Unlike corporate developers who have plenty of pre-prefabricated solutions at their disposal, the providers of unique cloud-delivered offerings have to get down to nuts and bolts to roll out successful SaaS web-based solutions to mobile users.
Below are five crucial checkpoints to consider when undertaking a mobile SaaS project:
Focus on Added Value
With mobile SaaS, the native mobile app vs. mobile website dilemma no longer persists. Despite the original concept of SaaS as inherently browser-based, for mobile devices SaaS is likely to appear as predominantly app-based. Exploited features of mobile devices (e.g. camera, notifications, contacts, voice recognition, etc.) and support for offline operation enable businesses to enhance the existing cloud-delivered offerings with unique capabilities, often critical for winning users over.
Therefore, think of mobile apps running in conjunction with cloud-based services rather than providing just another interface to the already existing offering, and determine what unoccupied market niches could fit with your mobility-enabled services.
Less is More
Wiping out the gap between the functionality available via a desktop browser and that available via mobile apps is not always a sure-fire solution. The complete set of features ported to the mobile app may come at a price of lost sleekness and simplicity – the attributes mobile users value most.
Evaluate what advanced web-based functionality (e.g. sophisticated reporting options) your mobile solution is better off without, and focus on polishing the ones that are deemed essential.
Rethink UI Design
When extending to mobile devices, there is no avoiding a user interface revamp. With web to mobile porting, brand consistency complicates the challenge; your users should be able to apply interaction patterns they have already learned when operating via web-browser. The key tips to follow are:
- Stick to UI guidelines for mobile and tablet. The platform-specific standards, samples and tips reduce drastically the UI design efforts.
- Evaluate the usability of controllers and their layouts on every screen. Usability testing should be incorporated early in the interface design process to access the layout of elements critical for completion of tasks.
- Organize focus groups to collect feedback. Testing real users doing real tasks can help determine whether the applied UI guidelines are working within the context of your product, and whether consistency helps or hinders your end
It’s All about APIs
In the mobile world, APIs expose cloud back-end data and functionality to mobile apps, representing a communication layer between the two, and any other hardware devices involved. Despite the perceived purely technological nature of the issue, the end-user should be the main focus for API developers. At the end of the day, an unresponsive app is no man’s choice. Make sure to minimize the number of calls from the mobile app client. This may not make your API documentation look perfect (and fail to make a hit with tech guys), but it will increase end user enjoyment when using your app. The same holds true for hardware devices like routers or gateways; make sure to minimize the chain of access points that could otherwise hinder operations processing early at the communication schemes design stage.
Keep your APIs clean though. Keep in mind that, although at the outset, you may be the sole user of your API, as you grow, other companies may state their willingness to consume the services you provide. So, your API may become the backbone for future development, unlocking yet another revenue stream. Some of the most popular services owe their success not to their original idea, but to the functionality contributed by an enthusiast or a start-up tech company.
Mind Security Enhancement
With mobile SaaS applications, multi-level security awareness is critical. First, you have to ensure security of data storage and compute processing that reside on a cloud-computing platform. Second, the mobile app has to be safe from unauthorized access and configuration by malicious users. Finally, enhanced data encryption should make up for the APIs that are not hidden behind firewalls.
The multi-level data protection system may include restricted access to specific device types and usage of biometric tools to grant access to specific resources.
When duly implemented, a mobile SaaS app drastically increases the attractiveness of a SaaS offering – reaping a higher customer satisfaction rate and increased user productivity. The ability to focus on the functionality prioritization, UI redesign, system architecture and security enhancement issues prior to diving deep into the trenches of development results in creation of an outstanding solution that is genuinely beneficial for your customers.
Ivan Kot, Unit Manager, Itransition
Ivan Kot Ivan is Unit Manager at Itransition. He began his career as a developer, taking different positions in both web and mobile development projects, and eventually shifted focus to project management and team coordination.