Beyond Features: How Human-Centric Design Elevates Your SaaS Offering

Insights 05 Feb 2024 by Mohamed Makarem
How Human-Centric Design Elevates Your SaaS Offering
Beyond Features

Bunny hop over here! Bunny hop over there! Welcome to the SaaS version of the finale to a game show. In this world, you’re not competing against fate – it’s users that you’re trying to win over, and the competition is cut-throat. If you think your app needs more features than a New Year’s parade, think again, because what you really need is human-centric design. Now, this isn’t just some fancy term. It’s a principle. One that aims to make your software so intuitive to use that, in a sense, it reads the user’s mind. And we are here to show you all the steps we take to make that happen to our SaaS product. Read on to find out how you can turn your SaaS product into a winner using human-centric design.

Understanding Human-Centric Design

Human-centric design is a bit like cooking a meal for dinner guests. If the host has a friend who hates heat, she wouldn’t make a spicy chilli to tempt the tongue of her discerning friend. Rather, she understands her friend’s tastes and preferences, so she fixes her favourite garden-variety fare – which just happens to deliver an unfiery experience.

A Deeper Dive into the User’s Psyche

Human‑centric design goes deep. It’s like you’re a psychological anthropologist for your users. You’re not just observing what they do, you’re understanding why they do it. Their daily rituals and technostress and little victories. This stuff matters because in the SaaS world, even a small annoyance can see users leap overboard faster than rats from a sinking pirate ship.

Design Thinking: The Heart of Human-Centric Design

Elementary to the ‘human-centred’ design process is what’s called ‘design thinking’, where one empathises, define, ideate, prototype and test, kind of like a reverse-engineered scientific method, but super cool and also with lots of sticky notes on the wall where all the formative, inspirational thinking is recorded. La di da. When you’re designing solutions to any problem, whether it’s a new urban, built environment, or a service, it’s comforting to know that your solutions don’t come from the cloud of false assumptions.

It necessitates a radical, perhaps even sacrificial attention to the unspoken, actual needs of users– a sort of empathic wearing of another’s shoes, seeing with their eyes, and then making for them something new that solves their problems and improves their lives, all at once. Human-centric design is a design philosophy that puts the user first. Every element of your product, from interface to functionality, should be born from your empathic understanding of the people who will actually use it.

They are about breaking free from feature-first design, and towards more empathetic human-centred design — asking not only ‘what’, but also ‘why’ and ‘how’ — and as Clark lustily puts it, taking people ‘from ‘should’ to ‘loud yay!’ — from things that users can use, to things that they love.

The Impact of Human-Centric Design on SaaS

The Magic of Personalization: From User to Hero

Human-centred design turns the user into the protagonist of your software story. It is literally about giving the user a wand to make your software into whatever form they need. This can be as unimpressive as customisable dashboards or as impressive as AI-based recommendations. The experience of using the system indicates that the software is theirs.

If your SaaS product is able to adjust to the requirements and style of each user, they will respond as if their tool were now theirs, and that will inject an emotional charge that makes the chore at least as enjoyable as the feeling when you open a card that was hand-addressed and handwritten by someone who took the time to express how he feels about you.

Emotional Connection: The Holy Grail of User Experience

A great example of this is how some brands make you feel like they ‘get you’; this is also a key element of human-centric design. It’s about crafting meaningful moments within the app experience that resonate on an emotional level, forming a connection with a user. It could be a celebratory tone of voice in a pop-up toast when a task — such as setting a meeting — is complete. Or, perhaps a user is stressed when trying to screen-share online with a colleague. Research shows that experiences become enriched when they are designed for users’ emotional states.

This emotional attachment makes users show their love for your product. They become your evangelists, spreading the word. If users feel emotionally connected to your product, they’re experiencing it, not just using it. That’s why word-of-mouth works so well, because people are doing more than sharing; they’re sharing their feelings.

Beyond Usability: Crafting Memorable Experiences

That’s usability, which is simply the bottom line, and it shares an ‘-able’ ending, which is unfortunate. It also shares an ‘-is’ ending – the endings play a lot of tricks on us – suggesting that ‘usable’ might be the ultimate and final description when, in reality, usability is only a starting point, much like an open-heart surgery. What differentiates usability is its already-successful close relative, human-centric design, which lives somewhere above usability in the design stratosphere. It’s where experiences are crafted that are more than simply easy to use; they’re enjoyable. Call it usability is the door, and the experience is what makes them stay.

Data-Driven Design: Marrying Analytics with Empathy

In the land of SaaS, data is the boss. But the queen of human-centric design is empathy. Bringing the hard numbers from analytics together with something softer can help you adjust your product so that users find it intuitive.

For example, you might find that a feature is under-utilised, but by looking with empathy at the world through a user’s eyes, you could end up understanding why. Perhaps the feature is too complex, or it doesn’t fit into the user’s workflow. Either way, this would inform how you could iterate the feature into something that better meets the user’s needs.

How Human-Centric Design Elevates Your SaaS Offering
How Human-Centric Design Elevates Your SaaS Offering

Integrating User-Centric Design in SaaS

The Symphony of Collaboration: Bringing Teams Together

User-Centered Design in SaaS as a normalised approach to how SaaS products and services are manufactured will require each part of your enterprise to work as an instrument and play a song alongside the users. Each part of your managerial design — developers, designers and marketers — will all have to work to translate their company’s message into a customer’s voice. Silos will break down. Empathy will cover your product like a plush coat.

Data-Driven Empathy: Balancing Numbers with Narratives

Data gets your ‘what’, empathy gets you your ‘why’. It’s about finding a balance between quantitative data (such as usage statistics) and qualitative insights (from user interviews). This will help us understand the user experience from different dimensions. With User-Centered Design in SaaS you can base your directorial decisions on data-driven insights as well as empathy-informed perspective. A chef who always knows the recipe by heart knows exactly what to cook. Understanding the taste preferences of your guests will help you craft a better menu.

If we want to find meaning in these analytic examinations as we do in direct counterpart-interactions, we have to empathetically read what the data isn’t saying as well as what it is. Users might be avoiding a feature you thought they loved. It could be that they only liked it when someone showed it to them. Or the function is too small to pay attention to – some shifts in the next interface might make it everyone’s favourite new tool. The story behind the data is part of what you need to know if you’re going to make good, User-Centered Design in SaaS.

Iterative Design: The SaaS Salsa Dance

Rather than thinking of your product as ‘dead’ (in the sense that you build it once and then leave it alone), think of it as alive, and in constant motion. To that end, you should use user feedback to evolve and grow your product at every step along the way. Iterative design is not merely a philosophy or methodology. it’s a strategy for becoming a more committed, responsive and agile organisation. It’s about being responsive to what your users tell you, and pivoting when their needs change.

Cultivating a User-Centric Culture

User-Centered Design in SaaS is a more cultural than a process shift. It’s about establishing a culture of putting users first across your organisation. A culture of ensuring every decision, big or small, is made with your users firmly in mind. It’s marked by a willingness to be in a constant state of not-knowing, a readiness for ongoing discovery, and a spirit of empathy. It engenders an entire attitude toward the development of your product.

SaaS-as-Service means making something that not only works but connects. It’s about journeying with your software towards a heartbeat that beats for both yourself and your users. It’s about not just delivering an experience that’s used, but also one that’s loved. This is the focus of using User-Centered Design in SaaS products.

Q1: What’s the real difference between User-centric and user-friendly design?

A: User-Centered Design is the chef who knows your favourite dish. User-friendly design is McDonald’s. They both feed you, but one is serving it up with a spoon.

Q2: Can small SaaS companies implement User-centric design effectively?

A: Yes, it is! You’re like a shifty chef in a basic kitchen. Instead of focusing on management and products, think closely about your users, and use creativity over money to delight.

Q3: How does human-centric design impact SaaS scalability?

A: it gets like wine: older it gets the better it gets. Staying in touch with users your app adapts and evolves, so scalability becomes more intuitive and user-oriented.

Q4: How do you measure the success of human-centric design?

A: The equivalent of writing customer reviews of a new restaurant. User engagement, satisfaction and positive word of mouth are all good indicators that your users are actually having a good time.

Final Question: How do you get help?

A: Book a personalised Insight Session with my team and we will look into your product and see what you are not seeing.