What we mean when we say “ease of use”

Best Practices | Business & tech

This article was originally published on Fast Company Executive Board.


Check out nearly any review platform for SaaS companies and a phrase you’ll run into often is “ease of use.” It is important because nearly all users and SaaS buyers cite “ease of use” as one of the top requirements for software they purchase. This should be fairly straightforward—how quick is the learning curve to onboard new users to the product or platform?


Unfortunately, the phrase has become overused and is now just another term in the SaaS jargon toolbox. In the realm of SaaS, where applications are hosted on the cloud, the concept of “ease of use” stands as a key factor that influences the success and adoption of a platform. This inherent attribute holds substantial weight, impacting both the user experience and the bottom line of businesses.


In my experience, applying “ease of use” to a user interface means being able to navigate around an app easily and being able to discover, understand, and use all of the features without requiring any specialized training. For example, my team and I at Insightly achieve this by providing new users with an immediate sense of familiarity when they first use our apps. I hear a lot of feedback from our users that they just “get it” when they see it.


We build this sense of familiarity by employing user interface conventions, layouts, and screen elements that users are already familiar with and understand. Over 1.8 billion people use Gmail and 1.2 billion people use Microsoft Office, so Insightly deliberately uses a lot of the same user interface conventions, layouts, and screen elements as those two tools that people already know so well. This dramatically lowers the learning curve for Insightly, and makes users feel right at ease when they first use it, so no specialized training is required.


SaaS platforms that prioritize ease of use ensure that their solutions are accessible to a wide array of users, regardless of technical prowess. A user-friendly interface and intuitive navigation simplify the onboarding process. New users can quickly grasp the platform’s functionalities, reducing the learning curve and accelerating proficiency. This not only boosts user confidence but also encourages them to explore and utilize the platform’s full potential.


Since I’m in the CRM space, I’ll look at this topic through the lens of CRM, but these concepts are applicable in all areas of SaaS. Let’s dive in.


Page Load Speeds

There’s nothing more frustrating than slow-loading pages, which hinder a user’s ability to access critical information quickly. Pages that load fast directly and essentially enhance a user’s experience and efficiency.


In a fast-paced business environment, every second counts. A CRM platform with rapid page load speeds ensures that users can navigate quickly, retrieve data instantly, and perform tasks without unnecessary delays. This, in turn, drives user satisfaction, increases productivity, and enables businesses to make quicker, more informed decisions.


Easy Configuration

When a platform can be easily configured for a business, it makes the whole team more productive since they perceive it as being easy to work in.


In CRM for example, configurable pipelines provide flexibility and adaptability, catering to the unique needs across different industries and organizations—manufacturers use CRM in a completely different way than tech companies do. In fact, CRM “flexibility & customization” was cited as a top frustration with their current CRM by industry go-to-market leaders in our “State of CRM” research.


Many go-to-market processes involve complex workflows that evolve over time, and with configurable pipelines, users need to tailor the CRM to match their specific sales or customer service processes. This customization not only ensures that the CRM aligns with the organization’s distinct requirements, but also empowers teams to efficiently and easily manage leads, opportunities, and customer interactions in a way that suits their goals and team structure.


Visual Dashboards

Most people are visual learners, and visual dashboards serve as the heart of all SaaS platforms, offering a real-time snapshot of vital information.


Dashboards transform raw data into simple and clear graphics, enabling users to easily grasp trends, identify opportunities, and pinpoint potential issues. Visual dashboards enhance data-driven decision-making, as they provide actionable insights at a glance. By CRM presenting data in a visually intuitive manner, businesses can make informed choices, allocate resources effectively, and optimize their customer engagement strategies.


Drag & Drop Interfaces

Drag-and-drop integration building is a game-changer in today’s landscape where everything needs to be interconnected. This is especially true in CRM since it is considered the heart of your business.


CRM platforms should seamlessly integrate with other software applications, such as marketing automation tools, email platforms, and customer support systems. Drag-and-drop integration building simplifies the process of connecting these disparate systems without the need for complex coding or IT expertise. This capability not only reduces the time and cost of integration, but also allows businesses to create a unified, 360-degree view of their customers. By streamlining data flow between various applications, organizations can provide better customer experiences, improve overall operational efficiency, and drive more profits.


“Ease of use” can be measured in a variety of ways—from seamless integrations to customization at every turn—but at the end of the day, they all aim to create an end product that users can use autonomously, with minimal interruptions and oversight. They collectively contribute to any system’s effectiveness (especially a CRM), ensuring that it delivers on its promise to enhance customer relationships, drive sales, and improve business operations.