The Anatomy of the Ideal SaaS Website: Best Practices from Our Authority Architecture Framework

The process of designing a SaaS website usually goes a little like this:

  1. Collect random inspiration from other SaaS websites for a mood board
  2. Ask product, engineering, customer service, and sales teams what they need
  3. Design the website by committee

This lack of cohesion causes the website to become a jumbled mess — visually identical to thousands of other SaaS sites (pastel colors, vectors, etc.), but without a customer journey strategy, content strategy, or an appreciation for the needs of people at different stages of the funnel.

The website won’t perform as expected, and the company will pump more cash into driving paid traffic for demo signups and free trials. After a couple of years of below-par results, it’ll be time for a redesign.

Since working with dozens of SaaS businesses, we’ve noticed some common mistakes in the way they design their websites. In response, we’ve created the Authority Architecture — a practical site map for high converting SaaS websites. This visual framework is designed to show SaaS companies how to structure their site, but also helps marketers see where content and resources should be strategically placed.

At Powered By Search, we think in terms of attention, connection, and conversion. In this article, we’ll go through each section of this Authority SaaS Website Design Map, with screenshots, and focus on how to build a connection by designing a SaaS website to speak to prospects in a way that will make a lasting first impression.

Want to have us evaluate your website against our Authority Architecture? Reach out about working with us here.

Homepage

Homepage: Product Hook Headline - Product Hero Shot or Video - Lead Magnet CTA - Demo CTA - Customer Logos - 3 Testimonials - 3 Value Props - 3 Pillar Blog Posts - Footer

We all know the basics of a SaaS marketing site homepage: a compelling headline, an eye-catching product hero shot (or explainer video clip), an obvious demo or free trial Call-to-Action (CTA), along with a clean user interface — focusing on providing a simple user experience. And most SaaS companies also know about the impact of social proof elements — such as testimonials and customer logos. These are standard best practices and key design elements that build trust and convert visitors.

However, we do see some common mistakes in SaaS website homepage design.

Lead Magnet CTA

For many SaaS companies, creating a homepage lead magnet CTA is an afterthought. They miss the opportunity to educate people or provide added value to prospects who are in the middle of the funnel.

If your SaaS product is relatively low Annual Contract Value (ACV) — say, circa $1200 — you should showcase a free usable template or toolkit in your lead magnet Call-to-Action (CTA). This is a functional and valuable offer. It’s not quite the software, but it gives a preview for the real benefits the person will experience once they’ve signed up to a free trial or demo.

For higher ACV SaaS products — say, $50,000 or more — the buying decision is more complex. In this context, the lead magnet CTA should provide detailed pre-purchase education. This could be a “State of the Industry” report, a playbook for integrations, or a comparison between enterprise-level solutions.

Contentful Homepage

Value Props: Pros Without Cons

We got this idea from Conversion Rate Experts, who talk about writing value propositions to talk about a benefit and the pain point the benefit alleviates — but worded in a way in which both are positive.

So, for example, a chatbot or support automation software might say something like:

“Resolve complaints in minutes, without having to hire a customer service team.”

The “resolve complaints in minutes” is the benefit, and the “without having to hire a customer service team” is the pain point that it resolves. This is a concise alternative to focusing on the pain point negatively, for example “it’s an expensive hassle to hire and train a customer service team, but…”.

Product marketers for SaaS often want to bury the bad stuff, because it can shine a light on whether the solution actually prevents that particular pain point in such solid terms. But by doing this, you miss an opportunity to tap into real experiences — essential for creating better connection with website visitors.

Pillar Blog Posts

A lot of SaaS companies make the mistake of simply feeding their most recent blog posts into the homepage. Next, if you’re going to show blog posts, we believe it’s better to dig into analytics to find the blog articles that give the best return in terms of engagement, signups, or lead magnet downloads and show those on the homepage, instead.

Alternatively, you can feed in your best three blog posts that target each stage of the funnel — top, middle, and bottom. Each one of these will provide a unique journey for the prospect. For example, a top-of-funnel blog post could feature a story of a customer solving problems that you know many of your customers have — which can help prospects that need to become problem-aware. A bottom-of-funnel blog post could be one that discusses your pricing, or compares your product to a competitor.

How It Works

How It Works: Feature & Benefit pages and the Use Case pages

If a prospect visits the How it Works page, they’re interested in the logistics of the solution. But too many SaaS companies talk about these details on a vague high level, and they hide the most compelling details of how their software works for the demo. This is usually because they don’t want competitors to understand the innermost workings of the product.

But by putting this information behind the demo signup gate — plus requiring the prospect to turn up and watch it — they don’t give people what they need to make an informed decision. We believe the most important elements of How it Works are the Feature & Benefit pages and the Use Case pages.

So, let’s dig into how the best SaaS companies can get these elements right.

Feature & Benefit Pages

Let’s assume we’re talking about a web-based accounting software. In this case, the Feature & Benefit pages should be structured as follows:

  1. Feature: “Send invoices effortlessly!”
  2. Pain Point Question: “Are you wasting time by sending invoices manually?”
  3. Benefit: “Get paid faster, without having to chase clients every week.”
  4. Proof: A customer story and a testimonial. For example, a freelancer who was creating invoices manually, and emailing them without response. They’d need to chase them up — which would distract them from the work they actually loved.

Here’s why we recommend this structure:

Firstly, point #1 (Feature) and #2 (Pain Point Question) pair the feature with the pain point it solves. This lets you talk about a feature in the context of it’s benefit and will resonate with the prospect who has a pain point.

Point #3 (Benefit) hits the “pro without con” line, doubling down on the pain point. Finally, #4 gives credibility and backup to show how the product has been practically applied, with great results.

Note: A lot of SaaS clients come to us and say they don’t have a customer testimonial like this. If that’s the case for you, write one and find an existing customer that matches. Actually go to them and ask if they’re willing to write a similar testimonial or stand behind this one, tweaking it to however it applies to them. Don’t wait for it — look at your customers and find a quote that matches the story you want to tell. Honesty in the testimonial is paramount.

Use Cases

Let’s say you have a membership management software (like my friends at Wild Apricot). Users are typically teachers, local associations, little leagues, and community groups. They often start in Excel, but as their membership database grows, the document keeps crashing. This is a real and acute pain point.

In this scenario, one Use Case would tell the story of how Wild Apricot has eased the pain for real customers by giving them a reliable, smooth, and fast way to manage members. It would talk about how Excel would crash at inopportune times, and show how this messed up operations. SaaS to the rescue!

Use Case pages expand on the information in Feature & Benefit pages — which usually don’t have space for such a detailed story because they’re just boxes: image, headlines, and paragraphs.

At the same time, Use Case pages also tap into the Who It’s For section of the website — which is something we discuss in the next part of this article.

Who It’s For (i.e. Not Just Solutions or Verticals Pages)

Who It's For: 3 avatars of common users

We firmly believe that SaaS companies should be explicit about who their software is actually for on their marketing webpage. By this, we mean the specific roles, job titles or personas (as specific as possible) — not just general verticals or solutions pages (for example, “Solutions > Healthcare, Legal”, etc.).

More Use Cases: 3 options

While vertical or solutions pages are fine, in our opinion they aren’t adequate because any single SaaS product is truly different things to different people. Everybody has their own job to care about, and implementing new technology will impact different team members in nuanced ways.

And just because we “work in healthcare” doesn’t mean that we’ll be interested in Feature A, or Benefit B.

While listing job titles is a good start, you can take this to a new level by thinking about follow Clayton Christensen’s “jobs to be done” concept. This will help you position the features, benefits, and real testimonials or use cases within each avatar to match the unique viewpoint of that particular prospect.

Let’s say we’re talking about a customer service software. If we use the structure in our Authority Architecture, the Manager will want to see its reporting capabilities. How does the product track tickets, and how does it report outcomes to management? However, the Daily User (a customer service agent, perhaps) only wants it to be easy and frictionless. The Check Signer might be the CFO, and they will want to know that the new software will generate a return on investment within a reasonable timeframe.

Within these avatars, you should emphasize certain aspects of the SaaS product to match what each person cares about when they make a purchase decision.

How Is Who It’s For different from Features and Use Cases?

These pages are different because they are explicitly geared towards a particular individual persona. There’s no subtlety — just obvious examples of how the software positively impacts their job.

This is the key thing to remember: we often use the same stories, features, and use cases as on other pages, but the information is angled more precisely to an individual. In my opinion, most SaaS websites are too paranoid about repeating the same content in various areas. On the contrary, we believe that you should double-down on the most compelling stories, and apply them in ways that make sense for each area of the site. If you look at what we include in the Feature & Benefit pages, the Use Cases, and the Who It’s For section of a website, you’ll see a lot of overlap. This is purposeful.

It’s not about only using one message once. Instead, you should be shaping your value proposition in different ways, with a different emphasis for different pages. It’s website personalization without the tech.

FreshBooks Homepage: Who It's For

Source: FreshBooks

The Remarketing Benefits of Who It’s For

The Who It’s For section can also power your remarketing engine, because you can use a Facebook Pixel to target specific audiences after they’ve been on the site.

When they hit one of the avatar pages — and/or spend a certain amount of time on a page, you can retarget them with relevant pain point focused content in their feed.

This can also be applied to the Use Cases — where you can glean that a user is particularly interested in a certain application of the SaaS product to solve a certain problem.

Pricing Page

Pricing Page: 3 Tier Column - Enterprise (Demo) - Competitor Pricing Comparison

All SaaS websites should feature information about pricing, whether it is explicit in dollars or not. For higher level enterprise SaaS products, it’s often not even possible to give numbers due to the complexity of custom integrations. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a pricing page.

The workaround might be something to pre-qualify prospects, like:

“We don’t have standardized pricing options, but we might be a good fit for you if you have a growth team of more than ten people and you’ve already invested in [Expensive Solution X] or [Expensive Solution Y].”

This sends an implicit message that your SaaS product is geared towards bigger teams and hefty budgets.

But for most lower-ACV SaaS companies, I’d recommend the standard 3-tier pricing structure. And without exception, in our opinion every SaaS pricing table should include a non-priced “Enterprise” (or similar) field. This can simply lead to a contact form to get in touch with your sales team.

Someone who fills this out is signaling that they want to “fly business class” — and that they couldn’t possibly take their boss an invoice for $99. By not having this option, you might be missing out on revenue, or you might even dissuade the highest-tier potential customers from signing up.

Finally, if possible, you should show how your pricing compares to competitors. Basecamp does this better than any other SaaS product I’ve seen:

A sample of how Basecamp has structured their pricing in an organized, clear way.

Source: Basecamp

Why Us & Origin Story

Why Us and the Origin Story comes next.

This is where you pitch your brand as something more than just a software product. A lot of SaaS companies get blinded by the black and white of wanting conversions, and they get obsessed with selling the product’s value proposition. They don’t invest a lot of time or energy in these “softer” parts of the website.

But a lot of buyers are looking for more. They want to understand the culture behind the organization, the commitment to social responsibility, and the bigger long-term mission. Remember: the customer is entering into a subscription model, so they’ll be interacting with your brand on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. They need to know what you stand for — because you’re becoming a colleague.

HubSpot's website has a meaningful mission.

Source: HubSpot

Blog

Blog: Lead Capture, Blog Posts/ Articles

Many SaaS websites waste prime real estate with a vague newsletter signup form at the top of the blog feed. But typically, the conversion rate for these forms are miniscule (typically <0.5%). We’ve seen better results when a SaaS company offers a relevant downloadable lead magnet here instead — a toolkit, template, or guide (typically 1 – 5%).

As standard best practice, each individual blog post should have CTAs in the body copy, and internal linking should be boosted by automatically feeding in related content. And as a rule, you should find ways to link back to product pages and competitor comparison pages within your blog posts — this improves SEO and guides users through to features, benefits, and use cases.

More

More (Integrations, Resources, Support, Contact Us)

Here, we’ll discuss a collection of additional pages that most SaaS marketing sites have: integrations, resources, support, and contact pages.

Most SaaS companies clutter their main navigation, but we believe Resources and Support pages should be part of the second-tier structure on SaaS websites. The users who navigate here from the homepage are typically customers, not prospects, and the prospects that do go here typically aren’t ready to convert — they are usually at the top or middle of funnel and not ready to ask for a demo (or start a trial).

The exception to this might be Integrations, depending on the software’s reliance on integrations and their importance for the value proposition. For example, Everhour (see below) is a time tracking software that needs to be plugged into a project management tool — so integrations are a key selling point:

Everhour homepage: Integrations are a key selling point for Everhour, since it needs to be plugged into a project management tool.

Another key tip for the Integrations page(s) is that you should target the technology’s keywords with your content, even if your solution doesn’t yet integrate with a particular tool. If it’s on the roadmap, get it onto the site with a “coming soon” or “do you need this integration? Let us know…” message.

The danger of not doing this is that a tool like Zapier will get a handle on these keywords. You’ll miss out on traffic, and as a result you’ll lose the opportunity to easily remarket to people on your landing page.

For example:

Zapier puts themselves on the map for multiple integrations, whether or not they exist yet.

Resources

I’ve seen a lot of SaaS companies produce new resources without considering where the gaps are in their funnel. In the Resources section of the Authority SaaS Website Design Map, we have 11 different content types, split between awareness stages: Problem Unaware, Problem Aware, and Solution Aware.

The role of the resources in this section is to move people from Problem Unaware to Solution Aware.

Marketers think “if a webinar went okay last year — why not do another one?”, but this is haphazard and not strategic enough. Instead, we use a methodical approach for planning SaaS marketing resources, using a traffic light system to figure out what works and what doesn’t:

  • If you’ve never done webinars, that’s a red.
  • If you’ve done webinars and they went okay, that’s a yellow.
  • If you’ve nailed webinars and they successfully generate leads on a consistent basis, that’s a green.

We do this for every resource, and by the end of the exercise it’s clear which areas need improvement.

Next, we work backwards through the list to improve resources from the bottom of the funnel to the top. In other words, we start with double down on greens (resources that have been proven to work) and optimize them or find ways to get more demo requests or signups from them, before moving to yellows and reds. Note that this is contrarian to most growth hacking lore, which focuses on how to get more traffic, rather than converting the traffic a company already gets.

Footer

Footer: Cookies, 404 Error, VS competitor, Alternatives, etc.

Don’t miss an opportunity with the 404 Error Page. Can you direct them to an avatar page, or can you identify their pain points and/or motivations in another way?

Drift has a clever 404 page that redirects you to other interesting material on their site.

Source: Drift

The footer is also a useful place to host content about competitors and alternatives. Whether you like it or not, your prospects will be surfing around and comparing solutions. These pages should be designed to rank organically for keyword terms — to make sure you have your say in the conversation.

Salesforce offers reviews and comparisons about their competitors on their site; as shown in the screenshot with "Zoho".

Source: Salesforce

Final Takeaways

The Authority Architecture SaaS site map isn’t just to help a SaaS company build a decent website from scratch, though it certainly helps. In fact, it’s better to see this framework as a living and breathing guide to how content should be structured on your SaaS website — on an ongoing basis.

As a rule of thumb, you should try to outline conversion paths within the site to make it easy for you to identify who is using each page, and what they want. These “clean lines” of content allow for better remarketing, better multi-path customer journeys, and easier analysis of conversion flows.

Want to have us evaluate your website against our Authority Architecture? Reach out about working with us here.