How I Built A SaaS App & Did Nothing With It (10YM7)

Publish Date
Jul 1, 2019
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Solving problems can be one of the most rewarding things in life. It can also be something that makes you a lot of money!

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In this article, podcast and video we look at how I built a SaaS app, the design process, finding a developer, creating the app and much more.
If you are interested in creating a SaaS app them read on to see how I did it.
You can also watch the full video where I talk you through everything I did to create a SaaS app.
In this article, I share you how I built a SAS app and did nothing with it (yet).
I’m not proud of that headline. It shows how I’m like a lot of other people who have ideas and not enough time or drive to focus on that one task.
I’m going to walk you through everything I did to build a SaaS app. I’ve got some notes of what I sketched up to give you some inspiration.
When are you coming up with any idea for an app or product it should typically revolve around solving a problem.
  • So what is your problem?
  • What are you going to solve?
That’s the first thing that you want to look at.
If you’ve already got the idea and you already know it solves a problem, then you have one step ahead of a lot of other people.
Most of the best SAS apps out there, and also some of the most wealthiest businesses developed their wealth by creating products or solving problems.
And that applies to so much especially in the online world or any kind of physical product, even you create a physical item, does your product solve someone’s problem?
And in those cases, if you can solve someone’s problem, you can actually make a lot of money from it and build a great business. If you’ve got an idea and a problem that you’re facing, is there a solution for it?
And so for me, my problem was scheduling content into Buffer. Now that might sound crazy for those of you that know what Buffer does.
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Buffer is a social media marketing tool and it allows you to schedule loads of content out to your social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and so on.
Buffer is an awesome tool. Now, my problem wasn’t with buffer and my problem was actually the speed it was taking me to get content into Buffer.
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Now if you are a social media manager and your scheduling up to 15 posts a day on different networks, you’ll know my pain point and that was the time it takes to write that content out.
And even using the buffer app for chrome, you can highlight piece of text and schedule that into your buffer account. And even doing that just takes up time. If you’ve got a 3000 word post and you want to start breaking that up and using that as different pieces of social content, it takes a lot of time.
Now for me, that process can be sped up.
I knew right away there are tools already out there that allow you to take that content churn up into loads of text.
Getting it into a social media account was the bit that my solution solved.
Now if you’re scheduling that content, you’ll know and you want to put images as well. It just takes forever. I wanted a tool that could instantly take a blog post, turn that into loads of texts, and then push that text into buffer.
Again that was my solution.

The Problem

My problem was the time it was taking me, I just wanted to be able to put in a blog post, find any blog posts that I’d just written, take that content and break it all down and cue it into my buffer account.
That is what my SaaA app done. It was called Reffub.
My problem was getting content into social media quick enough. So next thing I had to do was get that product product coded, drafted up and bill. So what I’ve done is I’ve done loads of sketches of what I wanted my app to look like.
And for you, if you’re doing this, you might want to draft up some sketches of your app and what you want it to look like.
And also write a brief, you want to write a brief of what you want your tool to do? So for me, my tools like a web scraper and I knew I had to build a kind of web scraper that could scrape web pages. I also wrote a full feature list of what I wanted the app to do.

The Mockup

I sketched up and what I wanted the APP to look like. I simply got my paper and started drawing out things like:
  • Login page
  • Dashboard
  • Scrapper page
  • Results page
  • Archive of scrapes
  • Account
  • Connection to Buffer
  • Confirmed connection
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I sketched up a workflow of what happens.
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After entering the URL of a blog post a user would see the results pages that showed all the content broken up with an option to select or deselect social account. Also Queue All that would push everything to Buffer.
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I made some notes on how the pages loaded with confirmation message and actions of the individual buttons.
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Another option was to show more buttons with other features like Archive & Save scrapes. This would allow you to scrape a post and then come back later to use the content.
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The tool also needed an account page where the user could connect or disconnect to Buffer. Change passwords, emails name, etc.
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Although this wasn’t needed right away I sketched how the archive and saved pages would look and the features it would include.
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This was literally a brain dump of how I envisioned my app to look and work.

The Brief

I wrote up a brief and I skipped all these different things, layouts of how I wanted just to say the basic app to look.
And from there we then build what we call an MVP, which is minimal viable product, basically something absolute minimal bare bones that you can put to market and just get people to test it.
So that was that initial idea of getting it coded.
Now to do that, I went on peopleperhour and posted my project.
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There are other freelance sites you can use like Upwork & Freelancer but I found someone in the UK who could code this project for me.

The Build

He began work on that brief using all my sketched mockups and all the things I’d written down in a longer brief.
The main part of the app was the scraping and posting to Buffer. To have that content posted to Buffer you need to register your tool for their API program.
The coder began to work through my first brief making the basic app. Here’s a clip of the features list.
After the first initial build phase I done some testing and wrote a bug list.
I would then go back with the bug list and wait for those to be fixed.
While that was being worked I was making a list of additional features I wanted to be coded.
I also made another further list of expanded ideas.
We then wanted to send transactional emails, like a login, password reset emails.
We used Sendgrid for that. Go and set up an account, get your API detail and you can configure transaction emails to be sent. Again you need to know how to code to do this.
Remember I’m not a coder. I did study some C++ stuff, I could write basic Javascript, HTML and troubleshoot various code but I couldn’t code an app from scratch.
You can go and do this the same as me.
You can employ someone to do the coding for you. Sketch it, write the brief, post the job and find someone to do the work.
So we had the bare bones of the project after four weeks or so. I think it costs about £600 to get all that done.
All the time I was working on this I saved a page with full features and ideas.
The problem – Writing and scheduling lots of different content for Buffer.
The Solution – My SaaS app the scraped blog content and turned that into multiple pieces of content ready for Buffer.

The Beta Users

The next thing is really finding users in the right space and also their marketing it out to people. For me, I was in the buffer community, the slack community they had, they just actually put moved over to slack community and I was already in there with people using social media chatting and stuff.
I got some people on board from there. Alfred who works for them, I believe he still works and now one of the growth marketers at Buffer.
I’ve got some other Buffer developers on board. I went to one of the buffer meet ups actually in London and connected with some people, got some people from that community inside and using the APP and playing around with it and testing it.
One key thing is if you’re developing a SaaS APP, make sure you get in front of the right people.
You want to make sure you’re already a either in that community or you’re reaching out and connecting to the people who you know will be using your app.
Obviously, everyone in the buffer communities using buffer, so they are the perfect audience to test my app.

The Bosses

Next, I began reaching out to the big guys like Joel and Leo also some of the investors at the time. To do that you gotta research and find who’s following who, who’s chatting with who.
Finding out their investors, finding out their names. There are loads of tools out there you can use to search for people’s email addresses. There are also tools you can use to track if an email has been read.
I sent Joel a personal video demo of the product but didn’t get a reply to that.
I next emailed Leo, he doesn’t work with them now but was a co-founder at the time.
He replied but couldn’t get his account setup. That’s a bad mistake on my part.
When one of the main people you want to look at your tool, replies and couldn’t get it working, that could be your only chance gone.
Test, test, test and test again!
I emailed Joel again and tracked his email but still didn’t get a reply.
I reached out to other Buffer investor and also people who had written case studies on Buffer’s site.
You just got to get people using it and seeing how it works.
A key point here is to hunt out people in the audience and then reach out to the big guys and see if you can get those people to test your tool.
Once you have people testing your product, you can then collect feedback from them, fixed bugs and have them to test it again.
It’s such an important thing of having Beta testers to run through and test products for you.
Once I had a (MVP) minimal viable product ready, I next built a landing page to show a demo video of the app to collect emails of people interested in using it.
Here’s the landing page.
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On the landing page, I included a demo video of the product. Here’s that video.
The demo video shows in a few steps how the tool works.

Inside Reffub

Here’s a close look inside the tool and how it works.

“If You’re Not Embarrassed By The First Version Of Your Product, You’ve Launched Too Late” — Reid Hoffman

So after you login and connect to Buffer you enter a URL to scrape and get the content form.
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After that runs you see the page with content.
It shows the main options at the top with queue all and select options.
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And further down you will see the content broken down with social network next to each.
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You can choose to select or deselect which networks where you want to share your content and edit the text if needed.
When you are ready you can add individual pieces or queue all your posts at once.
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You will see a success message that you content is in Buffer.
Then jump over and see it listed inside.
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Now, back when I built this at the time, one of the things with social content was that you could retweet everything as many times you liked it, it didn’t matter.
When you posted loads of content of buffer, you would schedule it again to be sent two weeks later. The same content. Exactly the same tweet.
That was possible until last year.
They changed that and they made it so you can’t retweet the same tweet anymore and buffer even stops you from doing that.
It says this tweet went out before you need to change it. So now you have to physically edit the content and things.
That’s why my tool I think now is more important than ever because you can scrape an entire blog post, have all this different content ready to go from your one blog posts as well as images.
If one blog post is 3000 words long, there’s a lot of tweets there. It’s a lot of social content you can make up from that. The beauty of this tool is that you can create that unique content.
Some other ideas was to have features like:
Export Feature so you could export, content from Reffub to a CSV file, which means you could then import it into other social tools like meet Edgar, Hootsuite, and other social sharing platforms.
Save All Scrapes – I also want to be able to save all your previous scrapes cause so you could go back and just pull that content and again.
Then also from there, you could choose whether you wanted to delete it or archive it and use it again to see your history of scrapes.

Could You To Code This?

Right now it’s maybe time to reignite this project and get this app going again. The fact is we need unique content going into our social accounts.
So really this video is to show you how I built it. If you’re listening to this on a podcast, you can obviously go and watch the video on my blog and also see all the images and things are put together on there. But this is really to inspire you.
If you’re interested in coding this project further then get in touch with me.

Your Turn

If you have an idea for a SAS app, if you have an idea for a product, go and mock it up, write something up, draft it up, put it into one of these freelance sites like freelancer people per hour, um, upwork and find a local developer to build something for you. You don’t have to be a code aid, had to be anything like that.
You know, so don’t ever think, you know, this is not going to work. If you can solve a problem, you’ve got a good idea. Get it to market.
Okay, you can go and do this if you can solve a problem or make something easier than your competitor is already doing have go at creating it. Don’t just think if someone’s doing that, there’s no point in me doing it.

Don’t even try and create something that’s never been done before. It’s much easier to improve something that’s already out there.

And if you can do it better there’s a high chance, you can be very successful by improving the way people do or use things.
If you’re interested in coding this project further then get in touch.

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Written by

David Frosdick

I'm David a content marketer & digital product creator. I spend my days learning about marketing, testing new ideas and working with business owners to improve internal processes and automate what they can. Feel free to contact me if you want to chat.