Last year, the revenue of the SaaS market reached 170 billion US dollars. This year, the number will be more significant – our team gets more software-as-a-service development requests than ever.
SaaS has a lot of advantages – a long-term revenue stream from subscriptions, accessibility, intuitive interface, and mobile-friendly functionality.
At Syndicode, we use the entire collection of SaaS application development tools. We thought it wouldn’t be fair to just keep these tried-and-proven stacks to ourselves and made a free guide. Enjoy and implement.
A short review of SaaS functionality
When we are talking about SaaS development tools, we’ll be referring to building SaaS functionality and interface. An average software as a service consists of the following components.
A part of SaaS that’s visible to a user and is open to interactions. The front-end codebase usually handles this part of the service. In SaaS, the presentation layer is formed by four components: navigation, controls, reporting, and data rendering.
We’ll be analyzing these components on one of the best-known software-as-a-service – Salesforce.
Software as a Service handles a lot of sensitive data, including personal and financial information. Developing security-related functionality typically entails creating authentification algorithms, setting up role-based access control, managing identity data. All SaaS should have encryption, covering information up in case of data leakage, comply with legal regulations, and entitlement management that defines responsible personas.
Here’s an example of security in Salesforce: access rules, defaults, permissions.
The core functionality of SaaS should allow users to perform useful actions, manage their profiles, monitor data, etc. This component of a software-as-a-service contains notifications and subscriptions, workflows, user profiles, messaging, metadata, synchronization algorithms, exception handling, etc.
Here’s the structure of Salesforce SaaS – to get you a better idea.
To be functioning correctly, a SaaS has to be capable of the whole range of protective operations. SaaS alert users about changes, monitor updates, backup date, automatically configure the functionality based on user preferences, provide built-in metrics.
An example of the operation level of a mobile SaaS, created by Salesforce.
All these features rely on the underlying infrastructure that consists of a database, computing resources, data storage, and communication protocols. This layer is responsible for smooth database performance and sets the foundation for all other features.
Take a look at all the components in the single structure – it’s an excellent visual representation of the concepts.
The development process derives from the needs of software-as-a-service. Each component of the product is developed in separate stages, and each of them requires a toolkit.
Tools for SaaS application development
In a SaaS development project, backend developers are responsible for building a platform set up, preparing the environment, defining business logic, and writing the code for it. Backend SaaS developers are responsible for all the behind-the-scenes work in a software-as-a-service.
Backend development language
The first step is picking a language that you will use to write the functionality of a SaaS. The backend code communicates directly with the hardware, so we are talking about general-purpose languages.
In Syndicode, we use Ruby and Ruby on Rails because they are intuitive, easy to maintain, and fast to write. Ruby is known for its concise syntax – it needs 3-4 times fewer lines than Java does. Ruby on Rails is one of the best web development frameworks with a vast library (the collection of “gems” is unrivaled”), efficient performance, and a built-in code compiler.
SaaS that use Ruby and Ruby on Rails
- Basecamp: a SaaS for developers that allows managing coding projects, tracking to-do lists, updates, and communicate with team members. They are also among Ruby on Rails founders, pretty much paving the way for everyone else.
- GitHub: a popular SaaS for software developers where they can share code, edit files together, share reusable components, and get feedback on their work. It’s the most significant code repository platform with more than 6 million active visitors.
- Shopify: a SaaS that allows business owners to build e-commerce stores and manage online’s shop design and backend operations. Among its clients are small businesses and enterprises alike, including Forbes.
- ZenDesk: an enterprise-level Cloud platform that is used by Uber, Disney, Vodafone, and other 50 000 organizations.
We wrote the entire post about Ruby and Ruby on Rails, where we explore this subject in-depth. For now, these are some of the best tools for SaaS development.
Software as a service handles a lot of data, which is why the choice of a database management system is pivotal. The first step is choosing between SQL and Non-SQL databases.
Here’s a short comparison of both.
|SQL databases||Non-SQL databases|
|Tech stack||All tools use single language (SQL)||Syntax depends on a particular tool|
|Organization||Each entry requires a separate table||Entries don’t have to be broken down in tables|
|Manageability||Easier to read and organise because all the data is sorted||Information isn’t sorted correctly, so duplication is possible|
|Ease of creating||Difficult at the first stages because developers need to sort out all the inputs||Easy at first but the readability decreases as the size of documents grow|
|Consistency||All the data is consistent and easy to quantify||The information isn’t sorted out|
Overall, SQL databases fit well for SaaS that handles a lot of objectives, numeric data – like marketing, accounting, software development tools. For real-time collaboration services, project management tools, and networking tools, non-SQL tools will be a better fit.
- For non-SQL development – MongoDB. A document-based database management system. It’s the most popular non-SQL solution on the market, known for its flexibility, universality, and rich functionality.
- For SQL development – MySQL. The most popular table-based database. MySQL is the most popular solution for database, used by 8 out of 10 providers, used by companies like Shopify, Uber, Airbnb, and others.
SaaS software development tools for front-end
The choice of a JS framework usually boils down to these most SaaS software development tools:
- Angular.js: it’s a go-to choice for Single Page Application development. The structure of the framework is lightweight, fast, and easy-to-maintain. The framework offers an extensive library of reusable code fragments, a lot of which are built specifically with SaaS functionality. For CleanAgents, a SaaS for ordering cleaning services, we chose Angular because it provided us freedom.
- Vue.js: Angular is more popular than Vue, but the latter is catching up. Vue is known for its fast performance, powerful engine, and flexible templates. Unlike Angular, which provides fixed models for development, Vue allows more creativity. However, it’s ecosystem is still not as universal as Angulars.
- React.js: although it’s technically not a framework, a library, React is often mentioned together with Angular and Vue. It has a comprehensive ecosystem and a powerful: a framework for mobile development, React Native. We used React to build InstaLinks, a SaaS where users can create quick sharing links.
Front-end developers are entirely responsible for the functionality that users see on the page and interact with. They cooperate with designers and backend developers – this is how the entire team stays in the loop.
Additional front-end development tools
- Bower: a Ruby-based package manager that allows building front-end with Ruby on Rails. It’s a great asset to experienced Ruby developers because you can use this clear and concise language for client0-side as well. However,r it’s not perfect: the gems are community-created and hardly monitored, so there are loads of problematic packages.
- Bootstrap: a front-end package with UI styles and templates. It’s developed by Twitter and has a big ecosystem. By using Bootstrap, you minimize the percentage of code that has to be written from scratch.
Software-as-a-service are sophisticated web platforms that handle multiple requests at once and perform complex operations. Because there are many simultaneous operations, the software needs an input-output intensive hosting server.
Amazon Web Services
The main advantage of Amazon Web Services is its versatility. AWS offers tools for implementing innovations like AI, IoT, big data. You can build a serverless application with Lambda, use built-in code editors and debugging tools. However, it’s an enterprise-level platform that primarily targets large businesses. For a big company, it’s a perfect fit, while a startup should consider other options before committing to AWS.
Google Cloud has the same pricing plan as WAS. Amazon bills businesses 0,2 dollars for 1 million requests, while Google will charge 0,4 dollars for 2 million. However, it’s a better option for startups because of a Startup Program. According to Google’s conditions, you can apply for an improved program by contacting your incubator.
This hosting provider is known for several reasons. The first is being beginner-friendly: to get started with GoDaddy, you don’t need to understand coding, set up a complicated infrastructure. Connecting GoDaddy to the website is incredibly straightforward, plus, the company has a lot of beginner resources. Secondly, the level of stability is almost impeccable – uptime rates are about 99-100%.
Content Delivery Network
CDN is a server network that delivers the platform’s content to users, depending on their location. When a visitor sends a request, the system automatically redirects it to the closest reserver and caches the data.
It is one of the biggest content delivery networks on the market with SSD servers and hardware. The network spans over 90 countries. This network supports Drupal, Magento, and WordPress, and also offers additional integrations for setting up security, data processing algorithms and choosing smart routing strategies.
This CDN is a part of the Amazon ecosystem and is available to the users of Amazon Web Services.platfrom gives users freedom in choosing certifications (SSL vs. HTTPS), domain names, and data transfer trends. The platform supports live-streaming features, dynamic web pages, error responses, etc.
Cloudflare is focused on security and bandwidth protection. This network is good at detecting bots and crawlers and protects your server resources from being misused. We like that it also gives a lot of statistics on recent security threats. You can track in real-time the vulnerabilities of your page, and employ more forceful protection methods.
SaaS rarely needs a custom payment tool: it takes too long to build, test, secure, and maintain. Also, it’s not necessary – we have plenty of ready-to-go integrations to choose from. At Syndicode, we base our selection on gateway’s security, compatibility with different browsers and devices, support of many payment methods, and cost. Take a look at our top picks and their advantages.
It’s kind of an obvious choice, but really, PayPal is one of the best gateways on the market. Its main advantage is popularity: with 165 million users on the service, you’ll be covering the needs of the majority of visitors. Nielsen also backs it up with statistics: stores that integrated Paypal get 44% sales than those who don’t.
PayPal is known for its simple transfers, low commission fees, and versatile additional functionality. It’s easy to integrate – there are a lot of guides and even ready-to-use code. Most importantly, it works well on mobile devices. The only issue we have with PayPal is its limited geographical support – many countries are yet to adopt it.
This gateway became popular relatively recently, but it quickly became a top choice for SaaS. For one, it’s known for security. The system tries to store as little data as possible on the server, minimizing the leaking of something important. Stripe has a lot of custom integrations, many of which are explicitly created for SaaS.
It’s a go-to payment option for software-as-a-service and marketplaces: it’s used by Shopify, Kickstartyed, Lyft, Medium, and others. It’s also a top choice for many startups due to a friendly pricing policy. However, just like Paypal, it’s not available in a variety of countries.
Payoneer is our favorite international payment service. It’s supported in 200 countries, covering a lot bigger geography than Paypal or Stripe. It’s not particularly intuitive: users need to get a card, approve their transfers back and forth, convert currencies, and send requests. However, because Payoneer wants to prioritize safety, it checks the transfer thoroughly before sending it through.
SaaS business development and analytics
SaaS is known to proliferate. Without tracking your visitors, leads, and conversions, you will be overwhelmed by your progress. Our clients should know in which direction to improve and what to optimize, so our team always helps with setting up tangible metrics and use automated analytical tools. As always, we’ll share the top ones.
For any web page, Google Analytics is a must. The service presents teams with insights on audience activity, demographics, conversion rates, number of leads and sales, bounce rates, etc. GA is great for tracking what pages perform the best and could drive users away from the purchase.
Adobe Analytics offers customer support, has a full marketing suite, and offers very detailed reports on the target audience. It provides excellent insights for digital marketing, email marketing campaigns, and is helpful during the subsequent development stages.
Adobe Marketing has a range of in-depth marketing features: AB testing, retargeting, and social analytics tools, media listening, etc. There’s a downside, too. To work with Adobe Analytics, you need to be subscribed to Adobe Cloud for $100,000 yearly plans. Sure, it covers all your marketing needs – but it’s a significant investment.
This analytical platform is focused mostly on financial objectives and revenue strip. The product is used by big SaaS companies like CodeShip and Hubspot for tracking financial influxes, setting financial goals, and strategies.
ProfitWell supports some very in-depth financial metrics. You can calculate monthly recurring revenue, LTV customers, and other parameters. SaaS teams we worked with also pointed out that ProfitWell offers excellent suggestions for financial growth.
The final checklist
Let’s go over the main components of SaaS development and recap tools that are used in the process.
- A general-purpose language (Ruby, Python, Java) and a framework (Ruby on Rails)
- Database management system: SQL (MySQL) or non-SQL software (MongoDB)
- JS Libraries: React.js and React Native for mobile development.
- Cloud platforms: Amazon Web Services for corporations, Google Cloud for startups;
- Web hosting: GoDaddy, one of the leading platforms for website hosting;
Content delivery network
- Amazon Cloud – for teams that already use the AWS ecosystem or enterprises that build an international SaaS;
- MaxCDN: one of the most popular enterprise-level content delivery network;
- Cloudflare: a security-oriented solution for a SaaS that handles sensitive data (financial, medical services).
- PayPal: the most popular payment integration, great for businesses that work on the American and European markets;
- Stripe: a robust integration with functionality specially adapted to software-as-a-service; perfect for startups that work on local markets;
- Payoneer: a gateway for international businesses that supports more than 200 countries.
Saas business development and analytics
- Google Analytics: a free monitoring solution for tracking the number of page visits, conversions, leads;
- Adobe Analytics: an all-in-one platform with in-depth marketing businesses, suitable both for startups and enterprise-level applications;
- Profitwell: a financial monitoring tool.
With this tech stack, you will already be able to develop a robust and secure SaaS, although this is not a specific combination. When we build a SaaS project, we do market and marketing research, analyze competitors, talk to potential users to understand what product requirements have the highest priority.
For some SaaS, fast data processing is a priority – those that offer real-time collaboration or handle loads of content. For others, security is the main criteria, especially if you are working in finance or healthcare. To know which tech stack fits your project, consult our SaaS developers – and take a look at our projects to see how we approached building different software-as-a-service.