Custom SaaS Development: The New Engine of Business Growth

December 5, 2023

As a business, you’ll need to decide what road you want to take when it comes to software solutions: convenient pre-made solutions, or tailor made custom development. 

Software-as-a-service, or SaaS, is at the forefront of digital transformation. Instead of using the traditional method of manually maintaining and updating your product on a local machine, SaaS products use cloud computing to carry out all these tasks automatically via the internet.

SaaS development is becoming increasingly relevant to businesses as time goes on. With the market moving quickly, it’s important to meet demands by developing high-quality products. 

Moreover, cyberattacks are becoming more of an issue, so SaaS providers are making security a key focus. These reasons make SaaS development a core business strategy in today’s digital world.

With the SaaS industry currently worth more than $195 billion, it’s safe to say many businesses have transitioned to developing SaaS products over the traditional development method. 

However, the road you can take during SaaS development forks into two options: pre-made or custom.

Both have their pros and cons, but which one should you choose? Let’s look at the SaaS development process in more detail and the differences between the two development options.

What is SaaS development?

SaaS development involves making cloud-based apps, with the entire development process being much more efficient as it’s entirely cloud-based. It also means there’s no infrastructure requirement from the user, allowing them to use the SaaS product with just internet access through the cloud. 

Typically, SaaS products follow a “pay-as-you-go” model, where users only pay for how much they’ve used. The alternative is a subscription-based model, where users pay a fixed monthly or annual fee and gain access to all the listed features. 

The tech stack and techniques used in SaaS development vary depending on what you’re trying to build with your product. You have the option of choosing from various programming languages, including:

  • Python
  • Java
  • Typescript
  • Next.js
  • React

In addition to the various programming languages used during the development process, cloud computing is another core technology. Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Firebase provide the infrastructure and services needed to develop SaaS applications.

Now that we know about the SaaS development process, let’s cover the differences between pre-made and custom SaaS solutions.

Differences from pre-made SaaS solutions

Pre-made SaaS products are available for immediate use; you purchase the product from another provider and start using it. Although pre-made SaaS products are relatively cheap, they provide little customization and flexibility if you have more specific business goals. Depending on the provider, these products come with a standard set of features.

On the other hand, custom SaaS products are much more flexible. You may have more technical workflows in your business, in which case a custom solution is more suitable. Custom software solutions involve building a SaaS product from the ground up, making it a more costly solution that requires development expertise. 

In short, pre-made solutions are quick and cheap. In contrast, custom solutions are more complicated and costly but offer more flexibility in customization and dealing with specific business challenges. 

Benefits of Custom SaaS Development

Here’s a few reasons why you might choose a custom SaaS product over a pre-made one:

  • Increasing demand: You might have a product that is beginning to take off and gain traction, but a pre-made solution might be restrictive regarding scalability. You can adjust the solution with a custom solution to deal with higher demand.
  • Long-term cost-effectiveness: While pre-made solutions are initially cheaper than custom solutions, pre-made solutions have limited functionality. To overcome this limitation, you may have to purchase multiple pre-made solutions and continually renew a monthly subscription. Having one custom solution specifically designed for your problems may be cheaper over the long term.
  • Improved customer experience: You might have a specific app in mind, but it’s difficult to deliver the exact user experience you want with more limited pre-made solutions. 
  • Advantage over competitors: With many businesses opting for pre-made solutions, a custom solution can give you an edge. Unlike pre-made solutions, they won’t be able to use your custom solution. Moreover, your custom solution can help your business develop unique workflows and automate various tasks that your competitors couldn’t. 
  • Improved efficiency: As we just mentioned, a custom solution can automate various tasks, so you’ll be able to streamline business operations and free up time to spend on more pressing tasks.

Although custom SaaS products have the edge over pre-made solutions, there are various factors you’ll need to consider during development.

Factors to consider in Custom SaaS Development

As mentioned before, the tech stack involved in custom development can vary depending on the objectives. You can use different technologies and languages in frontend and backend development processes, along with cloud providers such as AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

It’s important to consider what you want to accomplish with your custom product and choose the most suitable tech stack. 

You’ll also want to consider who will maintain your custom product. You can carry out maintenance in-house if you have a team of skilled developers. Otherwise, consider outsourcing maintenance responsibilities. 

Since a custom solution is specifically designed to suit your business goals, you’ll want a UX/UI design that provides the type of experience you have in mind. 

Your custom product might be for specific business operations, or it could be for a product you want to sell. In both cases, a well-designed UX/UI design will make it easier to streamline your business operations and provide a good experience for customers using your product.

How does Custom SaaS development work?

The process of custom SaaS development consists of  6 main stages: planning, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance. Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail:

All the stages of custom SaaS development including planning, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance
Summary of the SaaS development process

1: Planning 

Before jumping into the actual development process, it’s important to consider what you want from your custom SaaS product. Will it help streamline your business processes, or is it a unique product idea to sell to consumers?

If it’s a product idea, market research is key. Identify a gap in the market, and think about how your custom product will solve that problem. Additionally, it’s helpful to look at the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor’s strategy if they’ve already built a similar type of custom product. 

You’ll also want to consider technical requirements, such as the tech stack you might need to build your product. As custom development has higher initial costs than pre-made SaaS products, set aside a suitable budget for the project.

With all this information in mind, you can begin creating a design and development plan.  Think about the long-term vision for your product - what features do you want to add later down the line? 

2: Design 

This stage involves the UX/UI design of your custom product. After all, an intuitive and easy-to-use interface is key to a better user experience. Remember, the design stage is also part of the development cost. 

Also, the design of your custom product needs to be effective when used on mobile due to widespread usage, with 87% of companies relying on their employees to access business apps from their phones. 

A typical roadmap for the design stage could look like:

  • Research - Map out exactly the tasks you want your product to achieve, and who your product’s target audience is. It never hurts to do a little extra research before starting to fully understand the problem you want your product to solve. 
  • Choose an information architecture - An information architecture maps out all the features and sections of your product. Here, you’ll decide what features your custom product will have. You could go with a single-tenant architecture pattern where you use an unshared server. Or, you could use a multi-tenant architecture where you use shared servers. Single-tenant architectures have higher costs but higher security, while multi-tenant architectures have lower costs but reduced security. 
  • Wireframe - Here, you’ll create a black and white skeleton to know where all the elements will go in each product section.
  • Prototype - After creating the wireframe, you can better understand how your product will work by creating a simulated environment that allows for user interaction. 
  • UX design - After deciding on the information architecture, you can now decide how the user will be able to interact with your product.
  • UI design - Here, you’ll design the appearance of your custom product, such as the color scheme and button layout. One useful tool for UX/UI design is Figma. 

3: Development 

After the design stage, you can finally build your custom product. By now, you should have decided on your tech stack and architecture. You can start to build your architecture by setting up the servers. Depending on which approach you choose, this process will vary.

After setting up your architecture, you can start to create the features of your product by writing the necessary code via the back end. Typically, you’ll have developers specialized in either the back end or the front end, with the developers working on them separately. An API is one method to connect both the front end and the back end.

Comparison of how frontend and backend are different
Comparison of back end and front end development. (Source)

Security is another key factor to consider during development. How will your product protect sensitive information and deal with any potential cyberattacks? 

The development stage is complex, and the specifics will depend on the project.

4: Testing

This stage involves finding and fixing any bugs in your product. As a result, it will likely take many iterations of testing and making adjustments to get your product ready. 

Another way you could speed up the testing process is by creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to let users test your product and provide feedback on any potential bugs they find. 

You could also use CI/CD pipelines to automate your testing processes and speed up the rate at which you fix errors.

This will give you a good idea if your product is functioning as intended and what adjustments are necessary to improve it further. You’ll receive feedback on aspects such as user experience and performance. 

5: Deployment

After completing development and carrying out testing to fix any issues, it’s time to deploy your custom product. You can deploy your product in a cloud environment using a cloud provider such as AWS or Microsoft Azure. 

We mentioned CI/CD pipelines for testing automation, but they’re also useful for automating the deployment process. If you have any new features that you want to deploy, CI/CD pipelines let you deliver them relatively quickly. This way, you can quickly catch any issues with your new features and prepare them for deployment in your custom product. 

6: Maintenance

After deploying your custom product, the job doesn’t fully end there. Your custom product will need ongoing maintenance. 

When more users get their hands on your product, you might discover other bugs that weren’t fixed during the testing stage. You’ll need to patch these bugs quickly to keep user retention high.

You might also get feedback on what additional features users are asking for, in which case you implement these after deployment via CI/CD pipelines. 

Moreover, monitor performance reports to identify ways to improve your product’s performance. Security updates are also necessary, as you might identify new vulnerabilities after deployment. 

What are the next steps?

SaaS products have become increasingly common, but most businesses opt for pre-made products rather than custom ones.

If you have a specific app development project in mind, custom solutions are a way to gain an edge over your competitors and stand out in the market. These solutions offer more than just unique solutions - they offer an efficient ecosystem tailored to your business goals.

We’ve seen how the SaaS development process can be lengthy and require technical expertise throughout. If you’re looking to create a custom SaaS product to help in all stages of development, book a free 30 minute call to discuss how we can help realize your product vision. 

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