Vladimir Pilipchatin

6 reasons why building a SaaS without design will cost you more than you’ll save

When you decided to launch SaaS, you have an urge to get it out to the market. While the market is right and opportunity is here.

You don’t want to waste time & money. You want to start building ASAP and go straight to engineers.

I often see founders perceive design as something that stays in the way of engineering, where real work is done.

  1. “The product is fairly straightforward. I’m sure you get the concept. Why should we spend time on the design?”
  2. “Yes, yes. I already know how it should work. Let’s skip design & start right from the development.”
  3. “No the design is for big products. I don’t need a fancy design. Can we just build it?”
  4. “I already have a feature list, so why not just build it?.”

That’s the right thing to ask yourself. Being resourceful is what lets you launch a business in the first place.

But the wrong answer more often than not leaves you with:

  • The product, that took way more money & time than you expected.
  • A user experience that even after lots of changes is not exactly right, but you have neither energy nor time & money to fix that.
  • Less money, energy, and time to reach profitability.

I want to share with you why it can be a bad idea to skip design if you want to launch SaaS Product asap.

You always design, even if you don’t want to

Design is the process of finding the right solution.

Engineering is the process of building out that solution.

You can’t skip design. You’ll inevitably do it during development, even if you don’t intend to do it.

To build a product, you need to know WHAT the user can do with a product and HOW the user can do it. You can’t develop a product without intentionally or unintentionally defining it.

During the design process, you purposefully do it. But if you haven’t done it, you’ll do it during the development.

Design & Engineering has different process, goals & outcomes. And when you do both at the same time, you aren’t doing either one good.

So let’s take a look at what mixing these two results into.

1. You spend more time & money building wrong things

Part of the design process is rapid testing of different ideas of the solutions to find the right one.

With the design, you can get feedback that something is wrong in a matter of a day.

It is exactly what you CAN’T do when you develop an app without design.

You spend weeks building 1 solution only to realize that it isn’t the right one. And then spend weeks trying another one.

Building a house & drawing it is different things.

With the design, you need hours to test whether your idea is wrong or not. With code you need weeks.

2. Cost of change is way higher

20-minute change the design takes a week to change in the app.

When you design, you make a visual representation of a solution on a canvas.

When you code, you build out that solution and need to take care of logic, dependencies.

Things that you built are more difficult to change than the ones that you created on a canvas.

The later the change in the process, the higher the cost of a change.

3. You get not what you expected

The app that you envision.

The app that you describe to the developer.

The app that the developer understands.

The app that the developer built.

Can be very different.

What perfectly solves the problem on paper can be far not as good when it is built out.

Design helps to test how the product feels without building it. And it helps to get a shared vision of how the product should work.

Words are too ambiguous and too far from the final product that. Without the design, there are way too many open questions.

You can assume that If there is an open question that can be answered not the way you need it, it won’t.

4. Waste time on endless changes

Even when building software with a detailed design, changes are inevitable.

The map is not the territory

Alfred Korzybski

You’ll have even more changes when you build software without design.

The developers have no idea how the product should be when there is no design to define requirements.

As a result, the product will inevitably work not as you need it.

The time you don’t spend on the design is time you’ll spend on rebuilding your product.

5. Can’t accurately estimate the product

Estimating a list of features is like estimating the weight of an iceberg by its peak.

No matter how hard you estimate it, you’ll be wrong unless you dive under the surface.

Estimation of features list in most cases is way off because they ignore the underlying functionality.

To get an accurate time/cost you need to know:

  • WHAT user will be able to do with the product
  • HOW user will be able to do it
  • HOW you’ll be able to build it technically wise

And a list of features gives you only WHAT, but it doesn’t tell the HOW.

In addition to that, you’re a subject for all of the points above that can negatively impact your estimate.

So expect any estimate without the design to be way off. If you get one, double it to get a more realistic timeline & budget.

6. The product doesn’t solve a user problem

The goal of the design is to create a product that SOLVES a user problem.

UX Designer channels all the efforts to reach that goal. That’s why during the design, you spend time understanding the problem you’re trying to solve.

While the goal of the development is to BUILD a solution.

There is no reason to expect that developer will care whether the product solves the problem or not.

The developer already has plenty of challenges at hand. Even if they care about solving the problem, they won’t have the capacity to do it.

If you want a Product to solve a problem, you need to invest time into it. Otherwise, you leave it to a chance. And odds aren’t in your favor.

What to do instead?

You can see what skipping the design stage can lead to.

And what to do to avoid negative effects?

Don’t skip a design.

Invest in planning & designing your product before getting into the development.

With design net cost of the product will stay the same or will be lower.

Since the time you save when you skip design is the time you spend on rebuilding things.

The design shouldn’t be a piece of art. It just should solve the problem and give a clear understanding of:

  • What exactly user can do with the app
  • How exactly the user can do it

Here’s an overview of the design process for SaaS products:

  1. Research, defining requirements, product vision & strategy for product
  2. Creating user flows
  3. Creating black & white wireframes
  4. (Optional) Create prototype
  5. Design visual part of UI
  6. (Optional) Technical architecture

To deliver a better product on a budget, do design before development.

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