More and more enterprises are looking to build a SaaS platform. The evolution of cloud computing offers an ever-improving and affordable infrastructure that supports a scalable multi-tenant software architecture. As the mainstream software delivery model, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) segment of public cloud services costs around $122 billion in 2021 and is forecast to reach $145 billion in 2022, states Gartner.
Whether you are a startup or enterprise business planning to create a SaaS application, you need to understand all aspects of SaaS product development to correctly allocate the engineering resources and budget.
Since 2003, Acropolium has been helping startups and enterprises with building SaaS applications that deliver value to their customers. Since 2007 we have delivered 130+ SaaS apps.
We can handle all stages of the SaaS development process, from preliminary consulting and analysis of requirements, through the design of a SaaS application up to in-detail testing, release, and post-release support of your product.
As Acropolium’s CEO Oleksii Glib puts it,
“SaaS has recently gone to the extreme, where you have every little action done by a single atomic SaaS application. This creates a mess, as tracking who you pay, how much, where and what for becomes really hard. The market will demand the SaaS platforms to either expand and add new features to their offerings, or provide centralized billing & management dashboards for multiple products — or to do both.”
This article, based on our expertise with SaaS-based product development, will showcase all you need to know to launch a successful SaaS platform:
- The basics of the SaaS framework structure
- Key features of a SaaS application
- Details of SaaS platform development process
- Challenges you might encounter if you decide to build a SaaS application in 2022, and more.
Read on to find out all the important aspects of Software-as-a-Service development and why outsourcing might be your best bet to mitigate risks and deal with challenges.
SaaS software development trends
Unlike most desktop apps or on-prem systems that work once installed, most SaaS platforms are cloud-based and provide access to their functionality in monthly or annual subscription packages. This way, SaaS vendors can have a single version of their application serve multiple users in a multi-tenant architecture, and end-users don’t have to handle any app maintenance.
Today’s key SaaS market trend is maximizing value from SaaS products by adding more functions and API integrations. It turns atomic feature platforms into integral ecosystems. One of the examples is Slack: originally only a messenger tool, it now has chatbots and video call functionality.
Below are five more SaaS market trends you might want to track in 2022.
The need for new collaboration tools. With the pandemic far from over, most office workers will continue to work remotely in the foreseeable future. Slack is an obvious leader with its 10+ million daily active users when it comes to remote collaboration tools. But the market is far from saturated, and new entrants can hope to cut quite a big share of this pie.
The rise of vertical SaaS. Vertical SaaS tools cater to the needs of a particular audience. These are not one-size-fits-all solutions. For example, eLearning systems for K-12 schools won’t work for colleges, but they meet the needs of K-12 educators and staff perfectly. This is exactly what Oleksii Glib, Acropolium’s CEO, said about ultra-specialization of SaaS, or narrowly focused atomic features for particular audiences. Vertical SaaS can be pretty tricky, though: build a niche product for a specific audience—and you won’t even cover the expenses; build a more generic solution, and you end up just like any other competitor.
Wider AI adoption. More and more companies are trying to leverage the benefits that real-time AI-powered analytics brings to the table. For example, Spotify uses AI for song suggestions. You could safely say that customers increasingly expect to have some AI features by default.
Low-code and no-code growing in popularity. On low-code platforms, you can build apps using drag-and-drop modular functions instead of writing them line by line. Yes, the functionality of such platforms might be quite simplistic. But if you need your app to do just one thing (and do it well), building it in a month using a low-code approach instead of spending half a year on the SaaS web application development sounds smart (it’s where Acropolium can help you deliver your product faster to market).
SaaS embracing content and SEO from the start. Software development is still the key part of the SaaS project budget, but marketing moves into the foreground. It’s not enough to build an application—you must make people notice it, or it will get lost among similar options. With Facebook’s organic reach steadily declining, content marketing and SEO remain the staple of brand promotion.
If you’re planning to launch a new SaaS product, make sure it meets as many of these criteria as possible. But how to do this?
Through planning and designing your SaaS application development process the right way.
The basics of a successful SaaS development framework
To stay competitive in a dynamic SaaS market landscape, your business must constantly look for new ways to optimize your delivery process. Innovative approaches to SaaS development will help you minimize expenses and shorten the feedback loop to provide maximum value to your customers.
Most SaaS solutions offer personal accounts where users can register and access certain functionalities, so both frontend and backend are crucial. Below are the main paradigms of the best SaaS development framework.
- Angular, React, Vue, or any other frontend framework to build and maintain rich web apps.
- MUI, Bootstrap, Semantic UI, Tailwind CSS to quickly create sleek and engaging UI.
- API-first: using a clean API, you can easily integrate other modules later down the track to create a SaaS application with a robust set of features.
- Mobile-oriented, as many customers will interact with your product through their mobile devices only. You can easily develop a mobile app, chatbot, or any other channel using JS frameworks and JWT to handle user requests.
- Feature-rich programming language like Python, C#, or Java to ensure transparent code, easy scalability, and good performance during usage spikes.
- Reliable database with multi-tenancy capabilities like MongoDB to keep your user data separate for security purposes. This is called data sharding: separate database instances contain only a small part of the whole or a “shard.” Running a cluster ensures data integrity and database resilience.
- Event broker like RabbitMQ or Kafka to build a robust ecosystem of related SaaS applications or features.
- Cloud-based PaaS to ensure cost-effective resource allocation and scalability.
Read also: All you need to know about SaaS infrastructure architecture.
While these principles might seem obvious, you would be surprised to learn how many companies decide to build their SaaS applications using specific technology stacks only to end up with products unfit for the market. Follow SaaS development best practices to avoid this setback.
Details of SaaS development process
Your app should allow your customers to get the expected value as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible. To ensure this, it has to match certain requirements.
Single-tenancy or multi-tenancy. With the former approach, each instance of your app serves a single customer. The latter means that a single app can serve many customers with separation at the instance, database, or app level. Single-tenancy is more secure but more resource-intensive, while multi-tenancy ensures more cost-efficient resource allocation but demands tighter security measures. Read more about differences between single and multi-tenant SaaS architecture.
API-first approach. Modern SaaS applications must be built with future integrations in mind so you can combine them with other services via clean APIs and form valuable ecosystems.
BaaS. Let’s say you want to create an online photo enhancer tool with AI capabilities for background editing or face swapping. The core functionality will include photo editing features, but you will still have to invest lots of time and money into building the backend — to store users and their photo galleries, secure data, and issue roles and permissions. Or not? Backend-as-a-Service covers 95% of such cases, so you can easily integrate the frontend features with a pre-configured BaaS hosted by a trustworthy technology provider and save on backend development. Read also about the difference between BaaS and FaaS.
Cloud-based operations and CDN. As SaaS runs in a browser, its backend must be hosted somewhere in the cloud. To perform well under heavy workloads, your app must use a CDN (Content Delivery Network). It’s a group of servers in different regions worldwide that quickly deliver frontend content to your users. CDNs and cloud platforms like AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure allow you to reliably host your frontend and backend operations.
If you consider the details above, the development process itself is pretty straightforward, just like with any other software. It starts with the project requirements discovery, application design, and code engineering and testing and moves on through product release and management in production, to ongoing optimization based on customer feedback.
Other essential details are best discussed at the discovery stage. They depend on project requirements like must-have and wanna-have features for your product, degree of CI/CD automation, project budget, deadlines, etc. Let’s now run through the points you must consider for a successful SaaS product launch.
Read also: How to go Serverless for your next project.
Key features of custom SaaS application
When you develop a SaaS MVP, it’s essential to decide which features are a must and which are just “nice to have.” While you want to provide as much functionality as possible to stand out from the crowd, each new feature lengthens the software delivery cycle. MVP development costs also go up, so it makes sense to add nice-to-have features later.
Below are the must-haves for any custom SaaS application.
Multi-tenancy is a go-to approach that lets customers use your app functionality securely and helps you spend less on its support. With the API-first approach and BaaS, you can even connect several databases to your application and use them depending on the current needs. Single- or multi-tenancy is the first thing you must choose, as this decision affects the architecture, project budget, and team composition required to build the product.
Your users must be able to log in to their profiles and log out of them, manage their personal details, and use your app functionality. This is crucial, as most SaaS products are structured around users performing some actions from within their profiles.
Subscription-based billing model
Monthly or annual subscriptions with special packages is the primary monetization model for SaaS apps. Make sure that your customers can get some value for free, but do provide additional options in your subscriptions to make your SaaS product shine.
Frequent in-app updates
Your SaaS platform must support seamless updates, so your app remains relevant and competitive. The updates must run in the background and finalize upon app restart to minimize disruption to the end-user experience.
It’s crucial to secure the sensitive details your users submit. Extra attention to your app’s cybersecurity measures will pay off in the long run.
To be of real value to customers, don’t build your SaaS product around one thing only, no matter how good it is. The platform must be flexible, interact with other tools, and frequently provide new features. Then it will become part of the user’s daily software kit.
Besides these features, you’re most likely to face some other challenges when developing a SaaS application.
Challenges of SaaS app development in 2022
By now, you can surely see that SaaS app development is no easy feat, as you have to factor in many aspects in advance. How to create Software-as-a-Service products correctly then, and what challenges to expect?
SaaS is hard to develop because it takes a lot of time and investment to do everything right. The pandemic made time constraints even tighter.
The main challenge is time to market, as your competitors will also want to launch their products while the market demand is high. When the pandemic struck, software developers became much sought-after among the businesses eager to quickly release and support new tools for remote work and entertainment.
You will need to plan, design, implement, test, release, and market your product within a very tight time frame against a shortage of skilled developers with relevant expertise. Luckily, tools like low-code development and BaaS drastically cut down the time needed to build a SaaS platform.
Read also: How to reduce time to market.
If your infrastructure cannot handle the load spikes, your app performance suffers. Your customers run a risk of losses if a business-critical SaaS app they rely on is unresponsive. So, your platform must guarantee vertical and horizontal scalability. This means you must add more resources to a single app as needed or launch/shut down additional app instances automatically.
Scalability requirements must be addressed at the design stage. Will your application be a monolith or a bunch of microservices? Will it run on virtual machines or in Docker containers? What will its scale-up or -down thresholds be, and how will they be triggered? To answer all these questions, you need an in-depth understanding of how SaaS apps should work.
Structure your app and use the cloud security features in a way that guarantees that your customers’ personal information is under watertight security. The best way to deal with this challenge is not to store any sensitive details in plaintext and operate with hashes instead.
Docker container security, uncoupled microservices, ephemeral passwords, and many more cybersecurity features can be handy to safeguard your user’s sensitive details. Configuring them correctly is not easy, though, without an in-depth knowledge of cybersecurity configuration for usage-intensive SaaS products.
The key benefit of SaaS apps is that their infrastructure runs in the cloud, so you don’t have to bother with running dedicated servers in on-prem or remote data centers. Cloud vendors like AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure backup your files and guarantee system uptime, so your SaaS is always available.
This comes at the price of a hefty monthly fee, though, so should you decide to cut on these expenses — be prepared to invest in designing and implementing a backup system yourself.
Read also: How to reduce cloud costs for your product.
You want to build a product to make a profit by selling subscriptions, but customers may not be willing (or able) to pay that much for your SaaS. Do thorough market research to determine whether your target audience can afford your product pricing. You also need to cover regular maintenance, software updates, and other costs, so it’s critical to set the right price for your product. By the way, read our guide on how much does it cost to build a SaaS. Feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the decisions to make? Luckily, you don’t have to walk this path alone. Finding a reliable technology partner will grant you access to the talent pool and the best practices, ensuring the success of your Software-as-a-Service development.
Acropolium is ready to help
Acropolium has 14+ years of experience with SaaS web application development and can lend a hand should your company need to build a SaaS platform quickly. The key challenge in the outsourcing process is finding a trustworthy partner with relevant expertise — exactly what Acropolium provides.
These are just some of the 137+ SaaS platforms Acropolium has developed for enterprises and small-to-medium businesses since 2007.
We have ready-made modules and solutions for the most typical challenges you might face. We also know how to make all the processes, team management, and development flow cost-efficiently.
For example, going for BaaS instead of building it from scratch can save as much as 50-95% of time and resources on backend development.
In addition, we can build both cloud-based and on-prem SaaS platforms based on your needs. Our company knows what to expect when building a SaaS web or mobile application and can help you on this road.
The pandemic has blown up the demand for all kinds of new SaaS applications. It has also further deepened the supply-demand chasm for high-quality software developers.
So, if you have a bright idea and want to design a SaaS application to release in 2022, you might come up against multiple challenges, especially talent shortage and time constraints.
However, if you are strong enough to handle these problems, vast untapped potential for revenue awaits you, as the SaaS market has been growing steadily.
You just need to select the appropriate app structure, monetization model, and must-have features and build the app matching the latest market trends.
Acropolium can help you find solutions to all these challenges and assist you at every stage of Software-as-a-Service development. Contact us for a detailed consultation, and let’s kickstart your project today!