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How To Build A Cloud-Based SaaS Application: An Ultimate Guide

The SaaS market is expanding and is predicted to amount to a staggering $307.3 billion in 2026. It would be no exaggeration to say that cloud-based SaaS has grown to be a dominant model for software delivery.

Below, we will uncover the benefits of web-based SaaS, outline the difficulties that stand in the way of creating SaaS solutions, and draft a comprehensive strategy for building SaaS services. First off though, let’s define SaaS more specifically.

What is SaaS?

SaaS means “software as a service”. Put simply, SaaS stands for cloud-hosted applications accessible via a smartphone or web interface.

The first SaaS apps started getting developed around the beginning of the 21st century. The tools we use daily, such as Dropbox, Canva, Slack, and Google Docs are, in essence, SaaS platforms.

To see what sets SaaS apps apart from conventional software, consider some of these distinct specifics:

  • Payment

There is no necessity to purchase a license to use an application on a SaaS basis. Instead, app vendors charge you a regular fee for a full set of its features.

  • Access

As the name implies, cloud-based apps are deployed in cloud infrastructure and may be accessed via a web interface or a mobile device.

  • Updates

Users don’t need to buy a new app version every time the development team introduces updates. The dev team works on app development continuously, with zero impact on user experience.

Why SaaS Product Is So Popular: Market Overview

The adoption of the SaaS model, is, indeed, increasing across industries. Consider these impressive SaaS business stats:

  • The global spendings on SaaS R&D equal almost 20% of all corporate R&D in the US.
  • Asia Pacific and North America are leaders in SaaS adoption.
  • The leading SaaS company is Salesforce, with market capital currently exceeding $ 210 billion.
  • The overall number of players in the global SaaS providers market has reached 15,529 in 2020.
  • The market for web-based solutions has been estimated to grow at an 11.7% CAGR during 2020-2026.

Organizations’ efforts to keep abreast of digital transformation are the main reasons for embracing SaaS. Companies are also finding it highly beneficial for their businesses.

Advantages of Cloud-Based Model

Cloud-based solutions are confidently replacing conventional apps installed on local infrastructures. Let’s take a closer look at what companies find beneficial about SaaS products.

  • Ease of Setup

SaaS apps are web-based, so no complex setup is necessary. Neither do companies have to acquire infrastructure resources in order to run these apps.

  • Scalability

If their business expands, companies can easily scale their SaaS solutions to handle increasing workloads and accommodate more users. With traditional software running on top of an op-prem infrastructure, scalability often becomes an issue.

  • Convenient Billing Model

SaaS fees are included in the monthly operational expenses, which is easier for most companies to pay than a costly application license. If the app scales, the fees increase, but there’s no need to invest in additional infrastructure capacities.

  • Instant Upgrade

Users get to benefit from software upgrades as soon as they get deployed. With traditional software, organizations would have to purchase and install a new app version to access improved features and added functionality.

  • Accessibility

Companies can use SaaS apps literally whenever they need and from any location, as long as there’s the Internet. With the work-from-home model likely here to stay, accessibility is becoming a must-have.

  • Easy Trial

SaaS apps allow users to try them before they actually commit. Rather than investing in an app that may not fully live up to expectations, users can test-drive the app features and see if they meet their needs.

Types of Apps Available as SaaS

Numerous kinds of applications are developed as SaaS. The retail and eCommerce sectors are the eager adopters of SaaS products, with platforms like Wix and Shopify setting the standards for web store management.

The SaaS offerings, however, are not limited by these categories. Below is an overview of the existing app types on the SaaS products market.

  • CRM Products

SaaS products for managing interactions with customers help companies keep track of all the customers’ data, automate marketing efforts, provide insights and analytics, forecast future sales, etc. Salesforce, for example, is a leading cloud-based CRM software vendor, but there are numerous other players offering tools for similar purposes.

  • Project Management Tools

Most companies no longer invest in buying licensed PM software packages. Instead, they use SaaS products like Jira and Monday to manage workflows, assign tasks and track their completion.

  • Collaboration Tools

Some of the SaaS products, for example, Slack or Trello combine project management capabilities with collaboration features. The coronavirus lockdown has led to the emergence of web-based video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, used extensively for both personal and business communication.

Apart from traditional collaboration tools, the new immersive solutions unmistakably stand out. With headsets and access to the Internet, apps like VRChat enable users to run in-person meetings in a virtual environment.

  • Fintech Apps

Today’s cloud services also include SaaS products for billing and financial transactions. Cloud-based billing services like Stripe combine merchant accounts with payment gateways and subscription management capabilities.

At Visartech, we have expertise in building loan management web platforms for families. PayMyParents app helps customers securely transfer money to their loved ones.

  • Marketing Software

Businesses also use web platforms to create, launch and evaluate promotion campaigns. This is also one of the most densely populated SaaS market segments with platforms like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing among global leaders. Interestingly, while back in 2007 the number of marketing tools hardly reached several hundred, today more than 8 500 apps are assisting in businesses consolidating their marketing efforts.

  • Gamification Apps

A trend towards boosting productivity via gamification is now gaining momentum. For businesses, looking to maximize their staff engagement, here at Visartech we helped to build a mobile app for increasing productivity. WizardTech accounts for 33% growth in employee productivity. The app comes in both Android and iOS versions.

  • ERP Platforms

Web-based solutions are also replacing conventional enterprise applications. Robust ERP platforms like SAP feature dashboards and data analytics enabling businesses to gain insights into their operations.

  • Sports Apps

Coupled with extended reality technologies, cloud-based sports simulation platforms, such as SkyTrack are prominent examples of how SaaS development can benefit sports enthusiasts. The app enables users to hone their golf skills and play real-time games in a virtual environment.

  • Vertical SaaS Segment

These SaaS product types are specific to a particular business segment. There are web services, targeting construction, HORECA, insurance, manufacturing, or other industries. Veeva, for instance, is a tool for pharma companies enabling them to streamline their operations, and Fleetmatics is a platform for logistics.

For the E-learning industry, here at Visartech, we delivered a range of solutions: from full-scale digital ecosystems like Techrow and NextGenScience equipped with virtual classrooms and course authoring tools, to gamified apps for younger kids such as Foolproof Reading.

By contrast, horizontal apps like Asana can serve companies across a number of industries. Dropbox storage service is also an example of a horizontal SaaS app, suitable for individual and business use.

Key Features To Consider While Creating SaaS Apps

As diverse as they may be, SaaS products share some of the essential specifics. If you are planning to build SaaS platforms, here’s a checklist of the main requirements to consider.

  • Functional Features

These features will become your users’ primary reason for using your app. Zoom, for instance, helps users create and manage a video-conferencing environment, and Canva enables them to create compelling graphics using customizable templates.

  • Data Analytics

One of the hottest web development trends is integrating analytics tools into SaaS solutions. In the vertical SaaS segment, numerous reports and dashboards help customers gain insights about the success of their business efforts, current trends, etc. Retailers, for instance, may use analytics to track user behavior patterns and measure the success of their marketing campaigns.

  • Tools for Managing User Roles

The app may have different access layers, so it may be necessary to introduce tools for managing user roles. In Clubhouse, for example, users may act as Listeners, Speakers, or Moderators, and the user roles are very distinct.

Steps for Building Software-as-a-Service Apps from Ground Up

As such, building SaaS products is a complex process that can be subdivided into several logical steps. Below we will guide you through consecutive phases of developing cloud-based apps.

Step #1. Research and Create App Specification

Your goal at this point is to collect as much information as possible about your future customers, competitors, trends, and emerging technologies. Combined with information about the shortcomings of competitors’ apps, insights into users’ needs will enable you to come up with a truly unique SaaS product. If you’re contemplating building vertical SaaS business applications, study the developing tendencies in the industry you will be tapping into.

Read also: How Tech Consulting Firm Can Help You Grow Your Business

At the end of the initial phase, you will create a detailed and exhaustive specification containing your app’s functional and non-functional requirements and guidelines for product development.

Step #2. Define Revenue Channels

How exactly do you intend to earn money with your solution? It is essential to answer this question before you embark on a full-scale software development project. This is one of the crucial steps for building SaaS apps, since it will determine the structure of your app – something that can’t easily be undone, so think carefully.

The most widely spread ways to generate income include advertising, subscription, and freemium models. If you will be building a cloud-based marketplace, consider introducing transaction and/or selling fees.

Step #3. Decide on a Cloud Infrastructure Provider

To serve multiple users while securing their data, you need to select a proper cloud infrastructure company. Go for the proven and reputable vendors, capable of maintaining the best encryption and data center security practices. Your SaaS platform will run on cloud infrastructure, so choose the cloud service provider that will deliver an excellent level of scalability, reliability, and performance, capable of supporting third-party integrations.

Step #4. Create an MVP

This isn’t a full-fledged cloud-based solution just yet. Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a trial application version with only the basic feature set. Deciding which features you will include in your MVP will require planning, though. Implement the features that will have the most impact while being the least financially expensive. Your goal at this point is to convince your investors.

Step #5. Test and Implement Changes

After you release an MVP, collect feedback. The best way to do it is to ask users directly what they like or dislike about your product. At this point, making changes to an app feature set or architecture will be relatively easy and not as painstaking as during further steps. The target group you choose for proof-of-concept testing could later become early adopters of your app.

Step #6. Start the End Product Development

This is the phase when your development team starts coding, using the chosen programming language, toolsets, and frameworks. The use of agile methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, or Extreme Programming, will streamline and accelerate the development while sticking to the specification guidelines and ensuring quality.

Today’s best practices suggest integrating QA testing into every stage of software development. Also, stay in contact with your development team over the course of implementing your SaaS app idea. Your goal is to constantly check if you stay on the same page and are correctly following product specifications.

Step #7. Promotion

We are listing promotion as a separate step, while in reality, it should unfold simultaneously with building your SaaS app. By the time your first release hits the web stores, you should already have a community of fans waiting for the final version.

Step #8. Release and Maintenance

Your SaaS platform or web service is ready for release as soon as you have completed all phases of QA testing. However, you’re not fully done with QA just yet: user acceptance testing will be the final stage of the quality assurance process and will take place after you publish your app.

After the final release, your SaaS developers will have to provide ongoing maintenance and application updates. Your users should be able to easily access tech support if issues arise.

Software Product - Visartech Blog

Tech Difficulties

The above software development steps are smooth and consistent; yet, they by no means eliminate the tech difficulties. The common challenges in cloud-based apps development include:

  • Multi-Tenancy

The software you build will serve multiple customers. Regardless of the kinds of applications developed, cloud-based SaaS architecture should include multi-tenancy. You will also have to impose measures preventing customers (tenants) from accessing other customers’ data.

  • Customization

When building SaaS apps for different types of businesses and user categories, think about making them flexible and configurable for different user needs from the very start. Users should be able to customize the app for a maximum personalized experience.

  • Scalability

The web application you build should scale on-demand to accommodate more users or increasing workloads – preferably with zero outages and disruptions. Top-notch scalability is a must for enterprises that can afford zero downtime.

  • Connectability

The app you build should include APIs enabling any third-party developer to connect it to any other platform or service used by the organization. Your SaaS platform is likely to be used with other apps and systems, so it’s important to include connectivity into its architecture as you start development.

Ensuring scalability, security, and integration in a cloud environment is a tricky task, so do approach a choice of a cloud infrastructure provider carefully and responsibly.

Apart from a cloud provider, it is also recommended to approach the choice of your tech stack with the utmost consideration.

The Perfect Tech Stack for a Cloud-Based SaaS Product

Picking the best technologies is an essential procedure. According to current web development trends, technologies commonly used in SaaS development are as follows:

  • Frontend

Front-end developers work with languages like HTML, Javascript, and CSS, and frameworks like Angular and React, and build a web app.

  • Backend

When choosing a programming language, your scope is pretty much narrowed down to Python, PHP, JavaScript, and their native development environments.

  • Backend storage

Consider MySQL, MongoDB, or PostgreSQL when choosing a perfect database for storage management.

The choice of servers is also limited to either Apache or Nginx.

Read also: How to Save Money on a Web Project for Startups and Enterprises

Ultimately, your unique application’s specifics will determine your choice of technologies.

Costs to Build a Cloud-Based SaaS Platform

Software development involves expenses, and building cloud-based platforms and services are no exception. To estimate how much exactly it will cost to build a SaaS app, consider its complexity and the hourly rates of your SaaS developers.

Read also: How Much Does It Cost To Create an App

Put simply, the more features your product includes, the more time it will take to implement them. To create apps as complex as Slack, developers will have to allocate over 2600 hours of work, including iOS, Android, and UI/UX development.

The hourly rates differ depending on the world region your programmers are based in. The lowest rates so far are in the Asian region ($10/hour on average), while North American and Australian developers charge the highest rates (around $150).

Western Europe is the second most expensive world region from the software development perspective with approximately $100 hourly developer rates.

Highly abundant in STEM and IT talent, Eastern Europe is a popular outsourcing destination. The hourly rates are also reasonable – $50, on average. The cost of building SaaS apps is affordable: building a Slack-like app will cost you around $130 000 in the CEE region.

Of course, the final calculation will also depend on the qualification of developers involved in your project: the junior developer’s rate will be considerably lower than that of a senior developer.

How to Find a Development Team

If you’re looking to hire SaaS developers, you have three options:

  1. Looking for freelancers at global marketplaces like Upwork
  2. Hiring internal employees to develop a SaaS application
  3. Partnering with product development companies

These options have both pros and cons. While freelancers may charge less, their expertise and loyalty are questionable and hardly suitable for building a product that needs regular maintenance and updates.

An internal team gives you confidence and reassurance when it comes to product support and the integrity of the intellectual property. On the downside, the tech expert salaries in the developed economies are notoriously high, not to mention compensation packages, rental of office spaces, taxes, etc.

Partnering with product development companies, on the other hand, gives you access to global talent pools, and a choice of collaboration models – from full-scale project outsourcing to extending your team to bridge the skills gap.

Conclusions

The SaaS model looks highly attractive for both companies and individuals: ease of entry, flexible pricing, and excellent accessibility make users choose web-based tools and services over traditional software. The prospects of building cloud-based solutions look brighter than ever, yet, there are many challenges and pitfalls associated with web app development.

One of these challenges is the heightened demand for relevant IT expertise. To build cloud-based services and platforms, you need an IT team proficient in web development and experienced in creating cloud-based solutions. To strike a delicate balance between pricing and quality, consider hiring a reliable external company to help you build a SaaS app that fully meets your objectives.

Interested in SaaS app development? Connect with our experts now to schedule a free chat!

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