5 Time-Saving Tips for Designing or Redesigning SaaS
In the realm of software as a service (SaaS), launching a new service or feature quickly is critical to a business’s success. Most of our projects have extremely tight deadlines. While tight deadlines can be stressful for everyone involved, there are a few ways we have found that keep us on track.
1. Involve the development team from the beginning.
Whether we are working with our client’s in-house development team or with our strategic partners, we insist they be involved from the beginning of the project. This alone saves an incredible amount of time down the road. The development team is aware of technological constraints or requirements that will greatly affect the project design and can provide insights you wouldn’t be able to get from management. Together with the development team we can work through potential roadblocks well before the product is launched.
2. Research first, save time later.
At the beginning of every project, we devote a considerable amount of time to user research, competitor audits, task flows, and devising or rethinking information architecture. While we’re not producing what clients typically associate with design deliverables (wireframes, prototypes, style guides), what we are doing is setting the foundation for every design and development decision we make throughout the project. The documentation we produce is critical for producing user-centered, effective user interfaces. And, because the research sets up constraints and guidelines for the design to come, we actually save time in the design and development phases and avoid costly mistakes when the design makes it to the end user.
3. Prototyping for a shared understanding.
We use interactive wireframes to help everyone on the team (designers, developers, and clients) understand what is being built. Depending on the type of project, we’ll do a rough prototype using html and css or we use prototyping software like InVision. Both allow team members to click through the project as if it were the real thing. This helps us have much more productive conversations about the design and product functionality and potential usability problems. Most importantly, this allows us to test the product with users to get feedback at the very beginning of the project.
4. Design and build features that are critical for getting your project out the door.
A common conversation we have with clients is what features are critical versus nice-to-have. Because every piece of the product’s functionality adds time to the project (research, design, testing, and development), a client’s initial list of must-haves often make the project’s scope impossible in the designated timeline and at the approved budget. We tend to break down large projects into phases, allowing us to launch a minimal viable product (MVP) quickly, and then build onto the product in subsequent phases. Despite all the research and usability testing we do, there are still quite a few unknowns once the product is released “into the wild.” The first and most obvious benefit of an MVP is that we get the product out the door quickly and on-budget. Second, we don’t bloat the product with features that turn out to be unnecessary (and a waste of time and money). And finally, we’re able to test a fully-functional product as quickly as possible and make timely revisions.
5. Keep testing your product.
When the product is in development we go through another round of testing and refinements. After launch, this process goes on indefinitely for the lifetime of the product. Usability testing allows us to continually make improvements to the user experience and provides insights for new features.