Show Don’t Tell – The Art of Templating

Updated on by Daniel Twigg

Regardless 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, decimate and modify.

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

Why do Users Love Templates?

The 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 crippling.

Software users are no different. The blank screen of possibilities can stop users from throwing themselves into your platform, preventing themselves 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 in order 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 you go about creating 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 of a portion of the use case it can give users a starting point. From there, guided by your onboarding, you can funnel them to more complex examples which get into the detail and your more advanced features.

If you can distill and recreate your key use cases into workable templates you’re one step closer to provide 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 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 through 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 be able to template all scenarios. This calls for a level of generalisation, which can be combined with onscreen tooltips to enable the user to customise the template to their needs.

For example, integration between SaaS platforms has an enormous scope due to the sheer number of web applications available (and that’s before you get to the data fields available 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 without you having to spoon feed 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 a prime example of a template experience to get users up and running. If you look at companies such as MailChimp, Sendgrid and ActiveCampaign they offer users a range of templates focusing primarily on layout (whether you want a header image, columns, heading blocks and so much more). 

These allow digital marketing departments to quickly create a layout which they can customise with their own images and copy to create their finished product.

CRMs

Every business has their own processes and sales funnels, so CRMs have become more adaptive to the needs of their customers. CRMs such as Monday.com 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 chat bots need to walk the line of gathering enough information for you to assess the lead, while not being too onerous on 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 contact form, registration form, signup form or anything else! Yes they require the user to customise them but 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. Infact, in the Cyclr Console we don’t call integrations 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 complete authentication of applications, 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, while 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, each with their own twist, without you having to create an exhaustive list of integrations with small variations. And if they do want a small variation, the drag and drop builder is there for your support team to make amendments to templates or deployed integrations.

Avatar for Daniel Twigg

Daniel Twigg

With over 10 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.