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The Impact Of UI & UX On Product Led Growth For B2B SaaS With Sprouts.ai

A few weeks ago, Peter joined Sprouts.ai for an intriguing LinkedIn Live, where he discussed how digital design elements drive growth for B2B SaaS companies. Learn how to achieve rapid growth through product design, align sales strategies, and balance UI/UX improvements with long-term product vision by watching this video!

Introduction

Avinash Nagla: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Sprouts Weekly LinkedIn Live. I’m Avi. I’m co-founder at Sprouts. We are an AI-powered GTM intelligence platform which help companies to ramp up their demand generation efforts. Along with me, I have Peter Loving, who is an expert in product-led growth and and helps companies with UI and UX efforts so that they can improve their PLG motion. So today we are going to talk about impact of UI and UX on product-led growth for B2B SaaS. Firstly, thank you, Peter, for joining us online. A quick intro on Peter. Peter is an expert in software usability and experience design, driving growth for SaaS companies through product enhancement. He has more than 15 years of consulting experience in SaaS and has aided over 100 plus tech firms in improving their experience and interface design, focusing on key metrics like upgrades, utilisation, and retention. Super excited to host you, Peter. Welcome to Sprouts Weekly Live.

Peter Loving: Thanks, Avinash. It’s great to be here.

Avinash Nagla: Awesome. So, Peter, let’s quickly start. Let’s talk about your journey first. We were very curious to know about, to know what inspired you to specialise in helping SaaS companies with their product improvement and design sprints. What does product-led growth means to you?

Peter Loving: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I was always interested in products, how things are designed, how they’re made. So I was interested in that from a fairly young age, and also I have a creative background, so I like the creativity of design. So that led me to study product design in university. And now in university, we were actually studying… It was more like industrial design. So we were designing 3D products and gadgets. So it could be anything like MP3 players or Airpods or iPhone, these consumer gadgets. But when I finished university, it was a time where social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace were really popular, and the web was in a really interesting moment. So I became interested in design for the web, and what captured my interest was the design of web software, like web products. So I just translated from my 3D consumer product design into digital, onto product design for the web. And that was an interesting transition, and there’s a lot of very similar theories and processes. Essentially, the design theory and process is really transferable. It’s really the same. And so that’s what led me to focus on software. And I essentially started UserActive as an agency to cater to software companies to provide product design services to software, B2B, SaaS.

Avinash Nagla: Got it. Interesting. Peter, you talked about design theory, right? Let’s say if somebody who is starting pretty young on the UI and UX side, and they are joining any B2B SaaS company or a startup, how do you think that they should think about that design thinking when they are thinking about PLG motion.

Peter Loving: Yeah, well, the fundamentals of design theory and design thinking, it’s all about, firstly, solving a problem. Okay. So you need to identify a good problem to work on. And the design thinking part of it is, how do you create something for another user? So you’re really designing for the users. So what goes hand in hand with that is understanding what the user needs, their requirements, how they work, what results they’re looking for. So the more you intimately understand your end user, the better you’re able to design for them. And really in design thinking, you have quite a wide range of skill sets. What I just mentioned about understanding your end user and designing for them is one thing, but then you also need some technical skills, understanding how to design for the web, designing interactions, and how to design for development. So designing things that are easy for developers to build, but also provide a great function functionality and also look great on the web.

Avinash Nagla: Got it. I think at the end of the day, it should look great on the web, as you said. All right, cool. So that leads to the second question, Peter, is your LinkedIn introduction mentions that through product design, you have achieved a fast growth for SaaS companies and added 300K ARR in 90 days. That’s pretty commendable. Can you describe some specific strategies which have really helped you achieve those goals? Because revenue is something which is everyone is looking for. If the good product design has helped them achieve it, I think that’s commendable. I would love to learn from your experience what has worked really well there.

Peter Loving: Yeah. So really, what we’re doing when we design software is we’re looking at providing the best experience for the end user, but also presenting that software in a really impressive way. So the software looks modern, it looks innovative, and it has a really sexy aesthetic, a really great UI to make it appealing. But one way that we really try to design to increase revenue is that we might look at conversion rate optimisation or improving workflows in the software and seeing where there’s an opportunity for growth. So for the case that you just mentioned, where we were able to add 300K ARR in 90 days, what we actually did then was worked with a SaaS company who had… They were getting 100 free trials a month, and they were converting about 18 of these free trials per month into paying customers. Now, once we reviewed the onboarding and free trial experience, we noticed that there were quite a few areas that could be really improved. So we set out to create a better onboarding experience and also a better first impression of the product, but also design a dashboard for when users land in the product on their free trial, a dashboard that really helped them achieve their results, that gave them better information.

Peter Loving: And once these design improvements that we made, once they were rolled out into the product, when they were released, the conversion rate from free trials went from 18 out of 100 to 26 out of 100. And just that jump in, upgrade conversions, really added the revenue because for this particular client, they had an average contract value that was fairly high for SaaS. So it means that just a small percentage increase can add a really good improvement in revenue.

Avinash Nagla: Got it. Interesting. Interesting. A follow on to that, Peter, right? What do you think is more important? What are the elements which really worked well? When you talk about increasing the experience, have you reduced the number of steps or the user journey was more intuitive for customers to land from free trial to, let’s say, paid piece. Can you help in double clicking on the experience part? Because we’d love to understand that.

Peter Loving: Yeah, definitely. There’s a whole number of things that goes into that. First, we will review what the current flow looks like in a software. So how does that look? Are there any areas that are confusing? Is it unintuitive? Are there any areas where users sign up, but they get lost in the onboarding experience, or they fail to complete something that could be anything like a task or an integration or setting up their account or verifying their email. So we want to observe how the flow is currently working. Once we identify some areas for improvement or problematic areas, we rethink them, but we also think through the flow entirely. So then we’ll start by redesigning the flow, improving those difficult moments and areas. So I guess there’s two or three things we’re doing. One is improving how easy it is to onboard and user. So that’s the intuitive element that you mentioned. We’re making it more intuitive. We want to make that flow enjoyable. So when people log in to a free trial, we want to get them feeling excited to try out the software. We want them to enjoy that process. So a lot of times that involves providing them with good messaging, a good welcome, some good graphics, some good assets and content in that flow, like a welcome video or like a really clear explanation of, okay, here are the steps we’re going to take to get you set up.

Peter Loving: Step one, okay, let’s go and enter in your details. Step two, we’re going to help you filter this list so that you can find a bunch of contacts that are going to be relevant to you for your sales campaign. Depending on what the software is, we get them into that flow. We also want to make it look and feel great. So that’s where we’re designing clean, modern, and appealing UI to make the aesthetic beautiful. That really just helps the software to stand out on that first impression and also stand out against competitor products. And the other thing we’re trying to do is also get them to experience value quickly. So there’s this concept of time to value in SaaS. We want to reduce the time it takes for a new user to experience value in the product. So we’ll facilitate them through the steps. And like you said, your point about reducing the number of steps, it’s a good point. We try to reduce it to make that process faster.

Avinash Nagla: Less clicks?

Peter Loving: Yeah. Yeah, less clicks, also less friction. So if there are some things that are difficult, sometimes in onboarding, some software products need the user to set up an integration, for example. And things like that can add friction to that sign-up process. So we try to design a flow that removes the friction that makes it easy for them to do whatever the task is that we need them to do to get to that point of experiencing value in the software. Those are generally the core things that we’re looking at to redesign a good sign up and onboarding flow in SaaS.Y

Avinash Nagla: Got it. Very, very insightful, Peter. I think I’m going to pick up one piece from this, which is make that entire journey enjoyable. I think that that makes a lot of sense. And we all should focus on that because if somebody is spending time to walk through your website or your user flow, I think we should make it very enjoyable. Definitely.

Peter Loving: I think that’s really an important step is making it enjoyable. And one way we can do that is by taking away the requirement for them to think when they’re doing it. So one way I like to describe this is like, if we do the thinking, the difficult thinking to design a journey that’s seamless, that’s intuitive and easy, then it means that because we’ve done all of the thinking on our side, when the user signs it, it’s easy for them. They don’t have to figure things out. They can just intuitively understand it. And that really contributes towards making it enjoyable, too.

Avinash Nagla: Exactly. Can’t agree more. Peter, one follow-on to this part. Have you encountered issues where, let’s say, if a user is going through a journey and sometimes some things break, what is their course of action in terms of how they can reach out to, let’s say, a platform user or let’s say companies to get that issue resolved? I think of it this way. I’m filling out a form at Sprouts and all of a sudden I’m stuck at somewhere. What is that user journey in terms of if a user is stuck at some point, how they should communicate with the human on the other side? What are your thoughts on that?

Peter Loving: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. I think that can happen in a number of ways in a product, right? So we would typically want to get familiar with, is that a recurring issue? Does it happen for many users or is it a unique case? If it’s a common issue, there’s probably something wrong with the design or the flow or something technical that’s breaking. So we would want to look at that and then see if that flow needs redesigning. But also, if we know it’s a difficult task to complete, we might design for that in the journey. So saying at the beginning of that task or flow, we might let the user know, Hey, reach out if you need support. Maybe there’s a chat, maybe there’s something like intercom in the platform or something like that. Or when we reach the moments, we do something called contextual interaction. So when something happens, we provide a interaction for that instance. So let’s say they’re getting halfway through a task and they get stuck. At that point, we might make a suggestion pop up some UI interaction that says, Hey, do you need help? If so, call here for customer support or click on this chat, to chat with maybe there’s a bot that can guide them through the steps or maybe there’s customer support.

Peter Loving: But yeah, it will always depend. Each instance can be quite unique. We’ll always look at that case by case and see what we can do to design the best solution for it.

Avinash Nagla: Got it. Yeah, interesting. Moving forward, Peter, one question many of us had was, usually PLG motion helps, let’s say, low-ticket item because you do a freemium model and then that converts into, let’s say, paid customers. Your LinkedIn profile mentioned that you have worked with multiple companies, and helped them in coming up with UI design changes and also equipped sales team in improved messaging and ideas on positioning, and you were able to close multiple enterprise clients. Can you share a few thoughts about how or a case study on how did you do that?

Peter Loving: Yeah, was that on the product-led growth side of things? Could you repeat the first part of that question?

Avinash Nagla: Yeah, so the first part of the question is, your LinkedIn profile mentioned about a company whom with UI design changes and occuping sales team with improved messaging and ideas on positioning, you were able to close enterprise clients for them. Can you share it?

Peter Loving: Okay, so yeah, I can say this has happened with us a few times. So sometimes… I’ll tell you the story of this particular one. This was an enterprise software, and they had a dated interface. It was quite an old software. They’ve been operating for 13 years, but in that time, they hadn’t really updated their UI. So it looked a bit old fashioned, and it was starting to impact their ability to close deals because when they go through the sales and demo and sales process, one of the objections would be, oh, this product looks a bit dated. The UI isn’t as good as this competitor or another competitor. So they wanted to invest in redesigning their UI. Now, they also happen to have this sales cycle. So this was a really sales-led approach, and it was selling into enterprise. What happened was that when we started to redesign the UI, the improvement was really dramatic. So because it was such a long time since they redesigned, it went from a really old-looking platform to a really modern and slick UI. So when the sales team saw the new UI designs, they got really excited and they wanted to just include them in their sales pitches and in their decks.

Peter Loving: So when they started to go out doing sales, they would be presenting and pitching the new UI, even though the software didn’t quite have the new UI released in it yet. But they were pitching on the basis that we’ll be releasing this UI in three to six months. Here’s what it will look like, but it’s the same functionality to what our product currently does. And they were actually able to close quite significant contracts with that approach. So I’ve seen this work several times. That’s one case. But another case is that we’ve worked with a company to redesign their UI, and they took those and they actually closed some contracts, but they also used it to close funding rounds based on the new perception of the software and how appealing that look really helped towards them closing a significant funding round. So sometimes design can help. Even before it’s released into the product, it can make a really big impact.

Avinash Nagla: That’s a part of UI for you. I think it can do a lot of wonders. Definitely get a lot of business closed. Yeah. Thanks, Peter. The next question I had was, how important are free trials? You have also helped companies in increasing free trial upgrades by 46%. Is there a playbook which you would like to share with us for increasing Tofu? Can you share a few sample product-led enablers that other than, let’s say, free trials?

Peter Loving: Yeah, so it all depends on your software, how it works, and really how your end users like to use the software. So you have to really understand their habits and what they’re trying to achieve. And that will help you determine your model. So if you’re going for a product-led growth model, then you’re likely to either use free trials or a freemium model. And with free trials, you are adding a time restriction on their experience. And by doing that, we obviously force them to a moment where they have to make a decision to either upgrade or stop using the software. So what we’re trying to do in that first, it could be seven or 14 days, is give them the best experience they can. We’re looking to get the user to self-qualify that this product is for them, this product is going to solve their solutions. If you can get the user to experience that feeling in the free trial, that’s a really strong indicator that they’re going to upgrade. So we provide them with a really good onboarding, really good first impression. We get them to experience value as quickly as possible, but we also want them to try and build habits.

Peter Loving: It’s very difficult to build habits in 14 days, but if we get them logging into the software and making good use of it in that early period, that’s also a really good indicator that they’re going to upgrade. So we want to equip them with the features, functionality, and tools for them to get that value and to validate that this is the right product to solve their current problems. And then when we get to the moment, we want to clear upgrade flow. So part of what we do in that free trial period is we communicate really clearly to the user what the model involves. Okay, so you’re going to have a free trial for 14 days. Here’s what we’re going to help you experience. Here are the features that are really going to help you get the results you’re looking for. And here are the plans that you can upgrade to. Based on your requirements, let’s help you choose a plan that’s the best fit. If they’re aware of that process at the beginning, when it comes to the point of the free trial ends, hopefully there’s less friction for them to do the because they’re aware of the plans and they know the platform and that decision making process has been made a bit easier for them.

Peter Loving: So they don’t just get to the end of the free trial and they’re surprised, Oh, it’s over. Now I have to pay for it. What plan do we need? And it introduces some doubt. So we want to try and get rid of that during that free trial, the earlier stage of the free trial. And then for freemium plan, it’s a fairly different model. The thing about freemium is that we don’t have the time restrictions on that model, but what we do is we restrict usage and value. So we want users to be able to have lifetime access to the product and still to get some value from it, from the freemium plan. A really good example of this is Canva. So you can sign up to Canva and keep using it for free and use the free template. But when you’re starting to make a lot of use of Canva, if you really have a good use case Canva being one of the bigger, widely used tools in your tech stack or your workflow, then you start wanting to share it with other members of your team, and you want to start using some of the more premium designs, and you start having more of a wider requirement.

Peter Loving: And at that point is where Canva limits your usage so that in order to get more value, you don’t have to pay an upgrade. So the model, it’s all about choosing the right model for your product, the nature of the product and for the nature of your user, and then setting the correct constraints or the best constraints on it, whether that’s usage, number of users, storage data, or access to assets. So there’s some logistics and thinking that goes into getting that plan to work and then optimising it to make sure that your conversions are in the best place.

Avinash Nagla: Exactly. This is helpful. We did a follow on to this. You mentioned about free trial, you mentioned about freemium model. Free trials are time bound, freemiums are mostly usage bound. Any other growth enablers for PLG which you think that we should focus on? One I can think of is referrals. Let’s say Peter has signed up for Sprouts, and if Peter refers three of his friends, he get, let’s say, extended by a Sprouts platform, get extended by, let’s say, 10 days or 15 days. What are other such enablers? And I might be wrong. That might not be an enabler as well, but just thinking a lot.

Peter Loving: Yeah, I think that’s good. That’s one of the things we always like to think of as the viral component of a product. So collaboration and sharing are really great opportunities to broaden the reach of your product. Say for project management software like Monday, Asana, ClickUp. These tools rely on teams collaborating to use the product. So when you have one person who advocates for using the software, they will look to get it signed off, and then they will also add, invite members of the team. So you’ve got that growth model, and you obviously are paying for seats. So that’s a really good way in PLG to increase monetization or like revenue per seat. But what you talk about the referrals is a great growth tactic. So that’s how sometimes we’re building virality into products, encouraging sharing. Other ways might be to, sometimes we see it’s not always just monthly plans. We’re seeing a lot of products that have add-on features, especially if I give you an example in the CRM space, you might be able to pay for a bundle of credits for a CRM. It might give you access to more leads or things like that.

Peter Loving: So add-ons is another really good way to just add more value. It also gives you a way to increase your MRR if you’re looking for… or maybe you find you have some features that don’t fit neatly into your monthly plans, your three tiers or whatever, however you have that set up. So that can be another one.

Avinash Nagla: Got it. All right. Interesting. I think we are going to use a couple of them.

Peter Loving: Another one just jumped out at me, it’s about the usage of the product. And this still touches on the virality of software. You know the products that have grown quite quickly in recent years? Like a Loom, Loom comes to mind, springs to mind. It’s that when you share a Loom video, it really introduces another potential user to Loom because when you receive a Loom video and you watch it, you also experience the product without even signing up for a free trial or a demo or anything like that. So this sharing is a really great way to spread and for more people to be able to experience that product and then potentially try signing up. So products like Loom, Typeform have this element built in. So it’s great to have sharing in there if you have that aspect, that nature in the workflow of your software.

Avinash Nagla: Exactly. Yeah, I think we should think on such virality sharing platforms. Something to think about, Peter. The next question which I had was, given your experience in consulting on business goals and product strategy, how do you balance the need of short term UI UX improvement with long term product vision and roadmap? Because these are two different elements. Obviously, short term, tactically, you have to get some quick wins, and long term is something which is more sustainable. How do you think about this aspect, Peter?

Peter Loving: That’s a really good question, Avinash, because it comes up in a lot of the projects that we work on. Actually, clients have asked us that very question. So I imagine you had a experience of it, too, or seeing that coming up. One way people like to refer to it as low hanging fruit or quick wins, they say, we’d love to be able to, do a whole product refresh, a whole UI redesign. But in the meantime, we want that some quick wins or low hanging fruit that we’d like to do. How do we approach it? So what we would do is say, isolate some of the high priority, high impact design tasks as long as they are not high in a resource intensity, meaning it’s not a big project. It’s a small amount of effort will hopefully impact some big results. If we find places like that, we would focus on those. But in the meantime, we’ll also make a plan for the product vision. Okay, so how do we understand this product vision? What’s the time frame? How will we break it down into component parts? So when you’re redesigning, say, a fairly complex SaaS, one of the challenges is to know where to start and also what process to go through.

Peter Loving: In what order do you work your way through the product. So we usually recommend starting with rethinking the navigation, because the navigation over time usually gets a little bit of control. Sometimes it becomes not the most intuitive as features are added and added to a product over time. They don’t always get added in a way of thinking about the product as a whole. Sometimes they get bolted on. An example of this is that we sometimes see really good features that end up in something like a settings menu. And when we start talking with a client, we’ll explain why is this feature hidden in the settings menu? It’s a really great feature. We want to show it off. We want users to be able to discover that feature easily. So we want to bring it out of settings and high it somewhere in the core main navigation of the product.

Avinash Nagla: Basically, get a features, put your hero features in the front.

Peter Loving: Yeah. Exactly. So we see that happening over time that those hero features, they can get lost or mixed in amongst a lot of other clutter. And so that’s one reason the navigation is a great place to start. And the other reason is because if you have different categories of functionality in your product, it makes logical sense to group them. So if you have a CRM, for instance, you might have a section where you’re dealing with contacts, you might have a section where you’re dealing with the sales process, and you might have a section for reporting. So we basically create these categories and make sure the right features sit under the right categories and structure. And so by rethinking the navigation, that gives us a chance to make sure that the overall architecture of the software is intuitive from a user’s point of view. And then what we’ll do is say, okay, so which are the hero features? Like you said, which are the key screens where users spend most of their time and make the most impact? And we’ll work through redesigning those key screens step by step. And as we work down through the software, it gets easier and easier to design the sublevel screens because we’re usually working with a design system, and then we usually have a consistent visual language.

Peter Loving: So we’ll use elements over and over again, and we want to keep them consistent. So some of the other screens become easier and easier to design the more you work through the product. So we think of a project, okay, that’s a big project. We’re going to plan that for 6 to 12 months. In the meantime, we’re going to just improve these two screens, the dashboard and also the onboarding flow, for example. So that’s usually how we break things up.

Avinash Nagla: Awesome. Awesome. Thanks. Thanks, Peter. This was really, really helpful in terms of how to think about thinking long term versus short term. A lot of takeaways from this. One last question before we let you go, Peter, is one pro tip you would like to share with audience here.

Peter Loving: Okay, so what would that be? Okay, well, we’re advocates for product design. So if you are thinking about redesigning your software, it’s great to think about the value that design is going to bring, potentially for your users, but also for you and your vision. So we always think about design of how do we bring a more value to the users? How do we make their experience better, easier and more enjoyable? And then how do we make it so that the investment in design pays off? And that’s where we look at metrics, things like improving conversion rates, making the product look so much better that it stands out against competitors and helps you win more of your customer segment. And are there any opportunities for revenue growth? Are the upgrade flows in your product easy to do? Do they convert well? So that’s it. It’s just thinking about those three things for investing in design and being clear about it. I and setting your goals. And that way, design isn’t always the cheap thing to invest in, but it makes a huge impact. 

Avinash Nagla: Yeah. Cool. Thank you so much, Peter. We are almost past time as well, over ran, but learned a lot from this session, how to think about product like Motion, how to think about UI, UX, and how that impacts in overall customer experience. Thank you so much. Thoroughly enjoyed this session. And thank you so much to sharing your experiences and walking us through these tips and traits to be successful in this field. Really enjoyed.

Peter Loving: Thanks, Avinash. Really enjoyed talking about it and I really appreciated your questions. They were great topics for me to think about. So, yeah, thanks for your time. Thanks for having me on.

Avinash Nagla: Thank you.

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