Given that it’s a fairly new technology as far as practical application is concerned, SaaS design has really yet to standardize across the industry both in mechanics and in interface. This results in a number of problems coming up, such as a learning curve of extreme magnitude from one design to the next, as well as a lot of experimentation that tends to wind up not working that well.
Now, this is typical of new technologies or concepts, and so the fact that it is happening isn’t something to get upset or terribly concerned over at face value. However, this early phase of non-standardized design practice causes overarching problems, the biggest being that with so many conflicting designs and failed experiments with SaaS design, the users suffer for it. This also slows the progress of adoption due to the image this tends to give SaaS for the moment.
Well, I can’t wave a magic wand and make standardization just … happen. But, what I can do is contribute my part to helping people come to terms with some design tips that will steer everyone in the right direction there. Here are the four biggest things to bear in mind, though there are many more factors to approach later.
#1 – Know When to Use Infinite Scrolling
I know I’ve talked about this thing many times, and I’ve had mixed opinions of it, but this is one of the bigger blunders I seem to see in SaaS and web designs in general. Infinite scrolling can be great when the items being scrolled are self-contained, and require no navigation away to view them to greater detail.
If they can simply expand, or spawn an AJAX box which doesn’t require reloading of the page scrolling the items, then it’s fine, and does save a lot of extra navigation for large sets of items (something productive SaaS tends to have). However, if you have to reload the scrolling page, you spend a lot of time trying to find your place again. It’s obnoxious.
So know when to use this concept, and how to implement it. This breaks so many SaaS designs, I am serious.
#2 – Eye Tracking Still Matters
Just because it’s not a traditional web page, don’t make the mistake of thinking that eye tracking isn’t just as important. Guiding the eye, and placing layouts to match order of recognition as a user is introduced to a structure is still important to the design making sense. Don’t try to mimic traditional software layouts – it’s ok to be like a web page and eye track accordingly.
#3 – Separate Mobile Optimization
Ok, one of the big advantages of SaaS is that, being delivered over web platforms, it’s cross-platform for anything that can run a modern browser and connect to the internet. This means that mobile and tablet devices are potential targets – ones people will want to use to one extent or another.
The big solution right now is to create apps to interact with these, given traditional web design is a mite awkward. This somewhat defeats the purpose. So, designing mobile versions of the interfaces (while these have a lot more hops) is a very important thing to do.
#4 – Standard Controls
Use standard web form elements, not complex, custom controls as well. This lends to the building of standards, and also ensures better compatibility with some of the more obtuse browsers like Firefox and Safari.
These of course do not a standard make, but for now, when it comes to SaaS design, these are tenets to live and die by … and by adhering to these, standards of design practice will emerge sooner, rather than later.