📅 04 July, 2018
Do you remember when you first came up with the idea for your new SaaS product?
For me this moment came in January when I started my web app challenge. For the first time in years I had time to dedicate to building a product of my own.
I was excited to get started. I started by creating a working prototype for my idea using no code tools like Google Sheets and Zapier. This prototype worked well and my next step was to create a small software product that would greatly improve the user experience and provide a starting point for additional features.
But then I hit a wall. Even building a basic SaaS app requires a lot of functionality to get off the ground.
When you start out, building any part of your product feels great, you’re seeing the pieces come together. You likely have an app live on a development URL that you can actually use and interact with. It feels real.
But if you take a step back, what problems is your infant app actually capable of solving for your customers?
You might be thinking, “My developer told me they can build these things quickly and exactly how I want them”.
That may be true. But the question you need to ask your self is not “Can we build this?” but “Should we build this?”
Every feature you build has an opportunity cost. While customization and company convention might be a priority at scale, when you’re just starting out the focus must be on providing value to customers and learning where to iterate. Even building quickly could mean 4-6 weeks of development time.
I’m not arguing that your app doesn’t need these features, merely that if every other app needs them too, then they aren’t features that will win you market share or (and most importantly early on) features that will help you test your riskiest product assumptions.
If you’re not convinced, try this quick exercise.
Write a list of all the features you plan to build before you launch (or review your existing roadmap), next to each one write down what it will enable your customers to do.
Now ask yourself.
How many of these features are not found in 99% of SaaS apps? How many of these features are differentiating you from your competition?
Reviewing your list of planned features will help you identify which features are highest impact for your product and the ones you should spend your valuable development resources building.
What if you could spend all of your development time building the features that make your product unique. The good news is there are already options available to provide a springboard for your new product.
Here are 3 reasons to use existing tools for table-stakes features in your product instead of leveraging your own development resources..
So the next time a developer insists you should spend 6 weeks building boilerplate features instead of an hour setting up existing tooling, consider that there might be other options.
Because remember, the more time you spend getting your product to market the greater the cost of development and more importantly the more time you could spend building in the wrong direction.
If this resonates with you, I’d love to hear about your own experience building the first version of your product!
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