Should your next product even be a SaaS?

When you’re so caught up with frameworks and whatnot, it’s easy to lose focus and forget about what you are actually trying to accomplish with your product. I sometimes struggle to come out of my technical comfort zone and I try to fit any idea within the stack that I’m most familiar with.

However, when you step outside the classic way of thinking, there are often many simpler ways to get your ideas to life, both for you and for your users. Here are some ideas:

Browser Extensions

Browser extensions can unlock a lot of potential because they let you personalize the user’s experience on the web, and even build on top of other existing products. On top of that, you can count on a platform like the Chrome Web Store to distribute your extension for you.

A little anecdote about my experience with browser extensions: a couple of years ago I developed a Chrome Extension called Netflix Comments, which injected a comments section when watching a show on Netflix. I had even made a website for it hoping to draw traffic, and the website redirected to the extension’s listing on the Chrome Web Store. However, after a few months, the main driver of traffic was the CWS page, and the website was barely registering any visits. To this day, although I discontinued the extension to focus on other projects, people keep downloading it. That’s just to say, it’s easier to count on the domain authority of a big platform and let search engines do the work.

My Netflix Comments extension was injected directly into Netflix’s UI, and the comments section came with a pretty cool spoiler-prevention system. Honestly, I should pick it up again.

Getting started was not super intuitive (but that’s me, and I’m a designer) but there’s pretty extensive documentation as with anything Google.

Telegram Bots

Telegram reached 700 million monthly active users in June 2022, becoming the biggest competitor to Whatsapp and Messenger. The Telegram Bot API can get you started in hours and allows you to do almost anything you can do with a web app through a super simple interface in a Telegram chat.

Furthermore, the Telegram Payments API makes it super easy to implement payments through payment providers such as Stripe.

Source: https://core.telegram.org/bots/payments

I developed a Telegram bot only once when I had to hack Spanish bureaucracy in order to get one of the infamous NIE appointments in Spain. Since these appointments are almost impossible to find, I used my laptop as a Node server that ran a headless browser. The browser would automatically go check if there were any appointments every 5 minutes, and in case there were it would send me a Telegram message through a Telegram bot (which is the only way to do such a thing). Implementing the Telegram bot was extremely easy and it can be useful in a lot of cases in which you need to trigger a notification but don’t have a client on which to receive it.

Discord Bots

Discord has only a fraction of Telegram’s user base with around 150 million monthly active users. However, its user base is less diverse and it can be great if that niche is your target. Most importantly, Discord comes with a lot of features that can help you build a community around your product.

I haven’t developed any Discord bots myself, nor am I a particularly active Discord user, but I’ve recently joined the beta of Midjourney, which I’m sure you have heard about. Midjourney is a software that uses AI to generate an artwork based on a text prompt given by the user. As it turns out, the beta runs on a Discord server.

This has allowed the team to see how the users use their product, run Q&A sessions, and push their communications regarding updates or a new premium plan. There are even channels where users can discuss the product among them, acting as a kind of forum. This can give incredibly valuable qualitative data to iterate on.

Midjourney’s server on Discord. The team takes advantage of Discord’s capabilities to gather user feedback, push news and create discussion around the product.

Here’s the Discord Developer documentation in case you’re interested.

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Federico Cella

Federico Cella

Digital product design, development, and 10% random lessons from my personal and work life https://federicocella.com