5 steps how to build SaaS Web Application
Web App is the most popular form of SaaS startups. So understanding how to build one, is a great advantage for you if you want to launch your startup idea. Building an app can be complex, especially for those, who don’t have a tech background.
Launching a web app usually takes more steps then it seems at a glance. Omitting some of them can lead to poor results, wasted time and money.
The steps below are a combination of my expirience of building web apps and observations of the successful apps.
I won’t take in nitty-gritty details in every step since the goal is to give you a bird-eye overview of the process. You will have a solid understanding of what steps are involved and what is done on each step
What is a web app
Before we will start, lets once again recall what is a Web App. There is not a clear definition of what is it and what is not.
Web App is like a desktop application but works via a browser.
For example, skype is an app. But if it would work via a web browser without installation — it is a Web App. Web Apps are tools with which you can interact with, save, manipulate and transform data… While traditional websites are more about providing the content.
Web apps: Gmail, Google Sheets, Google Docs, Trello, CRM Systems, Marketing Research tools like Ahrefs
Not a web app: Wikipedia, Corporate Website, Personal Blog, Landing Page, Advertising Page
Now when you have a better understanding of what is a web app, let move on.
Every app starts with an idea. You need to understand what you want to build and how it will look like.
The primary goal of the app is to solve some problem. If your app doesn’t solve any problem or brings value, it has no chances to succeed.
Ideally, you should be experiencing this problem in your life. This will give you a better understanding of what a solution should be. Also, you can find app ideas from places like Quora, StackOverflow, Reddit… Look for places where people share their pains and difficulties.
Observe what you are doing in daily life and notice what challenges you face, what can be done more efficiently, how you can save more time. With time you will begin to notice more opportunities.
Knowing your audience gives you an understanding of the problem and the needs of users. The better you got what users need, the better the solution you will deliver. Generally, we people think only about what we need, and we will use the app only if it solves our problems.
So you need to spend time exploring who is your ideal customer/users and what is their needs.
This is why it is great when you build an app that solves your problems. You are your targeted audience. Just think about the common threats of people like you, who expirience the same issue. What are their goals? What is their job title… What is this app going to give them (save time, make more money, reduce the stress…).
Get a clear understanding of who is your perfect users an what they want.
After describing an audience, it is time for market research. You need to explore whether similar apps exist. You need to find what people love about them and what they hate. When you know what are the disadvantages of the competitors, you have a clear way to differentiate yourself. Just solve the disadvantages.
By understanding the market you understand what value you can deliver, that your competitors can’t. With this knowledge, your chances to build a successful app are increasing.
Often on this stage, people decide whether it worth the efforts to take part in the competition.
Find similar products on the internet. Try to use them. Write down what are the pros and cons of the existing solutions. And try to come up with ideas to keep the pros and avoid the cons.
If you can’t find any competitors in the field it means:
- Your idea is a breakthrough and nobody else yet comes up with it (it is quite rare).
- It can be a sign of the Dead End. Someone else already tried this idea before you and didn’t succeed.
The best case if there several competitors with a similar idea but a poor execution who has some success among the users. This will mean that there is a need for this solution. The only thing you need to do is to execute better.
Define the structure and features of the application. Minimal Useful Thing
Now you need to express what you learned and explored in a written form. Write down the features and how you see the structure of the application. Include only the most important features.
The goal of the first version of the app is to get on the market asap and get real-world feedback. The faster your app gets on the market, the more you will learn. The more you learn, the more you will understand what needs to be developed next.
So to reduce the time, focus only on the minimal list of features, which will reflect your idea and will add value to a user.
This document will be a road map for the Designer and Developer. It will ensure that you are all on the same page. Having this document will save you time and money down the road. On this step, the cost of the change is the lowest.
After finishing, this document can be shared with the developer. A developer will be able already to start development (mostly backend).
With a document from a previous step, you can start working on the design or pass it to a designer.
Design isn’t only about creating a pretty image. It is also about defining a way how a user will interact with your application. The simpler and the more intuitive the design the higher the chances that users will adopt the app and will use it.
Ask a designer for the wireframes first. This will help you stay aligned with a designer and make sure that you are going in the right direction. These wireframes should be clear on how to interact with the app.
When wireframes are ready you can give them to the Developer, while a designer will continue work on the UI Design. A developer can start working on the frontend using only wireframes. This will save you time since they will work simultaneously.
Developer turns the design and document with features into a real-world web application.
The developer doesn’t need to wait for finishing for the full design to start development. Backend development can be started already after the document with features is finished. And the biggest part of the front-end development can be done using only wireframes.
When developing the first version of the application, don’t chase scalability and perfection in the code. Your goal should be to finish the app asap. Since, again, the faster you will get to the market the more you’ll learn.
Don’t worry if something is not as efficient or as perfect as you wish unless it affects the conveying of your app idea. Everything truly important, you will fix down the road.
These steps are what it takes to launch the app. During this process, you should focus first on the development of your idea and exploring the market. Then you should design and develop the application as fast as possible to get feedback from the world.
The goal of the first version of the application is to prove the concept and get something to work on.
Of, course the development of the app is only beginning. You should keep constantly improving your application, learning from the feedback and repeating this process.
All the best in the launching of your application.
Thanks for reading! :)
I am Vova Pilipchatin, a freelance Software Engineer. I am developing a Web Application, learn how to launch successful SaaS projects and how to build a freelance business.
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