Thought Leadership

How Embedded Integration Platforms Improve SaaS UX

How Embedded Integration Platforms Improve SaaS UX

You can't overstate the importance of user experience (UX) for SaaS products. If users can't easily find the information they need, complete the tasks they need, or configure the product to meet their processes, they won't remain users for the long term.

HubSpot's post on improving user experience lists twelve ways to improve UX. Much of it boils down to doing smart development, paying attention to how customers are using/talking about your product, and then doing more smart development based on what you've learned.

Despite all the focus on SaaS UX, many SaaS products have a terrible UX for their integrations. There are many reasons for this, from actual visibility to the fact that integrations are often considered second-rate functionality. Let's look at why and then what you can do to improve it.

Why do integrations often suffer from poor UX?

For some, the question might be, "What? Integrations have a UX?" That's a big part of the problem. Integrations are often overlooked when it comes to UX because integrations are often overlooked, period. Traditionally, they've been built in quick response to customer demands rather than for the value they bring to the product.

In my experience, three factors contribute to poor integration UX in many SaaS products:

  1. Users have little to no visibility into a product's integration offerings
  2. Users can't interact with their integrations
  3. Users can't configure their integrations to meet their specific needs

Users often have no visibility into integrations

Traditionally, many integrations have been delivered as services and feel bolted on rather than a first-class part of the product experience. It often requires so much engineering effort just to build the actual integration functionality that teams often don't take the time to build a UI for integrations. And that makes for a very frustrating UX.

Customers don't know what integrations are available, let alone what is currently enabled and configured for them. Prospects and customers must contact the vendor if they want to know if an integration is available or what it can do.

Customers often can't interact with integrations

Traditionally, users have had to rely on others to interact with their integrations. For example, they find a problem with the integration when they notice they haven't received any orders from their eCommerce app for the last three days.

Because integrations typically have no UI, or they have only a very basic UI, customers are accustomed to contacting support for anything involving integrations. They have no means of checking the integration themselves and seeing if there is a simple issue (such as credentials that didn't get updated for auth) – much less actually updating those credentials.

Users can't configure their integrations to meet their specific needs

Integrations are built to share data from one system to another. But it's a rare integration that includes all the data, functionality, or configuration options different users need to support the way they do business.

Because integrations have traditionally been afterthoughts, their development can also tend to be haphazard, with little time given to writing the code according to best practices so that it's well-structured, supports a variety of configurations, and is easily extensible down the road.

As a result, when a customer says, "We need to include X, Y, and Z fields in this integration," the vendor can't quickly update the integration to support that, and the customer either can't use the integration at all or has to work around an integration that doesn't fit their processes.

How do you improve the integration experience for your customers?

You may have several customer integrations today but suffer from some of the UX problems we just covered. We understand. Integrations are a lot of work. And keeping up with customer requests for integrations while still moving your core product forward can be a nightmare.

So, how do you do it? Is there a straightforward way to move the integrations from behind the scenes and place them where your customers can see them? Is it possible to treat integrations like any other code your devs would write for your app? And can you ensure that your customers can interact with their integrations directly rather than requiring them to wait on your support team in every situation?

The answer to all these questions is "Yes." An embedded integration platform allows you to build reusable, productized integrations without needing to expand your engineering team or make massive investments in your dev and production environments.

UX benefits of an embedded integration platform

Good UX is essential for SaaS apps, and that need extends to every part of your product, including the integrations. You probably spent considerable time and money getting the UX right for your product.

Let's look at how an embedded integration platform can help you extend that UX from your core product into every integration your customers have with your product. With an embedded integration platform, you can:

  1. Make integrations a first-class part of your product
  2. Let customers enable, configure, and support their integrations
  3. Build integrations to be flexible

#1: Make integrations a first-class part of your product

Integrations often suffer because they are relegated to the "when we get around to it" development queue. An embedded integration platform can significantly speed up your integration development, reducing the average development time from months to weeks (or even days).

Embedded integration platforms include an integration designer (and a long list of API connectors and other components) that make it faster to build reusable, productized integrations for your app. They also include an embedded integration marketplace that displays your integration offerings to your users. You can choose which integrations to include, group them into categories, and specify icons, descriptions, and more.

In short, you can establish your integrations as essential product functionality rather than separate add-ons.

#2: Let customers enable, configure, and support their integrations

As part of the embedded marketplace experience, let customers browse the marketplace and then choose and self-activate integrations – without requiring any hand holding from your engineering, onboarding, or support teams.

Then let your customers configure the integrations and set up webhooks, auth, and folders – whatever options need to be defined uniquely for each customer. By putting this power in their hands, they directly participate in the success of the integration.

Finally, self-serve support tools such as logging, monitoring, and alerting put users in the driver's seat instead of making them depend on support anytime the integration has a hiccup.

#3: Build integrations to be flexible

Change is constant. Today's SaaS apps must have flexibility, and nowhere is that more true than with integrations. Integrations, by definition, tie two or more apps or systems together for data exchange. We must recognize that a vendor could change an API anytime, a new law could require additional fields on specific record types, and customers' appetites for more data are never entirely filled.

An embedded integration platform, with its integration designer, API connectors, code components, and the ability to dovetail neatly into your development environment, encourages best practices for building integrations.

The embedded integration platform also provides versioning for the integrations. In addition, each API connector and other component is individually versioned because different customers may be stuck on different product versions and need connectors that match those versions.

A consistently good user experience is the key

We've all had poor user experiences with software. You've probably also been on the other side of the equation, trying to convince a customer who had a negative user experience with your product to reconsider a decision to leave.

Neither situation is pleasant. For SaaS integrations, an embedded integration platform helps to ensure that neither you nor your customers end up on either side of a terrible integration experience. It provides you with all the necessary tools to move smoothly from coding to testing, to deployment, to support – while providing a powerful in-app integration UX that ensures an excellent integration experience for your users.

Request a demo, and we'll show you how an embedded integration platform can help drive the integration experiences your customers need.

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About Prismatic

Prismatic is the integration platform for B2B software companies. It's the quickest way to build integrations to the other apps your customers use and to add a native integration marketplace to your product. A complete embedded iPaaS solution that empowers your whole organization, Prismatic encompasses an intuitive integration designer, embedded integration marketplace, integration deployment and support, and a purpose-built cloud infrastructure. Prismatic was built in a way developers love and provides the tools to make it perfectly fit the way you build software.

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