Here is 10 tips to anyone who is launching or thinking about launching web software.
1. Best of two
A lot of Software as a Service (SaaS) owners expect web development companies to deliver complete solution without any specification. However if time is spend on writing 50-pages of detailed specification it kills creativity of development team.
None of developers know your business from inside out like you do. And you probably wouldn't know web technologies like they do. Only collaborative effort will produce best results.
2. Make it popular
Almost every SaaS software has link to twitter, facebook or LinkedIn. The more social is your solution, the more people will return to it and bring others. SEO is important for your business but it's on-going publicity what will make you successful.
It isn't so hard as it seems once you decide on your social activities and find right tools for it. Start it before your project is launched and there is bigger possibility of your SaaS software success.
3. Make it secure
A lot of people out there don't trust web. They still like to keep their data on desktop. Even thought it is changing, there is a big worry out there that web is not secure.
Talk more about security. Avoid collecting details you won't need. Get security expert to look at your website before launching it and tell your users about it.
4. It should be unique and valuable
If you are building new SaaS think how unique it is. There are many people who try to duplicate successful websites like twitter or LinkedIn. Unless you put a lot in money you will fail.
Focus on one or couple unique things of your software and do them well.
5. Check usability and simplicity
Best usability experts are people who never heard word "Usability". Try product with your friends, parents or focus group.
Usability is where many of the SaaS fail. It doesn't matter how good is idea behind software, if I can't find Save button or it takes more than 10 min to register.
6. Build pilot quickly and improve it
So your friends like your idea? Have you enough confidence to gamble and build it into a product?
In real life users behave differently. They might like the product, but when you ask them to pull out their credit card - they will think again.
Build quick pilot project of your idea and equip it with subscription engine. Most people pay for the idea, not for fancy design or lots of small features. Put more into promotion and then continue to improve your product driven by user feedback.
7. Install statistics and review them
Google Analytics is great tool for simple pages, however what about web software? Good news is that you already have a lot of information inside your database. Use it to build reports and integrate it with Google Analytics.
Find patterns of your trial users. Most of your trial users will not be able to return simply because they would forget the URL of your web app. Capture their data on sign-up, follow up with them and ask what turned them down.
8. Don't give it free
Even if you are still in pilot - add payment screen. You can use introductory price, but your users have to be comfortable with idea of paying for your product.
You can roll out multiple versions of your products later and introduce multiple pricing. Offer existing users option to upgrade to take advantage of new features.
Don't give software for free or you will never be able to get money out of it.
9. Hosting does cost
If you are planning SaaS solution that works with a lot of data, hosting will take money for that. Don't expect to pay just 10 EUR per year for it. Plan it into your financial expenses.
If you are going to move media around it will be costly. When you think about your per-user profit, think how much of storage, bandwidth and cpu costs are involved per-user.
Amazon AWS has good calculator that could help you calculate your costs. Make decisions how long will you store user data. Also look into cheaper hosting providers such as Linode or Slicehost.
10. Maintain it
Good SaaS software should be maintained regularly. Bugfixes, new features and customer support is what makes your SaaS better than others. Make sure that company that develops your software, can maintain it on long term.
Also plan - what happens if you have to maintain your product yourself? Is it using proprietary code which you will not own?
Don't forget to plan for maintenance expenses.
Bonus suggestion: Legal side
Even if your users agree to terms, it does not meat they will follow them. It's always better to check or allow other users to report offenders.