With most of us being SaaS users, you probably already know many of the companies who deliver the best in class user experience on their mobile apps and cloud services. You perhaps know it right away when you first use an application, right?
The experience just feels simple, straightforward and easy. Within the first five seconds of using the application, you've already made a positive (or negative) judgement towards the product.
But, how exactly do you create an amazing UX for your app's users or SaaS customers?
Read on to learn how you too can create a simple UX experience for your app or SaaS in a simple step by step manner.
Let's dig right in!
Step 1: Learn from the best in the game
Do you remember the last time you had to stop for a second to think about how to use a new app or try to find a specific feature in it?
Exactly! Since most of the popular apps we happen to use almost on a daily basis offer an optimized user experience, we take it for granted.
But what happens if your UX is not well-optimized? It usually results in adverse outcomes for your app business:
- poor engagement,
- high drop-off rates,
- low conversion rate, and
- low retention rate.
This is why you need to take inspiration from some of the top apps (or SaaS platforms) in your niche. Think Apple, Google and other such big names. Sign up for trials or subscriptions of some of your favourite systems you've used or are currently using and spend a few hours figuring out the beauty of the UX.
Discover what is common between them. See what features and functions are standard, or defacto across any app. If there is something which you have found as a pleasant experience, take note of it, so that you can then use something similar, if necessary within your app.
Use the most popular apps, possible, because these are the ones which are most likely to have worked the hardest on getting the user experience right.
On the other hand, try out a few apps which you remember having used and abandoned due to a horrible user experience.
Take some time to look at your eventual competitors or other players in the niche, and take note of the bad experiences you discovered, so that you can avoid this in your own product.
Study their UX and figure out what UI/UX features you would like to have in your app.
Once you think you have got a clear idea in your mind when it comes to the kind of UX you would be presenting to the users, you are ready for the next step.
Step 2: Design a mockup and gain valuable feedback from potential users
When it comes to creating a mockup, there is no 'best' approach.
Having said this, depending on the styles and preferences of UI and UX designers and the overall design process you have in place, some options work better than others. Here are such types of approaches for you to choose from:
- Hand coded mockups (use of HTML/JS/CSS)
- Use of graphic design software (Photoshop, Sketch or Illustrator)
- Use of end-to-end UX design tools (UXPin, Studio by InVision, or Adobe XD)
- Mockup design tools (Moqups, Balsamiq, Principle, or Framer)
- UI Kits
Once you are done creating a mockup that pleases you as a user, it's time to collect the much necessary feedback.
No doubt, receiving feedback is the single most valuable part of any design process. Without feedback from potential users, you cannot be totally sure that your work will be appreciated by anyone other than just yourself.
Here's a nifty tip: draw the required feedback from a diverse pool of users. This way you can ensure there's no bias and the feedback is well-rounded.
Step 3: Perform usability testing (on the mockup!)
Usability Testing is usually the process you need to follow in order to identify any usability errors that might have crept into the system unnoticed during the early phase in the development cycle.
But we're going to turn this process completely upside down. Instead of waiting for the development on the front-end of the app or SaaS to be nearly complete, we're going to give our app a round of user and usability testing - on the actual mockup!
You might think this is a little bit crazy, and it might sound like it. But, you have much to gain by doing this so early in the design process. By getting users to give you a feel of the UX, even of the low-fidelity or high-fidelity mockups, you can start getting valuable feedback.
Whether this is on the actual user experience, or potentially by not having some essential features not immediately clear, the feedback at this stage is crucial.
Fail fast, fail often. That's the way to keep the costs in check.
Run tests as often as you can, so you can fail as early as possible in the process, with plenty of time to fixing this, before veering off in a mistaken direction...sealing your fate.
This process is vital for your app business because it can actually save your software product from failure. The primary goal of this testing is to ensure user satisfaction and it mainly focuses on the following:
- Is it easy to learn for a new user how to use the app?
- Does the application add value to the target audience?
- Is the UI or experience pleasing?
- Does it minimize the need to scroll?
- Is there uniformity of design in various screens in your application?
- Are all the necessary features (such as search function) included in the app?
- Is the application user-friendly?
- Are the controls and functions available in the app self-explanatory?
You might not have correct answers for all of the above. Or you might catch things which you might have missed otherwise, whether in the UX or in terms of actual features and functions which are important to your target audience.
To implement this process, it's advisable you use or implement the 5 Second Test. A five second test is when you show an image to a potential user for just five seconds and ask them a few specific questions about their impression of the app's UI/UX.
Another good option is to go for a paid UX lab testing service which will ensure the quality of results and help you gain the required feedback to improvise on your application's UX.
Step 4: Build an audience of early adopters
Have you heard the buzzwords used for early adaptors such as alpha or beta testers? It's time to acquire them!
By creating a "crowd" of early adopters around your product, you are building a fanbase of hardcore users, who feel like they are partners rather than clients. You can consider these users as founding partners, because they will be helping you create an excellent app for them and users like them.
But how do you build such an audience?
- You can offer them special rewards or free lifetime access to your application in exchange for the valuable feedback they might be sharing with you in the long run.
- You could run viral giveaways with popular websites in your niche and then on your own email lists.
- You could create free tools and set them up on your website and get them featured on popular sites in your niche
Once you've built up your list to 1000 users or so, it's time to start getting their invaluable help.
Try to look for active users in your niche and get their feedback as you iterate and develop your web application.
Remember, these users will be your "brand ambassadors", so make sure you offer them enough incentives to be one.
If you want, you can also add every stakeholder in the project in this group to get additional exposure and opinions. This will help you optimize the user flow and whole UI/UX as you go forward.
Done? Time to jump on the next step!
Step 5: Perform user acceptance testing
User acceptance testing (or UAT in short) is the final phase of the usability testing process.
Once again, this needs to be a phase which is done as part of your beta, or pre-release.
You don't want to release an app or SaaS which hasn't gone through a round of intensive testing. There is a difference between a BETA or Early Access, where users accept that there are issues, and a released or paid service with issues.
What's the difference in this step and the previous one? During UAT, users get to test the actual front end of the application you are developing to make sure it can handle all the user actions in a real-world scenario.
UAT must be done before you roll out the newly developed software to the beta testers or early adaptors.
But before you perform UAT, you need to work on the front-end and iron out all the issues based on the feedback you have received in the previous steps and have a fully functioning prototype of the application.
There you have it! The 5 step for designing a simple yet amazing UX for your SaaS app. Needless to say, you have to focus on constant improvisation and optimization. Even the smallest changes you make to your app's UX can have a significant impact on user retention and engagement. So what are you waiting for? It's time to plan out these steps for your app and make it a game changer in your market! Good luck!
This is a guest post by David Attard. David probably spends too much time geeking out on CollectiveRay and a number of influential sites, where he shares actionable, detailed advice based on his more than 15 years experience in the tech, web design and digital marketing industries. When he is not writing he is most likely working on (yet another) online project.