enterprise or Start-up, challenges are similar: Large enterprises can also face similar challenges to start-ups and SMEs when it comes to SaaS applications. As a Lead UX designer, working for a large organization I had to navigate the complexity of designing an enterprise application that offered various service offerings for internal users, such as virtual servers, PaaS offerings, hosting applications on the cloud, deploying AKS clusters and requesting CaaS.
One major challenge in this scenario I had was that end-users often have to navigate different platforms for different services, which can lead to a fragmented and inconsistent user experience. That made it difficult for users to find the information and services they need, and also lead to confusion and frustration.
To address this, I worked closely with the different teams responsible for each service offering to ensure that the user experience was consistent across all platforms and that the information and services were easy to find and use. This required close collaboration and coordination between different teams and stakeholders, which was challenging in a large enterprise due to each team’s different roadmaps and goals. I did a lot more research with users, learn their pain points and shared with stakeholders and then offered a single pane of glass solution. Persistency and consistency were my best friends took a long but I was able to achieve my goals.
When working for large enterprises, especially on internal SaaS applications, it is important to understand the internal needs and processes of the company, and how the organization can support and optimize these processes. This can be challenging, as different departments and teams may have different needs and priorities.
Another challenge can be the scalability and security of the applications. You have to ensure that the application can handle what you are proposing as a solution while also maintaining security and compliance with regulations and industry standards.
If you have finished reading, you might be thinking SaaS application design is very complex and rather boring, but trust me if you understand how the industry works, and love challenges, you will never be bored and tired of solving design challenges. The SaaS industry is constantly evolving, which means there will always be new challenges to tackle and opportunities to improve your skills. If you enjoy problem-solving, design, and technology, designing SaaS applications can be a very rewarding and fulfilling career.
Read the full article here