Not so long ago, buying a piece of software meant you only had two options. Pay a visit to your local electronics store and see if you can find it in the vastness of CDs displayed. If it’s not there, go to the next one. And then the next one. If you end up empty-handed, well, at least you had a nice walk. You are left with only one option: Order the CD online and wait until it gets delivered. Maybe modern technology has spoiled us a bit. Maybe we became so accustomed to accessing all we set our minds to in a blink of an eye (the amount of time it takes us to click a button) that those past times seem like an endeavor. However, those days are behind us. Today, the Software as a Service delivery model dominates the industry. And luckily so, right? In today’s article, our web development agency Chicago sheds some light on SaaS web applications and platforms and explores how to create a well-structured and high-converting SaaS website. Let’s go.
Table of Contents
- What exactly is a SaaS application?
- Advantages of SaaS
- How to create a well-structured SaaS website
- Final thoughts
What exactly is a SaaS application?
A SaaS application is a piece of software that is licensed using the Software as a Service business model. This business model represents a relatively new approach to software delivery and maintenance. The key feature of this approach is that developers are no longer selling their products with a lifetime license. You no longer have to wait for a year to get a new version of the software in order to enjoy all the conveniences of updated features. Instead, software became a service that you pay access to via a subscription. This became possible thanks to the rise of cloud computing.
Hosting software services in the cloud brought countless benefits:
- Cost efficiency: You no longer have to buy expensive hardware, let alone maintain it. You also only pay for the resources you actually use.
- Scalability: If your business requirements increase, and therefore you need advanced or expanded features, you can upgrade your subscription plan in just a couple of clicks. It also works the other way around.
- Reliability: A cloud functions through a network of servers often located all across the world. So if one server shuts down for whatever reason, you can continue to go about your business as your app always stays online.
- Security: Cloud service providers pay very close attention to security to eliminate any data breaches.
- Overall commodity: Apps hosted in the cloud can be accessed from any device across the globe. You also don’t need to download new updates since you always access the latest version of the software.
Advantages of SaaS
The SaaS architecture brings advantages to users as well as developers. Let’s check some of these advantages:
- Developers enjoy regular and longer-lasting revenue
- Users enjoy lower costs upfront
- Lower user costs bring a larger potential customer base to developers
- Users get regular and instant updates
- During a trial period, users can check if the service fits their particular needs
To sum it up, users get seamless access to the latest version of an application avoiding high initial costs, whether for software or hardware required to run the software. On the other hand, subscription models bring developers a relatively stable source of income, enabling them to plan and execute development efforts in order to keep their users satisfied and subscribed. Seems like a win-win situation, right?
Well, not always. Not for every type of app. Especially not for those that are used rarely or are extremely niche-oriented, since these may happen to lack a sufficient user base. If the app doesn’t bring revenue surpassing the development costs, then it’s not worth developing.
The same goes for websites. If a website doesn’t bring your business revenue, it only becomes a toll on your company. Whether it’s clunky, overcrowded with code, or difficult to navigate, the bottom line is that if it doesn’t convert, you need to react.
It’s important to add that the coding environment can often make or break the overall performance of a SaaS website. Many developers who value high-quality performance and server-side rendering choose to work in node.js, so we feel confident about adding a well-structured SaaS website to our why use node.js list. This brings us to our next topic.
How to create a well-structured SaaS website
For amateur companies, creating a website looks something like this:
- Browse the internet and look at a bunch of random SaaS websites to get inspired
- Check with customer service, sales team, and engineering if they need anything specific
- Make a mess of it
What you get is a website lookalike that blends into surroundings. No customer journey strategy, no content strategy, a total disregard for the prospects’ needs at different stages of the sales funnel. Just a huge pile of pastel colors and vectors that underperforms at every level. You were playing with it like it’s a toy, and now you’re stuck with it. So, what do you do next? You pump more cash into your digital baby trying to drive paid traffic through free trials and demo signups, hoping it would make a difference. But it won’t. After a few years of subpar results, you finally realize that what your website needs is a redesign. So you invest more money since this time you are determined to pay someone that actually knows how to do that. Your website just became a bottomless money-devouring hole. Well, hopefully not yours, but you get the idea.
So, how to avoid these common pitfalls? How to create a SaaS website that fulfills your expectations the moment it goes live? Today, we present you with a practical site map that will skyrocket your conversion rates. This architecture delivers a well-structured website with resources and content strategically placed to make an everlasting impression on your customers.
When figuring out how to create a SaaS website, you first need to think in terms of the homepage. The golden standard for a website homepage is as follows:
- A clean interface that provides a seamless user experience
- An alluring headline
- An eye-catching shot of a product or an explainer video
- Social proof elements like testimonials and customer logos
These are all tried and true elements, and if something works, don’t fix it. However, most SaaS website homepage designs lack a couple of things. Let’s explore these shortcomings.
Lead magnet CTA
Lead magnet call to action is a valuable little feature that helps you educate your future customers and provide extra value to people in the middle of the sales funnel. What you put as a lead magnet call to action may vary depending on your product’s annual contract value (ACV).
For example, for products with relatively low ACV, let’s say around $1000, you may choose to include a free template or toolkit as lead magnet CTA. Your website visitors are likely to see this offer as a valuable one since it gives them a sneak peek at the benefits they can enjoy once they sign up for a demo or a free trial.
For higher ACV, let’s say $40,000, people are highly unlikely to buy those types of products impulsively. Here you have to understand the complexity of the thought process that precedes this kind of decision-making. In this case, a wise thing to do is to minutely educate your future customers on what they’ll get if they decide to side with your product. This may include anything from a State of the Industry report to an enterprise-level solutions comparison.
Value propositions (pros without cons)
Another thing to consider when thinking about how to create a SaaS website homepage is including a value proposition that addresses the benefit of your product in terms of the pain point it resolves. Most SaaS marketers ensure to word the pain point in a manner that doesn’t sound too negative. We know this may sound counterintuitive, but follow us on this one. For example:
Pay your bills right now without having to go to a bank.
That sounds much lighter than:
Going to the bank and waiting in lines is an excruciating hassle, but…
The Pay your bills right now part is the benefit, and without having to go to a bank is the pain point that it resolves. The thing is, product marketers usually avoid talking about the bad stuff too much since that course of conversation may reveal the degree to which their product actually solves the pain point. The downside is that by doing so, they fail to tap into real experiences crucial for creating meaningful connections with clients.
Pillar Blog Posts
A considerable number of SaaS companies make the same mistake by simply jamming their newest blog posts into the homepage. If you decide to display blog posts, we suggest you check the analytics and find those that bring the most engagements, signups, or lead magnet downloads.
Another thing you can do is pick your best three blog posts, each one targeting different stages of the sales funnel (top, middle, and bottom). For example, a post intended for those top-of-funnel prospects could be a story about a client using your product to solve their problem. For those at the other end of the funnel, you could display a post that discusses your pricing or talks about the advantages your product has over competitors’. This way, you’ll provide your prospects with a continuous journey as they move down the funnel.
How it works
Prospects that enter the How it works page of your website are eager to find out more about the logistics behind your product. Most companies offer as few details as possible, hiding the most important ones for the demo. This is undoubtedly in an effort to conceal the innermost principles of how the product functions from the competition. However, this prevents prospects from making an informed decision. This is why it is our opinion that Feature and Benefits pages along with Use Case pages are the most important in this section. Let’s see how to do them right.
Feature and Benefits pages
Let’s say that the product we sell is accounting software. Then these pages should be structured like this:
- Feature: Send invoices with ease.
- Pain point question: Are you spending too much time manually sending invoices?
- Benefit: Get paid faster without chasing clients every week.
- Proof: A customer testimonial. For example, a story of a person who was manually creating invoices and emailing them but got no response. Chasing clients simply took too much time from their packed schedule.
This is why we feel like this structure is a way to go:
Firstly, you are outlining both the feature and the pain point. This way, you have a chance to talk about the feature benefits in a way that resonates with your future client who has a pain point you attempt to solve.
The Benefit part is perfectly in sync with the way value propositions should be structured: Only pros, no cons. This doubles down on the pain point while the testimonial gives your product credibility as it displays how it showed practical results.
We are aware that many businesses don’t possess these kinds of testimonials. But, this can be easily solved. Write one yourself and reach out to one of your customers to ask them if they are willing to back it up. Give them the option to tweak it in a way that applies to them or perhaps write a similar one. Just remember, honesty is the key.
Use case pages reflect the info provided in the Feature and benefits pages. They tell the story of your product in action through your customer’s words. This is where you can go into details since Feature and benefits pages usually lack space for this kind of storytelling. This also serves as an extension of Who it is for section, which we’ll cover next.
Who it is for
As the owner of a SaaS company, it is in your best interest to be as explicit as possible about who your software is really for. We are talking about specific roles, job titles, and individuals.
The benefits of products are nuanced in different ways for different people and will impact various team members in different ways. Listing different job titles is always a good start, but you need to take this to another level. For example, imagine you attempt to sell your product to a company. Regardless of the industry, it is highly likely that the company would have different departments. Each department would like to be informed what it is about your product that will make their specific job easier. The managerial department would perhaps wish to know how your product generates the return on investment while the daily user is probably only interested if it is easy to use.
By figuring out what each type of individual cares about when making a purchasing decision and by catering to those needs, you’ll find it easier to sell your product, and you will also make strong bonds with your clients along the way.
The difference between Who it is for, Features and benefits, and Use cases pages
It is important to remember that you shouldn’t shy away from repeating the same content in different sections of your website. Quite the contrary, double down on the most compelling stories. Just change the approach angle in a way that makes sense for each section of your website. This gives you the option to communicate to different types of individuals through the strongest real-world examples. Using the same message multiple times is not a sign of slacking off. You are shaping your value proposition in multiple ways, emphasizing different values for different site sections. It’s website personalization at its best.
The remarketing value of Who it is for and Use cases
The data you collect on these two sections of your website can be invaluable for your remarketing campaign. When your website visitor spends a certain amount of time on one of these pages, you should retarget them with content that focuses on a specific pain point. Use cases pages are extremely helpful here as they can tell you the exact application of your product that the prospect is investigating.
We continue our manual on how to create a SaaS website with a pricing page. And every SaaS website should have one. We understand that due to the sheer complexity of custom integrations, some high-level enterprise products are difficult to put a price tag on. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t work around this issue. You can try something like this:
Our pricing options are not standardized, but your company might benefit from our product if you have a growth team of more than ten people and you have already invested in (and here you’ll put your competitors’ more expensive solutions).
This way, you’ll let your prospective client know that your product is oriented towards larger companies with bigger budgets.
However, if your company is on the lower side of annual contract value (ACV), employ a standard 3-tier pricing structure. Just make sure to include a non-priced Enterprise field as well. This is where you can place a contact form for a prospect to get in touch with your sales department. When someone fills out this form, you should take it as a signal that their company sports a lower budget. By failing to include this field, you may miss out on potential opportunities for revenue.
Here’s another trick to lure in clients. Dedicate a portion of your pricing page to a section where you compare your prices to competitors’.
Why us page
In this part of today’s article, we’ll talk about how you can create an image for your brand. This is a nice tiny portion of your website where you have a chance to present yourself as more than just a software-producing company. Many SaaS companies are obsessed with numbers. Sell! Sell! Sell! That’s their motto. But what people really enjoy is a good origin story. Tell them about the culture behind your organization.
Communicate what you stand for. Highlight your commitment to social responsibility and bring members of your team closer to your clients. Remember, you are selling a subscription model, which means your clients will be interacting with your product on a daily basis. You are basically becoming their colleague, so you better put a human face on your brand along with a smile.
We’ve seen way too many websites making the same mistake of putting a newsletter signup form at the top of their blog pages. This is prime page real estate, yet conversion rates for these types of forms are surprisingly low, usually under 0.5%. In contrast to that, placing a downloadable lead magnet here, such as a toolkit, increases the conversion rates to anywhere between 1 and 5%.
Following the best practices of SEO, make sure to put the CTA button in the body copy of each blog post. Also, employ internal linking. This will help visitors effortlessly navigate your website to other related topics as well as enable search engine crawl bots to crawl your site seamlessly. Good for both users and SEO. Another thing you should do is link each blog page back to product and competitor comparison pages.
Other useful pages
We’ll dedicate this section of our article on how to create a SaaS website to a few other pages that most advertising sites have. In the following lines, you’ll find out more about:
- Integrations page
- Resources page
- Support page
- Contact page
First, we have to highlight that most SaaS companies overcrowd their main navigation with links. However, the thing is that the vast majority of users that land on your Resources and Support pages are not prospects but customers instead. A small number of prospects that land here are mostly only at the top or perhaps in the middle of the funnel, which means they are still not ready to convert.
We could argue that the Integrations page is an exception to this rule, but only when it comes to software that relies heavily on integrations. Speaking of the Integrations page, here is a pro tip for you: Always target the technology’s keywords. In case your product doesn’t yet integrate with a specific tool, if you have it in your plans, you should have it on your website with a coming soon label attached. If you don’t get a grip on these keywords, your competition will. As a result, you will miss out on traffic as well as the opportunity to remarket to your website visitors.
Unfortunately, numerous SaaS companies jump to producing new resources without previously mending all the gaps in their funnel. To avoid this premature resource production, consider organizing your content into three categories or awareness stages:
- Problem unaware
- Problem aware
- Solution aware
The goal of the resources is to move prospects from problem-aware to solution-aware. For example, a marketer holds a webinar and is satisfied with attendance. His first thought may be: This went well; I should do it again next year. While it may sound reasonable, this kind of automatism lacks a methodical approach and strategic planning. Employing a traffic light system can help with planning marketing resources. Back to our webinar example:
- If you have never held a webinar, put a red sticker on it.
- If you have held a webinar before and it was ok, put a yellow sticker on it.
- If you have held a webinar and it still consistently generates leads, put a green sticker on it.
You should repeat this process for every resource, and by the time you have finished, you’ll get a better view of which areas should be improved. Now, double down on what works and see if you can further improve it before dealing with yellow and red stickers. This way, you can work towards converting the existing traffic before you switch your focus to attracting more of it.
The footer is a perfect spot to display content about your competitors and their alternatives to your product. Just like anyone would, your prospects will shop around and compare your offer to that of your competitors. Design these pages to rank organically for keywords to ensure that your voice is heard.
What differentiates a successful SaaS website from an unsuccessful one is a well-structured architecture geared towards retaining existing customers and attracting new clients. One of the biggest challenges SaaS companies face today is establishing long-term connections with clients and keeping them engaged. Due to a wide range of consumer choices, customers are extremely specific with their demands and unwilling to settle for less than excellence. Your website should be your brand’s alter ego that casts an immaculate first impression and gets increasingly likable the more clients spend time with it. This is why neither shouldn’t you settle for less than excellence.
In case you’re a developer looking to launch a SaaS website yourself, you may want to further improve your skills and specialize in this branch by looking into some highly reputable web development certifications.