As you know, product design isn’t a piece of cake, it’s more like a plate of spaghetti: tangled and complex. And just like spaghetti, it can get a bit messy. You might’ve found yourself at a crossroads of dilemmas, wondering if you’re on the right path toward your desired outcome. This is a common challenge in designing SaaS products - it’s an iterative process filled with exploratory directions, detours, and, at times, dead ends.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Iteration is a good thing, and it’s essential. But there’s a fine line between ‘good’ iteration and ‘bad’ iteration. Good iteration is like an upward spiral - each loop gets you closer to your destination. It’s about asking the right questions, being analytical, and making calculated decisions that inch you closer to your goal. Bad iteration, on the other hand, is like a spaghetti junction without a map - it’s directionless and often a result of poor problem framing.
That’s why it’s crucial to make better product design decisions. Not just decisions that look good on paper, but decisions that move your SaaS product forward, fit seamlessly with your existing product and solve the right problem. So, how do you do that? Stick around, and I’ll show you.
Before we start to sketch or prototype, we’ve got to focus on one crucial thing – the problem we’re trying to solve.
You see, in the world of SaaS, we often find ourselves entangled in the details, the features, the aesthetics, etc. But we mustn’t lose sight of the core problem that needs solving.
Remember, our aim is not just to create something visually appealing but something that genuinely makes our users’ lives easier.
This starts with a clear understanding of what issue we’re tackling.
Think about it this way: imagine planning a trip. Would you start by packing your bags randomly? No, you’d first determine your destination and pack what you need. Similarly, in product design, identifying the problem is akin to choosing our destination. Once that is locked down, we can start our design ‘packing’.
So, how do we do this effectively? Enter User Stories.
User Stories are an excellent way to focus on the problem from a user’s perspective. They’re simple, concise descriptions of a feature told from the user’s point of view. The typical structure of a user story is: “As a ___, I want ___, so that ___.”
Let’s say we’re designing an email management system. A User Story could be: “As a busy professional, I want to categorise my emails immediately upon receiving them so that I can maintain an organised inbox.”
By framing the problem with User Stories, we can clearly understand what our users need and want. This user-centric approach enables us to design solutions that are functional and meaningful to the people using them.
So, before you delve into the design, ask yourself: what problem are you trying to solve? What would your users say? Understanding this is half the battle won.
Imagine this: you’re at your favourite coffee shop. You order the usual, expecting the familiar taste you love. But instead, you get something entirely different. Feels off, right? That’s what inconsistency in your product feels like to your users.
Maintaining consistency in design isn’t about stifling creativity, it’s about creating a sense of familiarity and predictability for your users. Consistency in your product design makes a smooth, seamless experience that keeps users engaged and comfortable.
Now, you might wonder, “How do we maintain consistency when constantly iterating and adding new features?”
Great question. It’s all about iterating within the boundaries that define your product. Think of these boundaries as the principles, styles, and components of your product’s DNA.
When we design new features, we want them to feel like they belong to the family, not like distant relatives.
But wait, there’s more! One of the best ways to ensure consistency is by reusing existing styles and components whenever possible. Why reinvent the wheel when you have perfectly good ones in your design system?
Here’s a practical tip: before diving headfirst into designing a new feature, take a moment to explore your design system. Familiarise yourself with the existing components and styles. The solution to your design dilemma is already there, ready to be used.
Remember, maintaining consistency doesn’t mean shunning innovation. It means smartly incorporating new ideas into your product without disrupting the user’s experience. So, go ahead and create, but always keep consistency in mind. It’s the secret ingredient to a delightful user experience.
Next up is a step that’s often overlooked but can be a goldmine of insights – learning from others. As Donald Rumsfeld once said, “We don’t know what we don’t know.”
We often find ourselves in uncharted waters, facing design challenges we’ve never encountered before. In such situations, there’s no shame in looking around and seeing how others have tackled similar problems.
When you’re stuck, take a step back and do a bit of research. What are other SaaS companies doing? How have they approached similar design challenges? It’s like getting a sneak peek into their playbook.
But here’s the catch – it’s not about blind imitation; it’s about understanding the reasoning behind their solutions and adapting it to your context.
Consider it like cooking. You can follow a recipe to the letter, but the real magic happens when you understand the principles behind it. Then, you can adapt and innovate, making the dish truly your own.
The same goes for design.
Copying competition blindly can lead to replicating their mistakes along with their successes.
But understanding their solutions and validating them with your users is a recipe for success.
So, remember, don’t shy away from learning from others. But always follow it up with validation. Because, in the end, it’s not about who had the idea first but what works best for your users.
Let’s be honest; design can get a bit messy sometimes. When juggling multiple user personas, different touch points, and a tonne of moving parts, it can be easy to lose sight of the finish line.
So, how do you know you’re moving in the right direction? That’s where defining success comes in. Having a clear idea of what success looks like can be your lighthouse in a stormy sea of design decisions. It’s about understanding what matters most and staying focused on it.
Think of it this way. You’re on a road trip. Without a destination in mind, you could end up driving aimlessly, wasting time and petrol. But when you know where you want to go, you can plan your route and make meaningful progress towards your goal.
Take a step back and think – how would you measure success after shipping? It could be a specific increase in user engagement or a decrease in customer complaints. Whatever it is, defining it clearly can help you steer your design decisions in the right direction.
And remember, you’re not alone in this. When in doubt, turn to the people in your company who understand the business and the customers and work with data frequently. They can help you think objectively about how to keep customers happy, make the business more prosperous, and keep track of things.
Next time you find yourself in a design dilemma, take a moment to define your success criteria. It’s your roadmap to making better design decisions.
You know, there’s a common pitfall that many engineers tumble into. They come up with a design solution that works on one device, only to discover that it doesn’t quite translate across the board. As a product manager or a SaaS founder, you certainly don’t want to be in that position, do you?
So, before diving headfirst into polishing your design, take a step back and ponder how your design will scale across different screen sizes.
Think about it – a sleek design on a desktop might not necessarily be as user-friendly on a mobile or tablet device.
Here are a few things to keep consistent across breakpoints:
The goal is to create a fluid user experience, no matter the device or platform. And remember, scalability isn’t an afterthought; it’s an integral part of the design process.
These are not the be-all and end-all, but they’re solid stepping stones to help you tread the waters of SaaS UX design more confidently.
Let’s have a quick recap, shall we?
This is about making your design process more intentional, more strategic, and, ultimately, more effective. They’re not just tools but a mindset that can help you create SaaS products that hit the bullseye.