Designing a SaaS Product - 8 principles to follow for success

December 9, 2021

Designing a SaaS product is like writing a poem in 2022.

  • You have to make the audience fall in love with your style,
  • At the same time, you have to convince your audience about your worth,
  • You also have to be extremely unique,
  • You should stay true to yourself while changing for them,
  • ...

The list goes on, and on, and on.

In other words, designing a SaaS product for today's market takes a lot to handle.

So I'm here to make this long process easier for you.

In this article, I will:

  • Briefly explain what product design is for SaaS
  • Summarize what is involved in the design process,
  • And then, go into detail about the eight principles of SaaS design practices.

Let's begin by explaining our term:

What Is SaaS Product Design?

SaaS Product Design is the complete process of deciding on and providing a User Interface as well as a complete User Experience to target users. The initial product design process can be considered complete once you have a viable product in hand that anonymous testers can test.

☞ What makes SaaS design different than other product designs is the fact that you can eliminate material needs, but have to consider digital needs.

☞ What makes SaaS product design different from the website design is that you have to take the customer experience, the onboarding process, the customer journey into account, and everything else.

Here is what I mean:

Users spend about 5.59 seconds reading a website’s written content.

The same users spend 5.94 seconds looking at a website’s main image.

A single image attracts them more than a whole page of written information.

This is how important it is to engage users and customers with your visual design.

And as for those who do proceed to read the rest of the content, 67% of those potential customers prefer reading the content of products that have beautiful designs.

And if you convince those people to subscribe to your product, you have to keep the same quality of design during the entire process - especially the customer onboarding.

I will go into detail about all those principles right after I explain what is involved:

What is involved in the software product design process

Simply put, you need:

  • An idea
  • A market research
  • A SaaS UX
  • And a SaaS UI

In a longer sense, here is everything that is perceived as the biggest challenges of the process:

Ideation and Definition 

An idea is reshaped and redefined after it first pops into your mind, and we can call the designing of a SaaS business idea.

Before you get into doing market research or start looking for easy design solutions, you should have a clear roadmap in your mind about what correlates with the idea you have.

Let's say that you are building a no-code AI visual content creator.

Answer these questions:

✔️ What comes to your head when you say it out loud?

✔️ Did you come up with this idea because there is none, or because you feel like you could do it better than the existing ones?

✔️ Do you know any people that can help you build, develop, maintain, design, and manage this product?

✔️ Why is this tool going to be no-code?

✔️ Why is it going to be a SaaS tool?

✔️ Do you know other people that might need this product?

If you managed to answer them all, here is the next level of questions (I will leave mine for reference):

- What is a no-code AI visual content creator?

+ It is a tool that helps people generate visuals according to their selections and use cases.

- How are they going to select?

+ By checking boxes and putting in keywords.

- How is the image going to be generated?

+ Certain images are going to have tags embedded into them, and the AI will come up with various combinations of shapes, colors, themes and images.

- How are the tags going to be generated?


I guess I made myself clear about how the Ideation and Definition design process will go.

And this process will only end when the questions end.

After you have your mind map, your roadmap, or what other name you call it ready, the next step can come in:

User Research

The title explains what is going to be included in the process.

After you have a base plan, you simply have to see what the customers want and whether you have a customer base ready to buy from you.

During this process, you will have to:

  • Conduct competitors research
  • Do user interviews
  • Let some of them test your prototype
  • Collect data on preferences

And keep in mind that you have to address the dislikes as much as the likes. For instance, ask your testers:

▷ What would they consider a bad user experience in your product's case?

▷ What is missing in the market: an actual cheapest option or a simple product for complex projects?

▷ What would be the #1 thing you would question if you were an actual customer?

Designing the UX

User experience design is the process of setting the roadmap for the customer and determining how they will interact with your SaaS product.

And designing SaaS UX is as fun as it is difficult.

Here's why:

‼- It requires too much detail.

‼- UX and UI designers might have different ideas that don't work together.

‼- Getting design inspiration for UX is as hard as deciding on UI templates.

Here are the most important practices:

- A SaaS product must be mobile friendly because 85% of people think a business’s mobile website should be as good as or better than its desktop equivalent.

Try to keep the balance between income and looks since 54% of marketing experts said that ad clutter is the biggest obstacle to a good user experience.

I don't know if they are the same people, but 54% of users want to see content that’s personalized to their interests. So add simple elements like their names or things they could be interested in on their dashboards.

Designing the UI

The UI - which stands for User 

For the appearance side of the project, there are some rules that you have to follow, and some rules that you have to determine according to your use case.

Some of the must's of SaaS UI design are:

  • Having the company logo on the top left side of the top middle side. But never on the right side.
  • Using a light background. You could add a dark mode option as well, but keep the light as default.
  • You mustn't leave the users alone with complex challenges, the onboarding must be as good as the interface.

And some of the "maybe"s of SaaS UI design are:

  • You can have personalization choices for the array of design projects (or other projects that you help with).
  • You can customize UX and UI elements such as customer surveys to be in a bold color to stand out.
  • 41% of customers prefer simple website design, while 59% want something stunning. So it's really your choice which way you will lean on.

I've talked a lot about the "what" of SaaS design, and finally, it's time for the "how."

More specifically, it's time to give you an idea for you to find your own "how."

8 Principles of SaaS Product Design


[Can we re-make this image? I created it on google slides, and I know that it looks bad.]

As you will see, it is proven that following these eight pillar concepts will lower your customer churn rates and increase your reliability.

Let's dig in:

1- It is engaging

From top to bottom, you have to engage users in order to have good customer retention rates.

Your copy, your color choices, and your UX elements have to be in correlation in order to work.

To make the design engaging, you should include:

  • Personalized elements for different segments,
  • Human-like sounding copy,
  • A color palette that shows your design expertise,
  • An interactive onboarding process,
  • and a counterintuitive user experience.

Especially during the first interaction, users expect to feel the "wow!" effect immediately. If you can't provide that effect, no matter how amazing your visuals are, your design won't be considered "good."

2- It is easy to remember

What website comes to your mind as soon as I say "it had a great design"?

Mine is Backlinko's Marketing Hub landing page.

Now open that website, and tell me what makes it so unforgettable.

▷ Is it because of the colors?

▷ Is it because of the fonts?

▷ Is it because of the original characters?

▷ Is it because of the copy?

▷ Is it because of the length?

▷ Is it because it is unique?

▷ What aspects of it are similar to all websites?

▷ Is it only because it has acceptable logo colors?

Or is it:

3- It is innovative yet familiar

Newer users ask for more than good customer service and graphic design. They want to be mind blown while knowing from the get-go what to expect.

And it is surprising to know that doing that is not impossible.

There are parts of your design that must seem familiar to even first-time users, and parts that are special to your product only.

Here is a list of which parts can be old-school:

  • The signup process,
  • The welcome modal,
  • The size and location of empty states,
  • The use of color theory,
  • The length of the copy.

And here is a list of what must be unique:

  • Your tone of speech in the copy,
  • Your key features (obviously),
  • Whether or not you will go with a strong design and colors,
  • Your onboarding type (interactive, video, or in-person).

4- It is everlasting

Great product management includes being foresighted, therefore knowing which trends are going to last and which ones will blast.

In fact, a great design must be everlasting for the product to last long as well.

There are two main ways you can keep the design so:

  1. You can keep an eye out for new trends, and update your design regularly.
  2. You can play it safe, and only integrate the trends that will stay with you forever.

I wouldn't recommend the latter.

5- It is minimalistic

Hundreds of well-known brands have changed their funny and colorful logos to minimalistic ones.

And that's not a coincidence.

A minimalistic design and plain colors are now a sign of luxury and professionalism.

Not only your visuals, but also your UX elements and onboarding flows have to be minimalistic.

For instance, onboarding videos longer than two minutes or eight interactive steps have a lower completion rate.

Or your signup form, if you ask for more than two or three different inputs on one page, you will scare potential customers away. So if you have to ask for more than an email address and password, save the other questions for a second signup page.

6- It is useful

It is not the functionality that determines how useful your SaaS product is. The design matters just as much.

For instance, if people don't find your customer onboarding process insufficient, they won't even try to get on board with the perfectly useful product themselves.

If your UX elements don't turn complex challenges into a piece of cake, your customer lifecycle will be short, and your churn rates won't make you happy.

So while you are on the design, before concluding that the entire process is over, get a pure customer to test it out and give feedback to you on the usefulness of each element.

And what do you do if it turns out to be unuseful:

7- It leaves space for change

As I've mentioned above, the best and easiest way to make a SaaS product everlasting is to build your design strategy on the fact that it can change.


When the first-time users start bombarding you with negative comments.


Through a new cycle of SaaS product design. From ideation to market research.

That is how well-designed products:

8- It sets the tone

I realize that it takes a long time and a huge amount of effort to stick with everything I've mentioned by far.

But it is a fact that companies that manage to abide by those unwritten rules become the norm of design in their market.

Take Twitter as an example. Everyone talks about how useful and well-organized the platform is.

But no one ever mentioned its design.

This also means that no one has a problem with it and has accepted it as the correct way to be Twitter.

Designing An Entire Product For SaaS Doesn't Have To Be a Complex Process

It's going to belong, but it doesn't have to be complex.

Whether you work with your own product team or with external designers (such as a design agency or freelance designers), you should keep the product and design teams close and communicate.

Creating a design strategy for your SaaS product requires precision in graphic design, flexibility and punctuality in content creation, and throughout analysis of demo content.

To meet the expectations users have about your product, you should design a whole customer lifecycle rather than only fixing on feature images or color psychology.

As soon as you figure out how to impress first-time users, and get them to answer how you can avoid being labeled as "provides poor user experience", you will have nothing left to worry about in the bits of design.