Using Full-stack Developers for Your Web App

If you’re building a web app or considering it you most certainly will be in need of a developer or development agency. In this search, you may have come across the term “full-stack developer” so in this article we’ll discuss all of these terms and the roles and responsibilities of each.

In this article we’ll learn about;

  • The different types of developers
  • What the types of developers are typically responsible for (including full-stack developers)
  • Pros and cons of hiring a full-stack developer.

Before we start, you might be interested to understand more about the different types of web applications there are. Read about that in our article.

What is the Difference Between Web Apps, Native Apps, Hybrid Apps and Progressive Web Apps for My SaaS App?

What Do We Mean by Stack?

“Stack” refers to the layers of web development and the technology involved typically front end and back end or client and server. You may also have stacks within those stacks. For instance, someone might ask what your front end stack is and the answer might be React, Styled Components, Webpack.

When a developer knows the “stack” they better understand the product and its technical challenges. Each item in the stack requires a set of skills that vary greatly, which we’ll go into now.

Image from “Web Application Architecture Part-2 (Guide to become Full Stack Developer)

Popular Web App Stacks

Here are some popular stacks you might have heard of when it comes to web application development. They contain a mixture of server technology, serverside languages and client-side languages.

  • LAMP stack: Linux – Apache – MySQL – PHP
  • LEMP stack: Linux – Nginx – MySQL – PHP
  • MEAN/MERN stack: MongoDB – Express – Angular/React – Node.js
  • Django stack: Python – Django – MySQL
  • Ruby on Rails: Ruby – SQLite – Rails

We used MERN stack in our project with Ontologue. The benefits of this are that the entire tech stack uses JavaScript which, of course, means it’s easier for a single developer to work on the project.

So, What is Full-Stack Web App Development?

When we discuss web apps and web app development in particular, you might be surprised to know these are actually two jobs, front end and back end developer. The web has become more complex, and these are people who specialise in various fields and have a deep understanding of their field and as such require a specialist skillset.

A full-stack developer combines the role of front end and back end along with creating the database and fulfils all the requirements for the web application project. Full-stack developers have the knowledge of various programming languages and bring the product to the end-stage for release. For the critical MVP stages, both large-scale organisations and entrepreneurs have started to rely on them for building a website or API application.

What is the Difference Between the Frontend and Backend Development?

To understand what a full stack developer is, let’s first understand the difference between the front end and back-end development.

In the front end, client-side development is focused on the app to design the user interface. It will include building a highly responsive and functional app. Some roles front-end developers play includes web designer, UI designer, and User Experience (UX) designer. A person who calls himself/herself a front end developer will have these skills altogether. It mainly requires knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript languages. However, there are still some things that won’t be possible with the front-end. Using this knowledge, a developer will be able only to create a static website.

Technologies a front end developer may be concerened with;

For the back-end, the server-side layer of the web apps is focused. It is advised that the back-end developer must have knowledge of more than two server-side languages and frameworks such as Node.js with Express.js, Python with Django, Ruby with Ruby on Rails, or Java with Spring MVC. It is also quite common for the backend developer to have an understanding of the server technology their code will run on but this role can even be separated out into its own role called “web ops/operations”. DevOps is a term you may have heard but this is technically incorrect which we won’t get in to here.

Technologies a back end developer may be concerned with;

To create a dynamic website, having back-end development knowledge is essential. A dynamic site is regularly changing and updating in real-time, which requires database working efficiency. Websites like Facebook, Google Maps, and Twitter are some examples of dynamic back-end development.

Apart from the front end and back-end, a full stack developer will take care of the database as well. Therefore, you will have the upper hand under all circumstances.

Pros of Hiring a Full Stack Developer for your Web Application:

If you are speculating why you should hire a full stack developer, we have some advantages that you can consider before making your final decision:

Fewer Resources Utilisation with Efficacy:

When multiple teams are working on a single project, there is always a gap left in the front-end and back-end engineering. Appointing a team that works in sync for both front-end and back-end, this means that they will be able to optimize the resource use. A cross-functional team will be a great asset to develop the project efficiently.

Excellent Speed & Performance:

Using languages that are event-driven and have a non-blocking IO model such as Node.js is beneficial. It paces up the web development process and improves performance as well.

Vast Talent Pool:

Recently, engineers are paying more attention to improving their skills. And the preferable languages are only a few. On a worldwide scale, 62.5% of developers are using JavaScript for web development. And fortunately, there are more than 10 million JavaScript developers will advance skills available for your help.

Cost-Effective:

Having a full-stack developer is a cost-effective way for web apps development. They will know how to bring every aspect of the project together in the quickest way possible. Handling a web app project requires a lot of coordination to ensure there is no error.

With the help of a full-stack developer, you will have a significant advantage over the development and designing process of the web application.

Interviewing the developers will provide you an insight into the work they do. Web application design and development can be tricky if you don’t pay any attention. The process needs evaluation, verification, and validation at all stages.

On a personal basis, the developer will also have the benefits of enhancing their skills to a full stack developer.

Expand Development Skills:

Becoming a full stack developer will allow a developer to combine their knowledge of the back end and front-end processes. The knowledge of full-spectrum will make it possible for a developer to create projects and applications alone.

Deeper Understanding of Overall Development:

Having only one side knowledge of web apps development limits your skills. For instance, if you are facing troubles with the server-side development, a front-end developer won’t of much help to you. Hence, getting a deeper understanding of all phases of development will make you master of all.

Serve as Technical Leader:

From a business point of view, a full stack developer would be the right choice to lead the web apps, development team. They understand the complete cycle and guide you at every step of the process. That’s why; full-stack developers are an extremely valuable resource for the companies.

So, hire someone with the right skills, and you will have your SaaS product developed and ready within no time.

Challenges for Full Stack Developers:

However, believing that hiring a full stack developer is only advantageous is a mistake. It comes with a few challenges as well.

Growing Number of Stack:

The first problem with full-stack developers is that stacks have grown immensely. The process isn’t limited to front-end, back-end, and database anymore. It includes machine learning, data analytics, mobile and web development, deployment process, and after release management. Furthermore, These technologies are evolving rapidly, which makes it hard to catch-up with everything.

Standards Hard To Match:

The quality of the software is much of a standard expectation now. Every business has to meet its customer’s expectations to have an excellent user experience. To achieve such high standards, full-stack development is a must.

Different Architecture:

Whether it is the back-end, front-end, or database, every development phase has its own set of problems different from each other. It requires expertise in various programming languages, paradigms, and frameworks. All that knowledge will take time to study, and practicing them in real life is also time-consuming. Hence, being a full stack developer is like taking a course that never ends.

Technology Specialisation:

Starting with the front-end and framework, there is an extensive coding programming combined with Angular, React, and View. Then, there is UI and UX engineering, CSS architecture, prototype, design and animation, and other aspects. After that, tooling, software designing, package management, and other elements of infrastructure are handled. Even the later testing phase also cannot be done by just one person. Each layer of full-stack development is a big challenge in itself. And in that condition, mastering them all requires a lot of effort.

Lack of In-depth Knowledge:

There is a significant disadvantage of being a full stack developer. You may gain complete knowledge of web apps; however, keeping track of every skill might be a little tricky. It is believed that Full Stack Developers are the jack of all trades and master of none. Mastering MySQL, PHP, MongoDB, JavaScript, Node.js, CSS, HTML5, and others will take years. We are not saying that it is impossible to attain, but it is considerably difficult.

A technical expert in your organisation can tackle every problem at various stages, and capable of carrying out a project is a big advantage. The technological revolution has made it clear that to develop SaaS products; we need experts in every field.

In summary, there are many pros and cons to hiring a “one-man-band” web app developer and it really comes down to your unique use-case and the requirements of your product. If you’re interested to hear more, please feel free to contact us and find out how we can help you plan out your web application development.

Let’s Keep Things Moving

In our efforts to keep small businesses going in this uncertain time we would like to offer a little something that we hope will keep the economy moving.

We’d like to offer our web development services completely free.

This will include;

  • Bespoke website development in Webflow (standard 5-page website)*
  • Domain setup (bring your own domain, we recommend namecheap.com)
  • Contact form setup
  • Email address setup using your fancy new domain ([email protected])
  • CMS Editor

This is ideal for new businesses, those that are self-employed designers, SaaS product teams and their landing pages. Basically, anyone that can source a website design for us to build. This is not using a template, this is created bespoke to you. We’ll also support in working with you and your design to make the final finishing touches to launch.

We’re also open to working with those without a design for a reduced price working with our incredible design team.

What’s the Catch?

We’re hoping to use the work we do with you to promote our expansion into Webflow with our services and newly announced MVP and Website packages in exchange for a free website in the coming weeks.

This will be on a first-come-first-serve basis. Your website will need to contain one link-back to our website.

All we require is hosting fees billed $250 USD for the year.

Designing an Effective Landing Page

To design an effective landing page we’ve put together a blog post to help with some considerations. You can read all about that here.

Blog post: https://blog.jupiterandthegiraffe.com/tech-startup-guide-to-designing-an-effective-landing-page-that-converts-your-saas-product/

Case Study

Take a look at the work we did for Boombocs in rebuilding their landing page in order to encourage sales of their product. We designed and built this along with the interactions and animations.

https://boombocs.com/

Price Reductions

Last week we announced a 40% reduction in the price in our MVP package as well as a 20% reduction in our Website package.

We hope in some small way we can help people in this trying time. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out and ask. [email protected]

* this offer is intended for basic website/landing page development. No 3rd party service integrations other than those offered by Webflow. Sorry.

What is the Difference Between Web Apps, Native Apps, Hybrid Apps and Progressive Web Apps for My SaaS App?

What’s the difference between Web Apps, Native Apps, Progressive Web Apps and what the hell are Hybrid Apps? In this article, we will discuss what each of these is and how you can build the SaaS app or platform of your dreams.

For those not interested in the details, here they are in a nutshell…

Web Apps – used by any browser on any system and is essentially a highly interactive, fluid and responsive website optimised for smartphone use. Must be connected to the internet at all times to work.

Native Apps –  One system or platform, such as Apple (iOS) or Android devices. They are downloaded directly to the handset and have access to native phone features like an accelerometer or the file system. You do not need internet access to use the app once the app has been downloaded.

Hybrid Apps (PWA) – Hybrid apps are built using web technologies in a wrapper framework like React Native. They can then be exported as native apps on any platform. They behave similar to native apps and don’t always require the internet to run.

Progressive Web Apps (PWA) – PWA’s or Progressive Web Apps combine elements from both web and native apps, allowing users to download the web app to their phone and have limited access to native phone features. As long as the app takes advantage of certain features you do not need the internet to interact with these apps.

Now we have that out the way, let’s look into these in a little more detail!

In This Article, You’ll Learn

  • What are Web Apps, Native Apps, Progressive Web Apps and Hybrid Apps
  • What are the differences between Web Apps, Native Apps, Progressive Web Apps and Hybrid Apps
  • The Pro’s and Con’s of Web Apps, Native Apps, Progressive Web Apps and Hybrid Apps
  • How they are built
  • How can you learn to build an app yourself
  • How you can get them built for you

Apps vs Native vs Hybrid Apps vs Progressive Web Apps. WTF?!

We live in an incredibly connected world; in fact, most of us spend a good chunk of our lives using the internet. In fact, I can guarantee that you’re using the internet right now!

There are seemingly millions of ways that new customers can access the web, providing you with more and more opportunities to not only grow your business and have an impact on the world.

Mobile devices consistently demonstrate more powerful features that can give us all immediate access to not only social media, entertainment and search tools but even some web development apps as well; this is great news for brand new startups or online stores looking to build their very own SaaS product!

It makes sense then, that a large focus for businesses is to design fluid, easy to use and engaging apps that are deeply rooted in their users’ needs. Think back to the earlier iPhone campaigns which set the tone for the future generations: there’s an app for that. It holds true to this day; there really is an app for nearly everything!

In fact, there’s probably a few.

You’ve probably heard about ‘web apps’, ‘native apps’, ‘Progressive web apps’ and maybe even hybrid apps. A lot of people mistake these all as interchangeable terms, but this is just a somewhat common misconception – whilst they might be similar, web apps, native apps and hybrid apps all have very distinctive differences.

SaaS or Software as a Service is where these technologies shine. Building a product that can serve your customers in ways they cannot live without. Whether you’re building an app for your existing customers or you’re entering a new market with a new product and you intend on charging your customers a monthly fee so that you can build and scale and add additional features to make your SaaS app bigger and better.

Let’s take a look at what separates these from one another, and how YOU can use them to design interactive, responsive and engaging SaaS products, websites or apps to boost your natural traffic and sell more products.

What’s the difference?

Before we jump into examining the benefits of each different app or development technique, it’s helpful to understand the differences between each one.

Here’s an overview of what each app actually is:

Web Apps

By far the simplest way to build a SaaS app, a web app is developed to be used by any browser on any system and is essentially a highly interactive, fluid and responsive website optimised for smartphone use. A common example of a popular web app is www.facebook.com.

They are built primarily on the front-end nowadays (although not strictly true) in front-end JavaScript frameworks such as React, Vue or Angular. These reactive applications bring a lot of logic and interactivity to the browser and interact with API’s for business logic and data.

Web apps absolutely must be connected to the internet at all times to work, so they aren’t as accessible as mobile apps can be.

Native Apps

A native (or mobile) app is designed to be used specifically on one system or platform, such as Apple (iOS) or Android devices. You can, of course, build your app for each of these platforms if you have the budget.

They are downloaded directly to the handset via the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, providing quick and easy access, though they are a different product to a web app. For example the facebook downloadable app.

Unlike web apps, native products do NOT need to be constantly connected to the internet. Whilst they will require updating (through a connection), they can still be used offline and eventually send and receive data when they get that glorious internet connection.

The term native simply means that the app is native to your smartphone or another device.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps are a little more complicated – they effectively combine elements from both web and native apps, allowing developers and consumers alike to experience the ‘best of both worlds’.

In most cases, a hybrid app is simply a web app that’s been ‘repackaged’ into a native app shell. This will give your device the ease and convenience of a native app, with the connectivity and power of a web app.

Hybrid apps are typically built using web development technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript and then packaged and exported to work on multiple devices (iOS, Android). Some technologies you might be familiar with are React Native and Ionic.

Progressive Web App

A progressive app takes bits of web apps and native apps before merging them into an accessible web application that works both on and offline. They’re very similar to hybrid apps but they are not distributed through an app store.

Progressive apps actually run in the browser just like a normal web app, which means that users MAY need to have an internet connection to gain access to the app, though they won’t need to maintain an active connection as they use it. They can then be “saved” to the users’ phone, giving the app additional access to native capabilities.

Unlike hybrid apps, progressive apps don’t have to be included in an app store as they run in the browser – this doesn’t mean that they can’t be added to the app store, though!

PWAs work by storing information in a web browser’s cache – it can be later recalled for quick offline access from within the browser.

Taking a look at the pros and cons

As with anything else, there are a few pros and cons to web apps and native apps that you need to be aware of, especially if you’re planning on building a brand new product or service. You should choose whether to create a web, mobile or hybrid app based on the benefits of each, and the service that you wish to provide.

Here, we’ll break down the pros and cons of each app type, so that you can decide for yourself which one will be the most beneficial for your product.

Web Apps

The Pros

The main advantage of a web app is that it doesn’t need to be installed directly to the device like a native app does; you simply need to identify the web address (or domain name) and the web app will load straight into your browser.

Web apps are super-functional, as they can operate on a variety of web browsers, usually without the need for a user to install additional plugins or extensions. They can be just as functional on Firefox or Chrome via your desktop as they are using Safari on your iPhone! They are the easiest way for people to not only learn about your SaaS app but sign up there and then.

As web apps aren’t as specialised as their native counterparts, they’re much easier (and subsequently much cheaper) to build than a native SaaS app would be. They generally use a common codebase, regardless of what platform is used to access them, making it much easier to maintain them in the long-run.

Web apps can also be updated without any kind of app store as a middle layer between you and your customers. If you decide to roll out a feature, it’s a simple case of updating your website.

The Cons

Perhaps the biggest downfall to a web app is its inability to function offline; in order to work in any case, the user must have an active internet connection at all times. Web apps also tend to be noticeably slower as they access data from a server. They also have less attractive features than native mobile apps, which can really put potential users off.

Web apps also heavily depend on visitors already knowing about the service or being referred from another source – unlike native apps, they’re not listed in an ‘official’ database (app store, Google Play store, Amazon…), which can make them significantly less visible, meaning that it’s harder for you to build a reliable, returning audience.

Native Apps

The Pros

Unlike a web app, which requires constant internet access and a supported browser, a mobile (native) app can be installed directly onto the device. This means that users don’t need to always have a connection to access the app, though many apps do have features that require the use of the internet.

As native apps are installed directly onto your smartphone, they have access to system resources – this also makes them faster and more responsive. Native apps do have greater functions, too: they can access the unique features of your device, such as the camera or your location, to provide a better service.

Contrary to belief, native apps can also be easier to build than web apps, due to the abundance of quality developer tools. They combine intuitive, easy to follow and user-friendly interfaces with creative software developer kits to provide an outstanding amount of control over the app.

The Cons

The biggest con to using a native app is that it must be updated regularly by the user, otherwise, it can become defunct or out-dated. Providing regular updates can become costly, too, but is essential if you want to provide a smooth, easy-to-use service.

As a native app must be developed individually for each platform, it is much more expensive than building a web app. Just think – you’ll have to make apps for iOS and Android! Each of these will have different requirements, which often means that you’ll need to start from square one. Usually more than once.

Individual app stores also have different requirements that MUST be met in order to list your app – obtaining permission can be a lengthy (and costly) process.

Hybrid Apps

The Pros

The primary benefit of creating a hybrid app is the cost: you can develop what looks and feels like a native app, only at a fraction of the cost. This is because hybrid apps are web apps packaged in a native ‘shell’ – whilst a developer will need to ‘wrap’ the content in a native container, it will largely have the functionality and features of a web app.

Hybrid apps are also quicker to produce than native apps, making them a strong ‘middle ground’ for developers who don’t need to provide custom features and who need to release their app on a tight deadline.

Hybrid apps can utilise features that typically only a native app would, such as your system resources. This might give them the power to use your camera, emojis or other desirable features of the handset. They’re also built using one codebase (similar to web apps), allowing them to be quickly and easily ported to other operating systems.

If you already have a team of web developers, the learning curve is not too difficult to build hybrid apps.

The Cons

It’s important to remember that hybrid apps are essentially repurposed web apps – this means that they do require an internet connection at all times to be functional. As they don’t require a specific browser, however, they might not consume as much data as a full web app will!

Hybrid apps rely on plugins to make use of your device resources, unlike mobile apps which can obtain full access to your system – this means that whilst a hybrid app will be able to use certain device features, it might not have complete access to the system resources.

Similarly, developers may find that certain features of a hybrid app aren’t supported on every operating system, which will lead to potentially costly modifications in order to ensure the app’s functionality on every device.

Progressive Web App

The Pros

One of the better functions of a PWA is that it works in any supported browser, whilst providing quality offline access. They also load much quicker than traditional web apps, making a visitor much more likely to stick around or respond to your CTAs.

PWAs are also quicker (and easier) to build than many native mobile apps, due to the fact that they are built on a standard codebase in order to be compatible with a web browser. This gives PWAs the added benefit of being cross-platform compatible; you won’t need to redesign or recreate the app to ensure that it works just as well on an Android device as it does on an Apple counterpart.

PWAs also have access to features that a native web app would, which makes them incredibly accessible, fluid and easy to use.

The Cons

A progressive web app might sound like a perfect solution: the benefits and perks of a native app, with the codebase and cost of a web app. There are a couple of things that you do need to be aware of though, especially if you’re planning on creating a new app for your business.

The biggest downfall to PWAs is that they don’t have access to all of your system resources, meaning that a native app may still be required. This is only something that you need to consider, though, if you actually need to make use of the native device features.

PWA’s can also be a massive drain to a user’s battery. They are much more demanding than both web apps and native apps, so users may not use the app for as long as they would use a mobile or web version.

They generally provide a less personal response to app users, as they can’t access things such as your contacts, device Bluetooth, proximity sensors or wake lock.

What’s Next?

Hopefully from this information, you can determine which is best for your SaaS app idea. As you can see there are many pro’s and cons and a lot to take into consideration when developing an app idea.

SaaS apps do tend to leverage each of these technologies in time but may not be wise to invest in them all when you are just starting out. If you do want to deliver your app on a variety of platforms just consider what the user will expect from each experience and provide that experience on the given platform (which may vary from each version of your app).

By far the simplest way to deliver a SaaS app is as a web app. You can build these fairly cheaply and begin testing your product on your users to verify its importance. In time, it’s easy to port this into a hybrid app or a PWA. In time, when you have the ball rolling it might be great to then invest in a native app with all the bells and whistles users come to expect.

Once again though, only go down the route of native if you truly need the sort of features only available to native apps and your SaaS app will benefit heavily from it.

How Are Apps Built?

There are all sorts of ways that an app can be built; it largely depends on whether you’re making a web app or a native app, or what platform you’re actually designing the app for.

Web apps are arguably the easiest to make, as they don’t require specialist tools or systems. Web apps are built using a coding language – there are so many books and tutorials on learning to code, making web apps a much more accessible alternative to mobile apps.

There isn’t a ‘standard’ code used to design web apps, though it’s commonly JavaScript, CSS, HTML or even a mixture of any or all three. Templates for each coding ‘language’ are available, either from a developer’s personal library or as an online download.

Mobile apps are much more specific, which is why they are regarded as being harder to build and more expensive. They don’t necessarily need to take longer, but they do require specialist knowledge or even a specific set of developer tools.

IDE’s

If you were to build a native app, you would require an IDE or Integrated Development Environment. Don’t be put off by this; it’s not as technical as it sounds.

An IDE will be specific to the intended release platform – it’s a development environment that’s been integrated for use with a specific OS, such as iOS or Android. A great (and free) one is Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code.

Apple apps are put together using Objective-C or Swift (which are both coding languages), alongside an IDE called Xcode.

Android apps are built using Java (like certain web or hybrid apps), though there are multiple IDEs available for Android apps. One such popular one would be IntelliJ.

Remember, there’s more to developing an app than code. A team is needed to really build a SaaS app that will last and each team member adds just one piece of the puzzle to build an app.

It helps to start to think about your branding. You may already have this in place and it will no doubt play a part in your SaaS app.

UX Design

UX stands for User Experience and it’s the cornerstone to how your users navigate your app. User Experience plays many roles. It can encourage a particular action from your user purely by its layout and composition, even the wording or copywriting can have this effect which all comes under the umbrella of UX. Don’t assume that a UX Designer can copywrite but copywriting will play a part in developing user journey’s.

It can also take into account how to make things easier and intuitive for your users which, in turn, makes for happy customers that return time and time again.

UI Design

UI design or ‘The Design’ of your app is the layer on top of the UX. Think of the UX Design of your app as the skeleton and then the UI design as the skin. 

Once again, UI design can play a role in encouraging user actions but it relies heavily on the user research and understanding that UX plays.

The UI design also respects and understands your brand and visual language.

How Can I Learn To Build an App Myself?

You might be wondering how you can learn to be an app developer yourself. If you are, we say go for it; it’s an invaluable and highly sought-after skill. You’ve got nothing to lose!

You need to be prepared to invest a LOT of time into learning how to code an app, but don’t worry – there are plenty of options available to you.

Many people choose to use the internet to learn – it might seem like old news now, but there’s an app for that!

Just have a look at your app store, and I’m sure you’ll find a learning tool that works for you. Alternatively, you can use online resources such as Lynda and YouTube to provide tailored tutorials depending on what you want to achieve.

There’s an assortment of books available, too – the ‘Dummy’ series is a great entry point for beginner coders looking to build their skills.

Just remember, as, with any skill, it’s important to keep practising. Rome wasn’t built in a day – neither were any of the apps you use on a daily basis.

Keep pushing, and you’ll be seeing results in no time.

What Should I Look For In An App Development Agency?

If learning how to code doesn’t seem like something you have time for you can, of course, outsource your app development. There are many design and development agencies out there that can either do it all or specialise in SaaS app development and SaaS product development.

Hopefully, this article will make you far more informed about what kind of agency to look out for.

It’s so important to know that unless you have a firm understanding of your users and how to study and build on their behaviours then your app development agency must be proficient in UX and offer this as part of their service or at least some form of knowledge in it.

Same for design. You can again have a crack at designing your SaaS app yourself but UI and UX are so closely intertwined that just because your app looks great, does not mean it will convert customers. Having an agency that can design is crucial.

Ongoing maintenance

Once your SaaS app is live, you’ll need to make sure you have an in-house team to support it if it goes down. You’ll also need them to build features because in this fast-paced world, as you gain users with different needs you’ll want to monitor and cater to those needs.

Your SaaS app can’t stay stagnant. Users expect new features and they expect to be heard so building a product is a huge investment in both time and resources. If you’re not looking to build out an in-house team to maintain the product, make sure your agency is offering the maintenance to keep the money flowing and your users happy.

Conclusion

So there we have it. Hopefully, this article has not only taught you what the difference is between Web apps, Native apps, Hybrid apps and Progressive Web Apps but we’ve also touched on how you can go about learning these technologies. We should have also subsequently helped you understand how you can build your own SaaS application and what to look out for in others building your application.

The final piece to the puzzle is designing an awesome landing page that actually demonstrates how awesome your product is so why not check out our article on how to design an effective landing page.

Our parting thought is to make sure you’re building apps that enrich the lives of your customers and help them become better people. Listen to their needs, build a tool that works for them and this will help you succeed with your SaaS app or product.

Tech Startup Guide to Designing an Effective Landing Page That Converts your SaaS Product

Are you part of a brand new tech startup, looking for ways to effectively convert your SaaS product?

SaaS is widely tipped to become the future of digital consumerism. It is an innovative platform, allowing users to access software and licensing via a subscription, as opposed to an individual purchase and installation.

Of course, SaaS comes with many benefits. For the customers, who can access a desirable service at minimal cost, and also for businesses, who can charge an inflated price for the convenience of monthly payments.

Naturally, many new tech startup businesses and software designers are looking to use SaaS to their own advantage. As the technology is an integral part of the digital age, these businesses will need their own website – one that will not only explain the product in an engaging way, but will convert viewers into buyers.

The very first thing that viewers will see is the landing page – this is your product ‘home’ page. This is where any links should redirect. The most important thing to incorporate into SaaS conversion is a successful landing page design – this is one of the biggest factors that WILL sell your product.

It’s important to note your landing page should shine with your brand. If you haven’t read our article on Why Branding is Essential for Tech Startups, then make sure you give it a read.

Stats and Figures On Having a Creat Landing Page Design

To really clarify why a well-designed landing page is essential for any upcoming tech startup, let’s have a look at the metrics.

A well designed landing page can generate a significantly higher conversion rate, which is why optimisation is necessary.

According to statistics found through WordStream, a longer landing page can generate up to 220% more leads – that’s more than double than what a poorly designed page might offer.

Form fields are essential to generate leads, but many startups go overboard, offering around 11 different forms. In fact, reducing this down to 4 can result in a 120% increase!

Here’s some more information that might help design that perfect landing page:

  • If you don’t ask for an age, your conversion will increase
  • Including a navigation bar could decrease your conversion rate by 100%
  • An average conversion rate is 2.35%. A poorly designed page might see conversions of less than 1%, whereas a well-designed page might generate up to a 15% conversion for your tech startup!

So, What Makes a Great Landing Page?

Designing a landing page for your tech startup

You know how important it is to have an eye-catching website that sells your product, but what exactly makes it great? What do you need to consider to make sure that your landing page is visually pleasing and informal in an ever-changing virtual landscape?

Here, we’ll look at some of the key things to consider when you design your landing page.

Simplicity

Less is more, so the saying goes, and it’s true for a number of reasons. A simple web page is visually appealing – clutter makes for distractions, and will turn what could be a stunning page into a mess.

A simple landing page will redirect a viewer’s attention to exactly what matters, whether that’s a brief on why they need your product, or a simple form to encourage them to sign up. This means that not only are you telling them how your SaaS product will help them, but also shows them how to convert!

Simplicity doesn’t just apply to the visuals, and shuld affect any content you choose to put up. Make sure everything is clear, concise, informative and easy to read!

Colour Schemes

Colour of tech startup landing page design

Have a look at some of the most well-known SaaS products, and take note of how their websites have been designed.

One trait carried across most successful SaaS websites is that they have a select colour scheme, which is a clever branding mechanism wherein a company can use colours to associate certain products to their users.

In most cases, the colour schemes are very minimal, usually with only two or three different colours displayed on the landing page.

A great example of this is our own website, Jupiter and the Giraffe. Our landing page colours consist of a dark blue background with a large red circle, a pale blue ‘cookie’ pop-up and easy to read white text.

This is then carried prominently throughout the rest of the website, in alternating white, light blue and dark blue page backgrounds. Not only is this visually appealing, but it provides a clear idea of when one section ends, and the other starts!

Fonts

Another absolutely essential thing to consider when designing your SaaS product landing page is the font you use. This will directly impact the text visibility, purely because certain fonts are harder to read than others.

The font you choose should be closely linked to your branding in order to create a visual association, and it needs to be easy to read. Most websites tend to use a sans-serif font, because it is much easier on the eye, and presents a more modern feel to it. Serif fonts are generally used when a formal tone is required.

Now that we’ve had a look at some of the important visual design elements, let’s jump in to what else you can display on your landing page in order to really make it stand out:

Header

Simple landing page design for your tech product

A header or “Hero” is arguably the most important thing you should display on your landing page. The header will be the first impression of your product, so it needs to be eye catching and informative.

A typical page header will outline exactly what your product does, and how it can help your target demographic. As you can only fit a limited amount of information into a standard header, you should also inspire a sense of intrigue for your customer to click through the rest of your website and learn more about your product.

It’s important to note that your header should not be crowded or cluttered in any way.

How does your product help?

It’s essential to include a simple guideline on how your product will benefit a potential customer. As with everything else, this should be simple – do not over-complicate it, and make sure it looks pretty.

Depending on what you prefer, you may use a small infographic explaining your unique selling point or benefits in as few steps as possible, or a dynamic panel to engage viewers and encourage them to click through.

Pricing

The most important thing for any consumer to know is the price of what they purchase. You should make sure that your pricing structure is listed clearly on your landing page, as this is the first thing a potential customer will look at.

If you have multiple prices or packages, make sure these are displayed prominently where they can be easily viewed – you may also want to link them to a CTA, or call to action, where a user can simply click the package they’re interested in, and it will redirect them to a conversion page.

Conversion

This is the most important part for you, as any tech startup or business. The purpose of your landing page should be to convert a viewer into a subscriber.

If you’ve made sure that your landing page follows the above guidelines, you should have no trouble enticing new customers.

If you’ve chosen not to link your prices to a sign up form, you MUST have an easy sign-up option. These are most successful when used as the primary focus in the centre of the page. You might even put this in the header so it’s one of the first things people see so that as they learn about your product and your tech startup, they will know where they can go to sign-up to your mailing list.

Your CTA should be as simple as possible, and only ask for the bare minimum a customer needs to get started. The less information a customer initially needs to provide, the more likely they are to subscribe! Make it eye-catching so that it’s clear what action you want them to take.

Remember, conversion relies on a clever SaaS product landing page design, and where possible you should always make sure that you invest in a quality landing page.

If your tech startup needs some help, feel free to reach out where we can provide guidance and advice on your current landing page. If you’re at a loss with your brand, make sure you check out our article on 11 Tips to Building an Awesome Tech Brand.

Zeplin – A Developers Perspective

In my time helping Talk Talk Group build their CMS and front-end capabilities, I worked closely with their design and UX team. They introduced me to Zeplin. Zeplin is a tool we use heavily at Jupiter and the Giraffe and it’s essential in building pixel-perfect websites by allowing us to see exact HEX codes or pixel dimensions in our designs amongst many other things. Although primarily used by designers, developers can benefit immensely from it and I hope I can shed some light on how I use it.

Cost

Zeplin is a paid-for tool allowing you to host multiple website projects within a team but they do offer a free version in which you can host only one project. For developing businesses that normally have one project on the go at any one time this is fine but when you start to grow, you may need to dig into those wallets and fork out a little per month. As a developer though I don’t need to pay for this tool. I can view many sites and inspect the designs as much as I want. So there’s the first bonus.

Size/Spacing

When first looking at a design my number one need for Zeplin is spacings and dimensions. Whether I’m looking at images, icons, paddings or margins — with Zeplin I can hover over an element and see those dimensions. This is super useful. But what is even more useful is that if I click on an element to highlight it and then move my mouse to another element, I get the distance between the two objects too!

CSS

I love writing CSS/SASS. I take great pride in writing clean, maintainable CSS and I’m part of a few developers who’ve been around the block and understand the many little hacks, tips and tricks when writing CSS. But we all get lazy. Although I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, Zeplin allows me to inspect many different aspects of the CSS markup that makes the design. This can be pretty useful, especially when trying to match border-radius or box-shadow. More on the specifics below…

Colour

Was it #e6e6e6 or #f2f2f2?? Colour can be a tricky one at times especially with true toned displays and night modes. Often optical illusions can skew our perspective on colour. From the CSS panel, I can clearly see what HEX value to use and if you’re keeping track of your variables using SASS (which I highly recommend you do!), store that bad boy and name it sensibly to never have to worry about it again.

Fonts

Fonts are another gotcha in front-end development. Sometimes a design will use regular/bold/light versions of the same font. Zeplin allows you to inspect the actual font in the CSS inspector so no more guessing.

Extensions

Extensions can be added to a project to help you work in the technology that you’re using. SASS is a no-brainer on every project for me and you guessed it, there’s an extension for that. This extension allows for mixins and variables and all that SASS goodness. There’s even an HTML snippet generator from layer styles. The Extensions ecosystem just came out of BETA so great news all-round.

Exporting images

When you have an artboard open, at the top right of your window you’ll see some little tools. Clicking on what looks like a dagger, you are actually able to export individual or entire groupings of assets. If the designer has created these as SVG’s then you can even download the raw vector image (and that means icons!). Super handy rather than waiting for the designer to send them and I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve been sent ‘all’ of the icons and then one is missing. This means you can go grab it yourself!

One extra wee tip is that you can even export them in the convention of your choosing. Click on the slider icon next to ‘Assets’ and there you’ll see an extra menu!

Styleguide

Possibly the most powerful feature of Zeplin can definitely only exist with a well-organised designer but it pays! Pressing CMD + G, you switch to the styleguide. Every website should have a styleguide for many, many reasons (maybe an idea for a future post) but here you can see every colour and font choice made in a design. Simply set all these as variables in your project and away you go. If your designer uses symbols, the styleguide even imports them as components meaning there’s a little context around elements and their relationships to each other. This is so helpful to me.

Communication

Overall, a bi-product of Zeplin is that it drastically speeds up communication. Sometimes it completely removes the need to wait for a designer to get back to me about a colour or font choice. Using the techniques described above I can easily recreate a design in no time at all. Although I don’t think it completely removes the need for a designer to be on hand for some clarification or if a developer needs to challenge something but it’s a great leap forward in workflow speed and accuracy of a design.

That’s about it from me and my usage of Zeplin. I can’t recommend this tool enough so go ahead and get your team using it!

If you’d like to hear more from me, give the article a few claps. You can follow me on most other things @fakesamgregory or if you’d like to check out my company Jupiter and the Giraffe, you can visit our website. If you’re interested in our nomadic business adventures, stay tuned to Tumbling Outwardscoming in 2019.

Cost

Zeplin is a paid-for tool allowing you to host multiple websites within a team but they do offer a free version in which you can host only one project. For developing businesses that normally have one project on at any one time this is fine but when you start to grow, you may need to dig in to those wallets and fork out a little per month. As a developer though I don’t need to pay for this tool. I can view many sites and inspect the designs as much as I want. So there’s the first bonus.

Size/Spacing

When first looking at a design my number one need for Zeplin is spacings and dimensions. Whether I’m looking at images, icons, paddings or margins – with Zeplin I can hover over an element and see those dimensions. This is super useful. But what is even more useful is that if I click on an element to highlight it and then move my mouse to another element, I get the distance between the two objects too!

zeplin dimensions
Highlighting one element and hovering another unleases more capability!

CSS

I love writing CSS/SASS. I take great pride in writing clean, maintainable CSS and being part of a few developers who’ve been around the block and understand the little hacks, tips and tricks when writing CSS that is widely supported in terms of browser support. But we all get lazy. Although I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, Zeplin allows me to inspect many different aspects of the CSS markup that makes the design. This can be pretty useful, especially when trying to match border-radius or box-shadow. More on the specifics below…

Colour

Was it #e6e6e6 or #f2f2f2?? Colour can be a tricky one at times especially with true toned displays and night modes. Often optical illusions can skew our perspective on colour. From the CSS panel I can clearly see what HEX value to use and if you’re keeping track of your variables using SASS (which I highly recommend you do!), store that badboy and name it sensibly to never have to worry about it again.

Fonts

Fonts are another gotcha in front-end development. Sometimes a design will use regular/bold/light versions of the same font. Zeplin allows you inspect the actual font in the CSS inspector so no more guessing.

Extensions

Extensions can be added to a project to help you work in the technology that you’re using. SASS is a no-brainer on every project for me and you guessed it, there’s an extension for that. This extension allows for mixins and variables and all that SASS goodness. There’s even an HTML snippet generator from layer styles. The Extensions ecosystem is in BETA so expect more from this soon!

Zeplin extensions

Exporting images

When you have an artboard open, at the top right of your window you’ll see some little tools. Clicking on what looks like a dagger, you are actually able to export individual or entire groupings of assets. If the designer has created these as SVG’s then you can even download the raw vector image (and that means icons!). Super handy rather than waiting for the designer to send them and I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve been sent ‘all’ of the icons and then one is missing. This means you can go grab it yourself!

Export assets

One extra wee tip is that you can even export them in the convention of your choosing. Click on the slider icon next to ‘Assets’ and there you’ll see an extra menu!

Styleguide

Possibly the most powerful feature of Zeplin can definitely only exist with a well organised designer but it pays! Pressing CMD + G, you switch to the styleguide. Every website should have a styleguide for many, many reasons (maybe an idea for a future post) but here you can see every colour and font choice made in a design. Simply set all these as variables in your project and away you go. If your designer uses symbols, the styleguide even imports them as components meaning there’s a little context around elements and their relationships to each other. This is so helpful to me.

Communication

Overall, a bi-product of Zeplin is that it drastically speeds up communication. Sometimes it completely removes the need to wait for a designer to get back to me about a colour or font choice. Using the techniques described above I can easily recreate a design in no time at all. Although I don’t think it completely removes the need for a designer to be on hand for some clarification or if a developer needs to challenge something but it’s a great leap forward in workflow speed and accuracy of a design.

That’s about it from me and my usage of Zeplin. I can’t recommend this tool enough so go ahead and get your team using it!

If you’d like to hear more from me, give the article a few claps. You can follow me on most other things @fakesamgregory or if you’d like to checkout my company Jupiter and the Giraffe, you can visit our website. If you’re interested in our nomadic business adventures, stay tuned to Tumbling Outwards coming in 2019.

Front-End Development in 2019

Every year brings new trends in front-end development and these trends really shape the landscape of work produced by the industry. Last year we saw a continued explosion of Vue.js, NPM JavaScript library downloads, a re-emergence of PWA’s and Serverless architecture continuing its relevance in the web world.

VueJS in 2018 Github

As we approach 2019, I look forward to seeing if we can get the upper-hand ahead of projects, getting familiar with technologies well before the client knows about them.

Typescript/Flow

Thoughtworks‘ technology radar vol.19 highlighted Typescript as something to ‘trial’ but I’d like to extend that on to Flow as well. As JavaScript applications grow both in size and complexity the need for more stable codebases becomes evermore important. This is where these two technologies come in. Although proven not to reduce bugs, we mustn’t forget, tools aren’t there just to reduce bugs in production. Many are often produced to make working with teams efficient, to make our code more readable and development tools more productive and consistent. Like it or loath it, JavaScript is a loosely typed language which, if you know how, can be harnessed into very powerful applications. Most of the time though, in this fast-paced world with code changing hands many times and ideas or intentions getting lost, unless we write documentation or comment our code applications can easily become unstable. I think the necessity to add static typing with technologies like Flow or Typescript will become evermore important next year so start learning!

Typescript or flow…

GraphQL/Apollo

I’m not going to claim to have used GraphQL extensively but I can already see its power and can see its relevance growing even further in 2019. GraphQL is a middleware between your application and your API’s. It allows you to query your API but specify exactly what data you need in JSON format. This is so powerful given the somewhat slow development of API’s and the format they output often not suiting how the front-end wants to consume them. When requirements change no work is needed on the backend, you just ask GraphQL to return you a different set of data. My advice is that you’ll be left behind if you haven’t picked up the basics of GraphQL. GraphQL will become the new norm. Apollo is a library simplifies and extends the power of GraphQL as a client. There are many others in many different languages but Apollo seems to be leading the charge in the JavaScript world. I think looking into some of these libraries will help enhance your GraphQL application.

Image result for graph ql logo
GraphQL will become the new-norm.

Ramda

Ramba is a very curious library. If you’ve used React, you may have come across the term Higher Order Component (HOC). These components allow you to wrap any other component in a common piece of functionality. The easiest example I can give is a call to a specific API. Ramba introduces the concept of a Higher Order Functions library which can do incredibly powerful things. They are much more lightweight than building a HOC as the overhead of a component is unnecessary. I think this library will become crucial in stripping back those essential kb’s and speeding up your app. I also think it’ll change the way you architect the application.

Communication/Remote

Although not strictly a tool, communication skills amongst development teams will be an important skill to harness in 2019. Efficiency, trust and transparency are three important aspects to great communication but there are many more resources to help learn what makes for great communication. With the inevitable advent of remote working becoming the new norm we need to be aware of how we communicate but also how we appear to others when 90% of what we say is over chat. NLP, self-awareness, how to listen and language are just some areas to consider when starting out to becoming a better communicator and ultimately a better remote worker. I strongly suggest the book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People‘ by Dale Carnegie. It teaches you the subtlety of communication and how to harness it.

Image result for how to win friends and influence people

And with that slight tangent, I hope you found this useful. Let me know your thoughts. I’m on most things as @fakesamgregory. If you want to hear more from us, follow my company where we discuss development, design and business on Twitter @jupiter_giraffe and if you’re curious about how we cope with being a nomadic agency, check out tumblingoutwards.com where we will be launching in 2019.