How to Choose the Right Type of SaaS Software for Your Business
Nov 01, 2023
The software landscape has fundamentally shifted. Gone are the days of clunky desktop applications and on-premise servers. SaaS now dominates, offering always-on, highly scalable solutions accessible from any device.
Understanding the diversity of SaaS solutions available and the unique needs of users across products is imperative. This overview highlights key SaaS software categories relevant to UX/UI designers. It provides insights into the purpose of each tool, leading solutions, and, most importantly — best practices for intuitive, user-centered design.
What is SaaS software?
SaaS stands for software as a service. It is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted in the cloud and accessed by users over the internet.
With SaaS, the software vendor hosts, manages, maintains, and updates the application and underlying infrastructure. Users simply log in to the application via a web browser or mobile app.
Why is it important for UI/UX designers to understand the different types of SaaS software?
As a UI/UX designer, having a solid understanding of the different types of SaaS software is important for several reasons:
It allows designers to design intuitive, user-friendly interfaces tailored to the specific use cases and workflows of each software type. For example, the needs of a sales rep using a CRM will be very different from those of a finance manager using an ERP.
Understanding the goals and challenges of different roles interacting with the software (e.g., sales reps, HR managers, and executives) will inform design decisions. This way, designers can optimize interfaces to help each user role succeed.
Knowledge of SaaS industry standards and emerging UI patterns allows UX/UI designers to incorporate the latest trends and best practices.
Considering the full end-to-end user experience across devices used with a SaaS app guides choices on layout, navigation, and responsive design. Developers need to account for smaller screens and touch interactions.
It enables designers to collaborate more effectively with stakeholders by speaking their language and focusing on value-added design solutions. Designers can have informed conversations about meeting user and business needs.
A brief overview of 6 types of SaaS solutions
There are a wide variety of SaaS products to meet nearly every business need. Here is a high-level overview of the types of SaaS applications.
Managing customer relationships is crucial for business growth. CRM software helps companies achieve this by streamlining communication, organization, and analytics. A robust CRM centralizes all interactions with customers across departments on one platform.
CRM software examples
Salesforce — the #1 CRM platform, offering robust sales, marketing, and customer service capabilities for companies of all sizes
HubSpot — an inbound marketing and sales platform with powerful CRM features for attracting and engaging customers
Zoho CRM — an affordable and user-friendly CRM system suitable for small to mid-sized businesses
Pipedrive — a sales-focused CRM tailored for sales teams to manage deals and pipelines
Freshworks — a modern, intuitive CRM platform with strong customer support tools
UI/UX best practices for CRM software
Make it easy for users to find what they need in the CRM with well-labeled tabs, menus, and search functions
Optimize for mobile and ensure CRM data is accessible from any device
Streamline processes within the CRM to fit user needs rather than forcing rigid workflows
Use rules and triggers to automate repetitive CRM tasks to save users time
Connect the CRM to other business apps for a seamless flow of customer data
Provide adequate training and support resources to drive CRM user adoption
2. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software
What is ERP?
ERP is one of the categories of SaaS software, which is a modular software system that manages and integrates key business functions such as accounting, HR, supply chain, manufacturing, sales, and more. By consolidating these functions onto a unified platform, ERP software provides enterprises with enhanced visibility, efficiency, and data accuracy across operations.
ERP software examples
SAP — the market-leading ERP platform offering end-to-end capabilities for global enterprises
Oracle — a flexible, scalable ERP system well-suited for large, complex organizations
Microsoft Dynamics — an adaptable ERP solution that integrates with other Microsoft products
Infor — a modern, industry-specific ERP tailored for niche manufacturing and distribution verticals
Workday — a cloud-based ERP with strengths in financial management and human capital management
UI/UX guidelines for ERP software
Tailor ERP screens and dashboards to specific roles and their data needs
Intuitive navigation. Use sitemaps, search, and clear menus to help users easily find what they need
Ensure ERP is accessible and usable across desktop and mobile devices
Allow users to customize ERP with their preferred views, filters, and settings
Integrate actionable insights directly into ERP screens to enable data-driven decisions
Provide training and support to smooth the transition and drive proficiency
3. Content management systems (CMS) and e-commerce
What is a CMS?
A CMS is a solution among types of software as a service, which allows you to create, edit, manage, and publish content on a website without needing to know any code. It acts as the backend framework that delivers the content to the front-end user interface.
WordPress — the most widely used CMS, powering over 30% of all websites
Joomla — another open-source CMS with a powerful global community supporting it
Drupal — an open-source CMS popular with developers and IT teams
Shopify — a user-friendly e-commerce-focused CMS that simplifies setting up an online store
Wix — a drag-and-drop website builder that makes it easy for anyone to create a site
UI/UX recommendations for CMS
Choose easy-to-read fonts and create clear navigation menus
Avoid visual clutter
Ensure your pages are mobile responsive for proper viewing on any device
Use high-quality images and videos to visually engage visitors
Make use of white space and clean layouts to guide the user’s eye on the page
Test your site across different browsers and devices, fixing any issues that arise
Analyze site analytics data to identify and improve poor-performing pages
4. Project management software
What is project management software?
Among other types of SaaS products, there is project management software, which provides a centralized platform to plan and execute projects of all sizes and complexity. At its core, this solution allows managers to visually map out project tasks, set schedules and deadlines, assign responsibilities, and track progress.
Examples of project management software
Asana — web and mobile task management software with timeline and workload views
Trello — intuitive Kanban-style boards to visualize and manage projects.
Monday.com — a visually customizable project management solution with real-time updates on team progress
Basecamp — leading web-based software with message boards, schedules, docs, and file storage
Wrike — a full-featured solution with Gantt charts, portfolio views, and custom workflows
Jira — powerful software tailored to agile software development teams
UI/UX best practices for project management software
Maintain a clear and consistent visual hierarchy on project boards
Use color coding to quickly distinguish task types, status, and priority levels
Ensure interfaces work across desktop and mobile to enable on-the-go access
Allow for different views of data (list, board, timeline, etc.) based on user needs
Include dashboards tailored to team members’ roles and permissions
Automate notifications and updates for key stakeholders
Integrate with tools teams already use, like email, documents, calendars, and chat apps
Provide search and filtering to quickly find tasks and information
5. Human capital management (HCM) software
What is HCM software?
Human capital management (HCM) software has become a mission-critical application for HR teams and entire organizations. HCM software consolidates many key HR functions into one unified platform, including payroll, benefits, performance management, and more. The goal of HCM software is to provide organizations with a single HR system to optimize and automate people management processes.
HCM software examples
Oracle HCM Cloud — a robust solution from database leader Oracle. Tight integration across Oracle apps
SAP SuccessFactors — a part of SAP’s cloud offerings
UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) — a leading mid-market solution with a global customer base
Ceridian — a cloud solution with a strong focus on payroll and workforce management
UI/UX best practices for HCM software
Provide self-service portal with intuitive navigation and dashboards
Maintain consistency across interfaces for different users and roles
Ensure workflow simplicity – avoid complex approval chains or processes
Design for ease of use on desktop and mobile
Automate notifications, reminders, and status updates
Offer robust reporting capabilities with filtering and customization
Enable easy data integration with other business systems
Follow modern UX trends around visual design and micro-interactions
6. Business intelligence (BI) software
What is BI software?
Business intelligence (BI) is one of the types of SaaS software. It allows organizations to collect, analyze, and derive actionable insights from their business data. It transforms raw data into digestible visualizations and reports to inform better strategic decisions.
BI software examples
Tableau — powerful interactive data visualization software
Power BI — Microsoft’s cloud-based BI solution
Qlik — an associative BI model that allows for exploring cause-and-effect questions
Sisense — a scalable solution with a single integrated framework for BI
Looker — a web-based platform with reusable data models and dashboards
UI/UX guidelines for BI software
Enable users to easily construct custom dashboards with drag-and-drop simplicity
Allow customers to search for answers and insights using plain language questions like “What were my top-selling products last March?”
Follow established UX heuristics around visual hierarchy, clear navigation, feedback cues, and concepts like progressive disclosure
Provide insights into how various data dimensions and metrics relate, making it easy to construct queries
Enable users to quickly filter, sort, drill down, and select data points without changing views empowers exploration
Expand beyond basic charts and graphs to more engaging options like tree maps, gauges, bullet graphs, and animated progress bars improve storytelling
While the capabilities of software as a service are impressive, the user experience ultimately determines its success. An intuitive, user-friendly interface is crucial for driving adoption and ROI. UI/UX designers must apply specialized expertise to tailor designs to each software type.
Our experienced UI/UX design agency is here to partner with you to create an engaging user experience for your SaaS product. With research-based design refined through rapid iteration and user testing, we can help you bring ideas to life with a polished interface.
What are the key benefits of SaaS software for businesses?
SaaS solutions offer numerous advantages for today’s companies. By hosting software in the cloud instead of on-premise servers, SaaS provides businesses with accessibility, flexibility, collaboration features, and cost savings. Users can log in from any device with an internet connection, allowing for productive remote work. Software updates automatically occur without the need for manual IT intervention.
What role do UI/UX designers play in SaaS products?
User experience and user interface designers are indispensable in shaping intuitive, user-friendly SaaS products. Through conducting user research, UI/UX designers gain insights into end users’ needs, pain points, and workflow priorities. These discoveries inform the information architecture and user flows that logically guide users through the software.
What steps can you take to set your SaaS project up for UX success?
Getting your SaaS solution off to the right start requires laying the groundwork for UX excellence. Begin by aligning executives and stakeholders on priorities and goals for the product to guide development. Assemble any existing research on target users’ needs as a foundation. Develop clear requirements for the solution while retaining the flexibility to adapt as designs progress. Involve roles across technology, marketing, product, and design in the process.
What should you look for when selecting a design agency for your SaaS product?
Developing an exceptional user experience requires finding the right design partner. When evaluating agencies, first consider their expertise in SaaS specifically. Look for proven experience designing interfaces for web and mobile apps. Examine their design process to ensure user research is a priority to drive product decisions. The ideal agency will balance strategic thinking with hands-on design skills informed by real user perspectives.
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