Building a website for a SaaS (Software as a Service) product is different from building a website for a traditional software product. There’s a few do’s and don'ts that I’ve learned from developing dozens of websites for SaaS and non-SaaS products.
A few things to consider when building sites to support SaaS products:
It needs to teach the customer about the product, funnel them to sign up and house all marketing campaigns. It’s important for the website to be flexible so you can make changes at any minute, so it’s crucial to use of an approachable, and easy to use CMS.
Products are driven by engineering teams, on sprint-driven schedules and should not be interdependent with marketing sites, content and funnels. We typically recommend keeping product (or even its web access portal) separate from marketing sites.
Community and Support
It’s important to use best-of-class tools to enable your support team to serve customers successfully and collect valuable insights for engineering.
Documentation and Resources
This can include implementation guides, tutorials, videos, release notes, and more. It’s important to make sure this is fully indexed by search engines and is simple for users to navigate. Depending on product needs, this can either be developed in house or be built with off-the-shelf resource centers.
Why separating the marketing site from the product is a good idea
Our team was approached by a team who’s engineering team originally build the marketing website as a part of the product. When the engineering team built the marketing website, it never occurred to them how often the marketing team planned on making updates so they built the website following the same policies they set for their product. This crippled the marketing team as a simple marking change required the team to go through the entire product build cycle. They needed to schedule changes weeks in advance. Contentstack team worked with the marketing and engineering teams to separate the marketing website from the product and enable the marketing team to work independently. The team also needed to build an instant sign up for trials and automate provisioning of all account tools. The final setup included:
- Dynamic marketing website managed through a Contentstack, a business friendly CMS so the marketing can update messaging and run campaigns daily
- Signup portal to enable onboarding and lead capture
- Automated scripting to provision the cloud account and allocated necessary resource for each trial. This also automatically spun down all resources when a trial ended or an account closed
A Developer-Friendly Solution
The www.built.io website is architected following the blueprint above. The site includes all marketing content, campaigns and our community (we use a platform called Muut). The product is accessed at manage.built.io where users can also create a new account. The product team enabled marketing to create custom trials and a funneled onboarding experience in minutes without any custom product development. For documentation, it was important to empower the developers to iterate without oversight by the marketing team so it was launched separately at docs.built.io. The built.io team can manage the documentation in Markdown, their preferred format and update it through Contentstack at any time.
Educate Users to Drive Targeted Conversions
Built.io is managing development of a microsite designed for two different but similar products. Currently, per product requirements, neither is available for a direct user signup so both are accessed by filling out a form. This connects the potential customer with either the sales team or the engineering team depending on what is selected. The teams then engage directly with the customer. The website is managed entirely by Contentstack. This enables the marketing team to make changes to anything in the microsites in seconds. Because this site is completely separate from the two products, the product engineering teams do not need to be distracted from their goal by supporting marketing campaigns and content updates. The marketing team can move at their own speed, launching new pages in days or weeks with powerful integrations such as DemandBase, Eloqua, Olark, and Qualtrics, to target customers effectively and measure campaign success.
- Develop and manage the product separately from the marketing website; enable each respective team to do what they do best.
- There is no single correct approach for areas like community, support, documentation or resources. Find the tool that’s best for you.
- Remember, all team members have a common goal, so don’t block them from helping you accomplish it!
If you’ve had experience, feel free to add your own best practices in the comments.