Ease of use for software – What is it and how important is it? [Data from 98 SaaS businesses]
How important is the ease of use for the success of your SaaS company? Pawel Banhegyi and the Map My Growth team surveyed 98 professionals currently looking for a B2B SaaS solution and used their feedback to compile a list of best practices to better communicate ease of use.
Ready for our research-driven insights? Let’s dive in…
TL;DR? Key findings from this ease of use study
- A SaaS solution is easy to use if non-technical employees can learn it intuitively, with minimum support.
- Ease of use plays a very important role in choosing the right software, yet only 50% of websites communicate it in the right way.
- Video content and customer reviews (ideally the two combined) are the best at conveying the “this software is easy to use” message.
- If you have a natively complex product, you can improve its ease of use with proactive and reactive in-app experiences
What do “ease to use” and “user-friendly” actually mean?
Before we take a look at different charts and figures, let’s agree on the language we’re going to use. SaaS marketing professionals often use the terms “easy to use” and “user-friendly” interchangeably, with the former being more natural and closer to what end-users tend to choose in everyday conversations.
But how do you measure and more accurately define “easy”?
We asked our respondents to explain, in their own words, what “easy to use”, and “user-friendly” mean to them. Here are a few examples:
What it means that software is easy to use (quotes):
- People can use it without asking questions.
- Employees know what to do by looking at the screen.
- Being able to use it without any assistance.
- Doesn’t require much training (or no training at all).
- New users can adapt to it easily.
- Easy to learn in a day.
- Without a steep learning curve.
- Saves on training time with employees.
- Simplifying software use for all ages.
- Older employees will be able to use it without difficulty.
What it means that software is user-friendly (quotes):
- That it has intuitive controls.
- An intuitive design that feels like a natural transition.
- Users can understand functions very easily.
- Ease to navigate.
- Most problems can be solved by users themselves.
- No technical support is required.
- Less tech-savvy individuals can use it.
- Users don’t require hours of training to use it.
As we can see, the phrases “easy to use” and “user-friendly” can indeed be often used interchangeably. They both refer to solutions that don’t require much (assisted) learning and are intuitive in their navigation and interface, no matter the tech-savviness level.
User-generated definition of “easy to use”
We went one step further and decided to “quantify” the best definition of “easy to use”, to understand what alternative phrases or words should be used on SaaS websites to better resonate with prospects. Here’s what we discovered:
Pro tip: As it turns out, a software solution can’t be just easy to use—it needs to be easy to use for non-technical users. This slight adjustment seems to resonate the most with potential SaaS customers, as the majority of them are not IT professionals and would require reassurance that a specific solution is easy for everyone, and not just for developers or software engineers.
Is it hard to learn new software?
But is there really a problem? Should we even spend time and money investigating the best ways to convey the ease of use of SaaS solutions? Unfortunately, yes. According to our survey, over 50% of SaaS prospects admit that software (in general, when used for the first time) is difficult to use:
Now that we know how prospects understand the term “ease of use” and that they, in fact, would consider this a problematic area in most cases, let’s take a look at the big picture (evaluating a SaaS solution) and how important the ease of use is in that context…
Importance of ease of use for software
First, we wanted to know if our study had any point at all. So we asked if the ease of use even matters when making a decision to start using new software. The answer is—it does. Big time…
However, if we think about it, everything matters when evaluating SaaS solutions. The looks, the functionality, the price. We’d probably get similar scores for any major element/feature like this. It was, therefore, important to know where the ease of use stands, compared to the other must-haves and nice-to-haves.
Based on our experience over the last 8 years, we thought that the price/fees would be the biggest difficulty when trying to find the right SaaS solution. But the results were (positively) surprising:
Communicating the security aspect of a software solution is the most important part of the decision-making process. This element was consistent in the first place regardless of the size of respondents’ organizations. What we were the most interested in—the ease of use—matters for about every other SaaS prospect.
So it isn’t the most important element of the decision-making process, but we definitely can’t disregard it, especially since it was mentioned more often than frequently prioritized social proofs, integration capabilities (logos) or design/UI.
We know now that the ease of use matters—and it matters a lot. But is it a deal-breaker? Let’s consider a scenario where a prospect comes across a SaaS solution that potentially ticks all the boxes.
The price is great. The tool does everything that’s required. In other words, it’s practical from a business perspective. But would it still be a viable option to consider, if it wasn’t practical from the human perspective?
As we can see, the ease of use is so necessary that many prospects would discard a SaaS solution if they had doubts about the learning curve and technical barriers.
Interestingly, this trend is the most notable for large organisations (200+ end-users) which makes sense, because the more people have to use the software, the more potential points of failure, so the experience must be seamless. That’s why the ease of use matters even more for those selling enterprise-level software.
This confirms what John Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, once said: “many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.”
The ease of use is possibly even more crucial in 2022 than ever before, with many employees working from a home office and having to learn new software on their own.
How do you make sure your SaaS solution comes across as simple, user-friendly, and intuitive? Well, the first time you have a chance to “sell it” as such is when prospects land on your site…
How to make your SaaS product easy to use (or at least look like it)
We all know that there are two main categories of websites—good websites and bad websites… Jokes aside, there are homepages that make you feel at ease from the first seconds and those that you eventually leave frustrated and confused.
Likewise, there are web pages that clearly communicate the ease of use of a complex service/product they’re selling, and those that fail miserably. How does this split look for SaaS websites?
It’s almost a 50/50 situation. On one hand, this is good news, because it means that every second SaaS website makes its product look easy. On the other hand, (also) every other SaaS website fails in this area.
It doesn’t mean that half of B2B SaaS products are, in fact, difficult to use. We’re talking about communicating the ease of use, so even if your product could be (very theoretically) used by an 8-year-old, you can still be in that red half of the pie chart.
You might say: hey, people can just use my software for free and see how user-friendly it is. And that’s partially true.
The free trial is the most common acquisition stage at which prospects decide if a SaaS solution is worth investing their time and money:
Enthusiastic news? Not at all.
What is your conversion rate? If it’s around the SaaS industry average of 3-5%, then up to 5 in every 100 website visitors will sign up for your free trial (here are some bonus tips on how to increase it). Will they all spend hours (or at least minutes) exploring the free version? That’s very unlikely.
Therefore, relying on your free trial to “sell” the ease of use of your SaaS solution isn’t the best strategy. Your website is where you get the highest level of attention from your prospects, so that’s the best place to communicate user-friendliness.
How do you do this? What works and what doesn’t? If you were to pick just one type of content to invest in, what would it be? Wonder no more—here’s what real SaaS prospects have to say about it:
As we saw before, the free trial was the exact stage at which people realize if the software is easy to use or not, so it’s not surprising to see it at the top of our list. But we also said that it’s not all black-and-white and that you’re likely to lose some prospects between the sign-up page and the app page/download page (i.e., they’ll never get to test your product).
If we focus on the website content alone, video wins. A 30-60s professional video tour will scream “ease of use” louder than… well, literally using these words in your headline. Precisely—50% louder (54% vs. 36% effectiveness).
However, video marketing is hard. It requires optimization, testing, and, often, a substantial budget. Luckily, finding customer testimonials that explicitly mention the ease of use is almost as convincing.
At the end of the day, it’s much quicker (and cheaper) to test a few variations of written testimonials in your hero section than to involve developers and creators to design and optimize several versions of a promotional video.
It’s also very important to reassure future users that they’ll get support whenever needed, so having 24/7 support and onboarding processes/documentation (or at least one of them) will show that you’re ready to solve any difficulties—and that you’re ready to do it quickly.
In fact, offering a structured onboarding experience is extremely likely to encourage prospects to purchase software:
Want to build truly engaging, interactive, and personalized onboarding experiences in your SaaS without a line of code? Try Userpilot for free now!
A few real-world ease of use examples
Let’s see how some of the most recognizable software companies use the content-related techniques we covered to communicate the ease of use on the websites…
ClickFunnels are taking the video tours to a difficult-to-reach level. They not only show prospects how their dashboard looks, but they also take them through a case study to show how (practically) the tool can help—and how easy it is.
Customer reviews focused on ease of use
Zoho CRM uses a video format AND customer stories at the same time, to communicate the ease of use. Bonus points: they also explain what CRM is, which is a great move, since, as we mentioned, many prospects are not tech-savvy enough to judge whether given software is easy or not (they don’t have a benchmark).
Availability of onboarding processes/materials
Adobe offers onboarding materials, user guides, FAQs and a frequently available support team (via live chat). A potential improvement would be to, for example, show the friendly faces of the customer support reps that will personally help with the first steps/onboarding.
Reliable technical support
Speaking of support, WordPress is really nailing it by not only saying that it’s available but also familiarising prospects with their friendly team (the human factor is very important).
How to improve the ease of use for complex products
You may (and should!) have a ‘sales objection’ at some point. It may sound something along the lines of:
“But what if my product is inherently complex?”
Well, you can make any complex task simple, if you break it down into discrete steps.
This is what Platformly, a complex marketing automation platform, did. And they boosted their activation rates by 40% as a result.
How can you simplify a complex experience flow to improve the ease of use for your complex product?
- Define the specific use case of each new user
- Map the ideal user journey for this user
- Decide on the milestones they need to hit to become activated (“key activation point”)
- Put only those milestones in your onboarding checklist
- Link interactive in-app experiences to it to guide the user to hit these milestones
- Celebrate the user’s success
- Rinse & Repeat for every stage of the user journey
+ You can build all those experiences without coding in Userpilot.
Main takeaway: Don’t keep it to yourself!
What can you learn from all these fancy charts and hundreds of analysed responses? That you need to be less shy about the ease of use of your SaaS product. And that you need to promote it in the right way.
We’re no longer in the era of words and numbers. In the world, where the attention span of website visitors is shrinking every year, the more visual the user-friendliness of your product, the higher your conversion rate.
About the author:
Pawel Banhegyi is the founder of Map My Growth, a small online business that helps bigger online businesses become, well, even bigger (in simple words). How? By helping them understand their site visitors, traffic sources, target audiences—and turning that knowledge into real-life changes to their website experience, advertising, and sales processes.