In a previous article here on Torque, we discussed reasons why you might want to consider WordPress as a platform for an SaaS. For those who don’t know, and to quickly recap what a SaaS is — it stands for Software as a Service. It is a model of software distribution whereby the software is hosted, maintained, and updated by the provider.
In this article we move forward to look at a selection of WordPress-powered SaaS apps currently on the market. In turn we will then look at the approaches they take to using WordPress as a SaaS, and finally what we can learn from them to take forward and inspire our own SaaS apps.
Example #1: Happytables
If you’ve delved into the world of WordPress-powered SaaS apps, or perhaps just WordPress in general, chances are you will have heard of this one before. With good reason. Happytables is a website builder, focused solely on the vertical market of restaurants.
WordPress is at the very heart of the Happytables experience — from the marketing site through to the product itself. One of the most interesting aspects of the Happytables product is the use of a custom dashboard for customers to create and maintain their website. Despite the website builder running on WordPress, the Happytables team have cast aside the standard admin dashboard in favor of a more focused, custom dashboard. This is achieved through extensive use of the WP APIs and clever theming in the background.
If you’re thinking of creating a website building tool targeted at a specific market, you may want to think very carefully about the benefits of creating a custom admin panel. It’s not for everyone, but if you have a very clearly defined set of functionality, a custom admin panel may offer you the chance to provide a better user experience to your customers. After all, it is this experience that will be key in obtaining and retaining sales.
Despite being more than a year old, Noel Tock has a fantastic video from a WordSesh with lots of relevant information about WordPress and SaaS, along with lots of fantastic insight into the Happytables product. Recommended viewing, if you are even just a little bit curious about using WordPress to power a SaaS app.
Example #2: GPsurgery.net
A newly launched, UK-based service for medical practices, providing high-quality websites that they can both build and manage themselves. In much the same vein as the previous example, GPsurgery.net is a website builder targeted at a specific vertical, with the created sites being built on WordPress.
This SaaS product takes advantage of the Gravity Forms plugin; a customer is able to fill out a simple Gravity form which is then taken, and used to power an automated site creation process. This demonstrates how you can take advantage of existing plugins and mold them into your solution to provide a really slick (and simple) user experience.
An interesting aspect of GPsurgery.net is that by targeting a single market the product is able to provide well thought out functionality that solves particular pain-points for the user. All whilst building on top of WordPress. An example of this is patient services, appointment booking, and repeat prescriptions. Rather than just being another website builder, this transforms GPsurgery.net into a really useful, empathetic product that solves a problem; exactly what a SaaS should aim to do.
Example #3: Grytics
Something completely different in this example; Grytics is an analytics tool for tracking Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Users can connect with the Grytics website to start tracking their social groups – starting on a free tier and progressing onto a paid tier of service where necessary. As well as providing analytic reports on the website, Grytics allows users to download CSV exports of their data.
Both the marketing site, and the product itself are built upon WordPress, harnessing lots of the standardly available WordPress API goodness. Alongside a bespoke plugin which provides custom functionality, the website uses an array of off-the-shelf plugins such as WPML Multilingual to provide a breadth of functionality for many different users.
This is a great example of how you can build a large proportion of your SaaS product entirely on WordPress.
So we’ve looked at a selection of WordPress-powered SaaS apps, and hopefully by now, you will have been inspired to try and experiment with using WordPress for your next SaaS app. Remember, your SaaS app doesn’t have to be entirely powered by WordPress — perhaps you may want to just use it for part of your SaaS application.
The idea of this article was to show you that you shouldn’t be limited by your idea. There are a wide variety of SaaS apps that implement WordPress in very different ways, as demonstrated by the examples we’ve discussed.
Still not quite sure whether WordPress is a sensible platform to build your SaaS upon? If you haven’t already done so, remember to read back through the previous article — there is lots of handy information in there to help make up your mind.
In the meantime, keep on experimenting and we’d love to hear from you to see what you come up with!
Tom Still is a UX designer & WordPress developer based in Brighton, England. Passionate about building WordPress based products, business and all things design. Loves a real ale and tweets a lot.