Max Rozen

About

Anatomy of a SaaS

June 25, 2020

I’m mainly writing this from the experience of working at several startups, and building several of my own Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses over the past few years.

Most of these are optional. In theory, you could be accepting payment in cash, and not even have user accounts. Generic advice I often hear is that you should probably start a SaaS project like that anyway - a stripped down service that only solves the pain you’re trying to fix, and nothing else.

However, this article is intended for people who want to build a mostly self-service SaaS. It’s on you to validate whether or not people will actually use the service you’re building.

Typical SaaS stacks have two parts they worry about: the app they’re building, and a marketing website. If you’re bootstrapping, or a solo founder, you’ll quickly find yourself working on your marketing website as much as your app itself, if not more.

Hosting

You’re probably going to want a cloud provider for your app. If you want your service to stay online, it’s probably going to have to be one of AWS, Azure, or Oracle Cloud. You also have service providers such as Netlify and Vercel, though I prefer to get as close to what’s running my service as possible (i.e. AWS).

For your marketing website, things can be simpler.

To start off with, use a static HTML generator like Gatsby, React Static or Eleventy. You can then upload your files (even via FTP, if you want) to any web host (I use AWS S3) to serve your website.

The benefit of a static HTML generator is that you don’t have to pay for expensive server hosting (which you’d need, if you used something like WordPress).

The downside is that you pay for it in having to figure out how/why the hell you need GraphQL to handle your blog (in the case of Gatsby), and losing the ability to use a fancy editor/having to use Markdown.

3rd Party Services

Unless you really enjoy never launching your product, you’re going to want to hand off some functionality to 3rd party providers.

Companies like Mailchimp and ConvertKit have entire teams dedicated to building a newsletter service - don’t build things when you can pay $19 a month.

Here’s a list of service providers you might want to look at to avoid building things yourself:

Your App

Marketing Website

Shameless Plug

If you'd like more tips on how to improve your frontend, you can follow me on Twitter as I regularly post articles there.