Show Don’t Tell – The Art of Templating

Updated on by Daniel Twigg

Regardless of how simple or complex, a SaaS application is, most users want to dive in headfirst to try it out. You may have a library of documentation, tutorials and videos but users are more likely to get that “ah ha!” moment when they are directly using your application.

This is why an easy way to get your users up and running quickly is to provide them with templates to explore. They can then decimate and modify.

Having an existing framework to use as a reference is a powerful tool for users. As a result, it can accelerate SaaS onboarding, so let’s take a look at what makes a good template.

Why do Users Love Templates?

Hands up if you find starting from scratch a daunting process. It’s like a blank page is the bane of most writers. Whether it’s the scale of possibilities available to them or the thought of the mountain they’re set to climb. It can be pretty crippling.

Software users are no different. The blank screen of possibilities can stop users from throwing themselves into your platform. As a result, preventing them from really exploring the true benefits and power of your system.

By providing interactive examples users can jump into a new platform and quickly get a sense of the steps they need to take. They can then fully understand how to use your platform to the fullest. 

User Onboarding Templates

So how do you decide what templates you want to provide to your users?

To start, take a look at your application’s key use cases. How would create a solution using your tool? 

These use case scenarios can be extremely complex, so can they be broken down into smaller parts? If you can provide a simple templated example for a portion of the use case it can give users a starting point. From there you can funnel them to more complex examples which get into the detail and your more advanced features.

If you can recreate your key use cases into templates you’re closer to providing your users with a glowing first impression.

The 80/20 Rule for Designing Templates

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, has a place in many fields. From mathematics to the organisation, taking an approach where in many events 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

This can be applied to designing templates by looking into your users’ usage of your SaaS platform. If there is a repeating pattern or trend in usage then it becomes a good candidate to become a template.

There are many use cases where the range of options can be far too wide to template all scenarios. This calls for a level of generalisation. This can be combined with onscreen tooltips helping the user to customise the template to their needs.

For example, integration between SaaS platforms has an enormous scope. This is due to the sheer number of web applications available (that’s before you add the data fields to map between applications). So, one user wants to create an integration between ActiveCampaign and Salesforce to sync contacts. While another user wants to integrate contacts between MailChimp and Pipedrive. They are essentially doing the same thing; synching contacts between an email marketing platform and a CRM.

By showing the user examples of the generalised process and how to modify it to swap components (or in Cyclr’s case, connector steps) they’ll achieve their integration project. This is done without having to spoon-feed users through exact templates while upskilling them on your platform in the process. 

Examples of SaaS Templates

A wide range of SaaS software types offer users example templates to get them started, some good examples include:

Email Marketing Templates

Newsletters and visual emails are prime examples of a template experience to get users up and running. If you look at companies such as MailChimp, Sendgrid and ActiveCampaign offer users a range of templates. These templates focus primarily on the layout (whether you want a header image, columns, heading blocks and so much more). 

These allow digital marketing departments to quickly create layouts. They can be customised with their own images and copy to create their finished product.


Every business has its own processes and sales funnels, so CRMs have become more adaptive to the needs of their customers. CRMs such as provide fully customisable templates to assist new users with managing their leads and deals on their platform.

Lead Generation

In order to entice users to make contact with your company, your online touch points must be compelling. Channels such as online request forms and chatbots need to walk the line of gathering enough information for you to assess the lead. At the same time not being too onerous for the user to fill out.

Form applications such as Formidable Forms offer premade templates catering to different scenarios for user contact. From matching the style of questioning to your vertical market, to the visual experience you want to provide. Be it a contact form, registration form, signup form or anything else! Yes, they require the user to customise them. However, a large amount of the effort in creation has been ready-made for them.

Integration Templates

Here at Cyclr, we take the concept of templating to the core of our embedded iPaaS product.

When it comes to creating a workflow integration for your users to install within your application you are aiming to build a template. In fact, in the Cyclr Console, we don’t call integrations (or workflows for that matter). We call them “templates”, as that’s what you’re creating. Templates only become an integration once a user has completed the authentication of applications. Then mapped any additional fields of data and clicked install. 

Reusable Integration Templates

You are aiming to provide a template integration which completes as much of the integration’s job as possible. At the same time making it flexible enough for users to simply add in their customisations during the installation process.

This provides a scalable process where the same integration template can be used by many, many users. As a result, each has its own twist, without you having to create an exhaustive list of integrations with small variations. If they do want a small variation, the drag-and-drop builder is there for your support team. It enables them to make amendments to templates or deployed integrations.

About Author

Avatar for Daniel Twigg

Daniel Twigg

With over 12 years experience in the Digital Marketing arena, covering industries including IoT, SaaS, fitness, computer gaming and music, Daniel has been Cyclr's marketing manager from the early days of the platform. Follow Daniel on LinkedIn

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