Peter Peter - Founder, UserActive

14 Common SaaS Product Design Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

When designing a product, there are many things you need to take into account. Even if you have a great initial product idea, you might still make some common design mistakes that can negatively affect the success of the product. These can include making design decisions without considering user feedback or data, poor onboarding, or failing to personalize the product. In this article, we’re sharing 14 common SaaS product design mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Failure to provide an engaging product onboarding experience

One of the most common design pitfalls is poor onboarding. Onboarding is an essential part of any SaaS.

You’ve got one shot to make a good first impression, otherwise, the user could become overwhelmed and end up ditching your product. Remember, they are coming to you with a problem, your product being the solution. If the onboarding brings them more questions than answers, they might question whether your product will solve their problem.

There are two main ways the onboarding process can go wrong: either it’s way too much, or it’s not enough.

Too many in-app engagement prompts can frustrate the user. If there are too many prompts, it can overwhelm the user, and they may end up ignoring prompts out of irritation, therefore contributing to a higher churn rate. Maybe you assume your user will know how to use your product and don’t provide enough onboarding support, which leaves the user feeling lost and confused.

Here are some onboarding ideas you can try:

  • Greet the user with a welcome message. A short, welcoming message to introduce the user to the product.
  • Identify your product’s hotspots. Highlight your key features, so new users know where to find them and how to use them, without interrupting their workflow.
  • Show a progress bar or provide an onboarding checklist. These can help decrease drop-off rates.
  • Include a walkthrough/product tour. This can even be part of your checklist.
  • Use action-driven tooltips. They are small pop-ups that are shown when a user performs a certain action offering advice.
  • Read more.

Productboard is a great example of effective user onboarding.

2. Too much friction on the journey to product adoption

Friction can be a huge obstacle on the journey to product adoption. When the user is first using the product, several things can pose a problem if they aren’t designed properly. A tricky integration that has a difficult process and is not explained sufficiently can cause a lot of friction. If a difficult website integration isn’t explained well, the user may not adopt the product. Here are a few high friction points.

  • Adding team members and getting them onboarded.
  • The product has a learning curve. Support material and tutorials should be sufficient, enjoyable and easy to find.
  • The time to experience value is prolonged. If it takes many steps and the route to value is difficult the user is unlikely to adopt the product as easily.

Try guiding the user through these processes using educational material like tutorial videos, and explanatory documents, or consider hosting a workshop for more complicated tasks.

3. No personalised experiences for different user profiles

If you’re trying to appeal to everyone with a one-size-fits-all approach, you’re likely neglecting the unique needs of your users. Not having personalised experiences for different user profiles makes it easy for users to ignore features that are useful to them, and lose interest in your product. In addition, if your onboarding is long, it can confuse users.

How to personalise experiences for different users:

  • Segment and create different user profiles. This will increase the odds that your users will complete onboarding and get the most out of the features available to them.
  • Share contextual information that relates to the user’s job, role, or function. For example, salespeople are shown sales targets on their dashboards while managers are shown team activity on their dashboards.
  • Activate relevant features for different user profiles. Based on the personal needs of the user and what they need, some features may be missing from their account and others may be active.
  • Show only relevant notifications to each user. These could be updates from team members that relate to them, for example. Additionally, a project manager might receive more updates from a wider range of people than other team members that only see their work and the project manager’s tasks.

4. Confusing pricing plans without an upgrade flow

The pricing page is one of the most important aspects of your product. If your pricing plans are confusing and the upgrade flow doesn’t make sense, potential users may decide not to sign up or upgrade. It is important to have a well-designed pricing page with clear explanations of the available plans so that the user can decide which one best suits their needs. Providing a walkthrough to guide users through the purchase/upgrade is important so that they don’t get confused. Check out this great in-app pricing page example from Productboard.

5. Confusing navigation

Software teams often add to the navigation which grows over time without spending time to organize and consolidate navigation in a logical, intuitive manner. Here are three ways navigation can go wrong.

  • Submenus are not used effectively
  • Features are not grouped in categories that make sense together
  • Features are not presented in order or prioritised by value or frequency of utilisation

Watch this video to see how you can design more intuitive software navigation.

6. No clear UX messaging to guide user behaviour

Many tasks and interactions within a product can be confusing, especially for new users. A common issue in B2B SaaS is that important tasks and interactions are often presented without sufficient explanation. Important tasks can also lack guidance on how to complete them, what interactions mean and what is required from the user. A few clearly written explanations, summaries and descriptors can go a long way in assisting the user through common tasks that they need to perform in your product.

7. Lack of personality within the software

Your product should have a personality, and one that matches that of the company. Personality can be attributed to the branding, the graphics you use, tone of voice and the product aesthetics such as look and feel. If your microcopy doesn’t have the right tone of voice, it can negatively affect the perception of your product. Sometimes products can become unbalanced with either too much focus on aesthetics or functionality, creating an appearance that is not cohesive.

Three examples to reference are:

  • Mailchimp

Mailchimp uses a chimp as its logo and mascot. This, combined with the graphics and messaging creates a friendly and reliable image of a chimp who delivers your mail. All the graphics relate to the chimp, such as the thumbs up with the chimp arm that is shown when the user completes a task successfully.

  • Typeform

Typeform offers a better experience for people completing forms. Their presentation and messaging have an educational-based and inspiring tone. Graphics are often abstract and artistic.

  • Bonjoro

Bonjoro has a friendly bear that provides a unique brand identity. Their personality is friendly and welcoming.

  • Drip

Drip is for Ecommerce. It has a vibrant and funky design aesthetic and a lively friendly, familiar tone of voice and language.

8. Lacking Feature Activation

If your users aren’t being guided to discover relevant features, they likely won’t find them on their own. If users aren’t shown how to use features, this will contribute to low feature activation. All that hard work designing the features goes to waste if you don’t ensure they’re being activated.

How to activate features

  • Don’t hide features in the settings. If valuable features are not promoted within the product experience, users are unlikely to find and use them.
  • In-app activation. Make sure that your features are promoted and easily accessible within your product, rather than hiding them in settings for example. You could design a nice onboarding flow using checklists and progress indicators that walk your new users through the product. Additionally, you can design announcement bars at the top of your dashboard or pop-ups that make your users aware of updates and new features.
  • Provide educational content. Things like tutorial videos and written content help to make sure that users know how to use your product. Webinars are another great idea.

Read more about how to activate features for your SaaS. Additionally, it is a good idea to retire redundant features.

9. Product design improvements are not reflected in pricing

Over time product design improvements, innovation and product development occur. Often pricing is not increased even though the product has improved considerably. When product value is enhanced it is sensible to review pricing and consider increasing the pricing to better reflect the value that your product provides. It is a good idea to review your pricing every 6 to 18 months to ensure value is reflected in pricing and that you’re not giving away too much value. If your pricing is too low, it can hurt revenue but also the customer’s perception of the software’s value and capability.

10. Missed opportunities to collect valuable user information

They say knowledge is power, which couldn’t be more true regarding your SaaS. There are many opportunities to collect data and feedback from users that can help you take your product to the next level.

If you’re not seizing opportunities to collect feedback/data from new users, now is the time to start. What’s more, if you do have a system in place to collect user feedback, but you’re not acting on the feedback or data, you need to start!

Here’s what you can do

  • Use a signup flow to gather important information from your users. This is a great way to get to know your user and what their main goals are when using your product. Make it succinct and avoid asking unnecessary questions.
  • You can ask users to score features, rate their experience, implement cancellation flows, and more.
  • For a more in-depth approach, you can conduct user interviews to gather pertinent information directly from your users. It’s best to interview users at different stages of the user life cycle.

11. Tasks not contained within engaging user flows

Task flows focus on a singular task performed by the user. The task flows give the user a clear path which contains certain elements that mark future actions. For example, this could be creating an automated sequence in a CRM or sending an invoice in accounting software.

Tasks can become confusing if these things happen:

  • Not providing clear steps for a task and flow
  • Not showing progress indicators through tasks and journeys
  • Lack of user feedback such as troubleshooting or clear error and success messaging

12. Not using a design system

A design system is a collection of UI components that are held together by UX strategy and design principles. Not using a design system can lead to inefficiency within the design process. Without one, designers and developers would need to recreate each element and component from scratch rather than selecting appropriate UI elements from an existing design system. Essentially, a design system keeps everyone on the same page and avoids the risk of inconsistent use of elements and UI styling. Learn what a design system consists of and how you can build one too.


13. SaaS interface isn’t appealing

Looks aren’t everything – but they do matter! Creating an overcomplicated interface can happen easily over time. This is a common product design mistake. Having a complex interface often leads to low feature activation. It can be overwhelming for the user if it takes too long to understand all the features in front of them. Your interface should be simple and easy to use. Consider the tips below and watch the video for some inspiring ideas on how to design beautiful SaaS platforms.

  • Make good use of white space, and use light, muted tones so as not to overwhelm users visually.
  • Plan your navigation well. Avoid creating long drop-down bars. 
  • Keep it simple – don’t throw features at users unless they’re needed.

14. Empty screens for new users

New users often have no account data. Instead of showing users empty screens, populate the screens with content that describes the benefit of a feature, how to use it (this might be a video) and provide a CTA. Additionally, you could add a nice journey for the user to begin using this feature and populate the data.

It’s a good practice to enable your user to visualise a busy and active screen by using graphics and descriptions. Trello is a great example, providing “Trello Tips” when you start your first board. These tips provide examples showing you how the board works and provides an explanation for different functions.


Final words

If you would like to speak with a UI/UX design expert, book a free, 15-minute call to see how you can solve the common product design mistakes that your SaaS may have.

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