During our discussions with potential partners (SMEs or start-ups), we come across recurring questions about the development of a SaaS or web platform (excluding e-commerce). Many questions about UX/UI Design, user research, project management, development and finally the cost of setting up a SaaS or custom platform.

Most often, we see specifications or tenders with a very high level list of functionalities, in other words: this is clearly not enough in order to be able to estimate a design and development time and price.

What is a SaaS? What are the benefits for your company? — Quop
A SaaS or Software-as-a-service, is a software provided as a service to companies and directly to end-users. Most often it is an online software with business model by subscription.

What are the steps involved in building a SaaS?

The answer is directly linked to the specifications first received by our team.

In general, we see three options:

  • The specifications correspond to functional specifications and wireframes: in this case, the project is advanced enough to check the relevance of the wireframes and the functionalities imagined. If it seems precise and complete enough, the design stage is advanced and we can make mock-ups and prototypes that can be user-tested to check the ergonomics and the use of the functionalities.
  • The specifications is a lists of functionalities that are too vast and broad: this is the most common case in the tenders and specifications that we receive. It is necessary to go through a stage of clarification regarding the ideas listed with meetings and design sprints in order to specify solutions and create prototypes.
  • The specifications do not exist: in this case, we recommend a sprint design with the stakeholders in order to imagine the functionalities, the user paths and to have a first prototype of the product. This prototype will validate the functionalities and the relevance of the concept with potential users.
What is a design sprint? A 4-5 days innovation process — Quop
A design sprint, or Design Sprint, is a workshop format that can be carried out in physics or remotely, enabling original solutions to a given problem to be found in 4 to 5 days and with a limited number of people.

Which people are involved in the design of a SaaS or platform?

The design of a SaaS or a platform requires several areas of expertise.

The skills required to design a SaaS or platform are:

  • Front-end Developer: This is the visible part of the product. He or she will produce the interface elements necessary for user interaction and navigation through the product. For example, when you register on a platform or online tool, you go through a registration form. The front-end developer is responsible for creating this form and checking the validity of the information entered in the form.
  • Back-end Developer: This is the invisible part of the product. It is the work required to connect, create, update, delete data created by users. For example, when a user is going to register and then perform actions that require special data storage (such as creating articles). All this is then stored securely. The role of the back-end developer is to create the algorithms that can retrieve what the user does, and store it.
  • UX/UI Designer: This is the guarantor of a user's experience on the product. He designs the different paths, the different interactions and states of the product. He also creates the graphic part of the product in the form of mock-ups and navigable prototypes. A very simple example is that of a cinema: when a user enters a cinema, he goes to accessible terminals to get his ticket and then goes to the cinema corresponding to the film he wants to see. Between his entrance, the purchase of his ticket and the theatre, he will go through several stages: the validation of his ticket, the shop for sweets, potentially the toilets, etc. All this is part of a consumer experience that can be transposed to a SaaS, platform or mobile application. This is the role of the watch designer in this journey and its aesthetics.

There is also the job of project manager, or product manager, who will ensure that the development runs smoothly and will set the pace of the sprints according to the functionalities to be developed. He is also responsible for product demos and regularly discuss issues with all the parties involved.

Start with a minimum viable product (MVP)

Regardless of any of the above three options, the development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) should always be the first step.

MVP is SaaS or the platform with only the functionality required for it to work and no other functionality. By starting with an MVP, you have a quick time to market for your product that continues its development cycle elsewhere.

By bringing an MVP to market, the risks of a cascading product are fairly avoided and you can start your acquisition strategy much earlier.

The benefits of bringing a minimally viable product to market, rather than waiting for it to enter production:

  • Shorter development cycles and therefore faster feature delivery;
  • Testing the product much sooner, avoiding UX liabilities;
  • Development teams see progress and remain motivated;
  • Validation of the market potential and the added value of the product.

Developing a custom software or platform is a long and sometimes complex process, which requires several expertises (project manager, developers, designers, QA engineers).

Today, MVP is the best solution, both humanly and financially, to keep a technical focus and a coherent commercial strategy.

User tests are important to create the best product

If your platform or SaaS is regularly updated with the addition of new functionalities, it is advisable to carry out user tests at each point of functional design and before any development.

User testing is a quick way to test the validity of a product or a feature with a sample of users ranging from 7 to 10 people. These are sessions lasting from 1h to 1h30, with a series of precise exercises, including a set of tasks to be performed on the interface. By carrying out these tasks, the user sample validates the good understanding and legibility of the interface elements, interactions, the user path and the objectives to be achieved.

This is one of the essential points to avoid creating a UX debt (a user experience debt). This debt is the accumulation of ergonomic shortcomings and user experience that add up over time. Without user testing, there is no visibility on this debt and on user misunderstandings. In the long term, this can lead to the loss of users and therefore revenue.

What is the cost of SaaS?

The cost of developing a SaaS or platform varies depending on the number of features you want to implement. It is very difficult to estimate a price and a timeframe since the various trades involved can also vary.

For a MVP, Quop offers a price starting at around €25,000 to €30,000, which corresponds to two development sprints. This takes into account project management, the UX/UI design of the MVP, its development and deployment.

The cost of a SaaS can go up to 500.000€ if the complexity of the backlog is important: complex calculations, management of diagrams, dashboards for different types of users.

The development of a SaaS or a platform can seem to be expensive, but considering the business involved, the design phases and the relative complexity, the return on investment (ROI) can be high and quickly. Keep in mind the need to start with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that allows you to test your idea and detect the first positive market signals.