The State Of Emptiness And SaaS | ONNE

The state of emptiness and SaaS

The State Of Emptiness And SaaS

The State Of Emptiness And SaaS


10 Feb, 2020

6 minutes read

A state of emptiness could either be an opportunity or a misfortune. My intent though is not to engage in a discussion on spiritual pursuits, but to discuss how addressing the state of emptiness is fatally critical for a SaaS product. Discuss, how we learned that lesson at Onne.

Emptiness quite often has a negative connotation. More in occidental thinking than the oriental. In that thought system emptiness points to a mental state which is less than ideal and one is expected to take course correction. It is synonymous with mental depression and loss and boredom.

The oriental thought system though sees the emptiness in a different spin. It is a major pillar of thought in Buddhism. The Dalai Lama, in his book on the Heart Sutras, says emptiness is "the true nature of things and events". It is that state when an entity becomes totally independent and in its truest sense exists as that entity.

An uncle of mine - an alpha male military officer - possibly the single most person who left a lasting impression during the teen years, introduced me to transcendental meditation with stories of his experiments. That and the books I was reading then, pushed me to experiment on my own and for a while ardently attempt to 'empty' my mind. Why that failed and I lived to become an architect is the topic for another day.

But the point is that the state of emptiness could either be an opportunity or a misfortune.

At its best, an empty mind is ready to take in sifted thoughts and be filled with positivity; help you connect with the realm. It would be a wasted opportunity to let that opportunity go. Not too far from scenarios that one would come across while developing a SaaS product. And that is precisely what we learned at Onne the hard way but thankfully before it was too late. We had just launched our beta and did a short and narrow targeted test campaign. We had an amazing, almost incredible, conversion rate: 56% of our target group signed up on our product.


But none went any further. Heat maps showed that they just stared at the landing screen and left. Never to come back. I mean, we had amazing features that these people could use for their business. Elevating them from the chat apps they currently use. Increasing their productivity by about 30%. Those were just a click away. And yet, not a single one of them tried anything.

It classified truly as a 'duh' moment. Until it dawned upon us: we hadn't treated our state of emptiness well. Our empty states were unattended. Resultant UX was confusing, leaving the users with a feeling that something about our product was not right or working.

Whilst developing the UI/UX, designers often get carried away with getting the best possible flow. It is a logical step-by-step process that they try to achieve. In that line of thinking quite often, they miss the less obvious: what if the user has to make multiple choices at a point?

Users do not like too many choices. The best UX is when the user does not even realise that he is making choices but rather is made to feel that he is taking the most 'obvious step forward'. Intuitive. Give him choices that he has to think about? He will freeze and probably quit.

In a typical SaaS product, there could be many scenarios that require empty state management, but most often the scenarios that a user will encounter are:

1. At on-boarding: when there is no data and it is truly empty
2. At 404/error states and
3. When a user clears data and returns to an empty state.

It is estimated that the latter two scenarios occur about 2-5% times of a user journey. But the onboarding scenario is 100%.

That was what we faced with Onne Beta.

So we set about to transform our empty states, that transient yet so critical state, to be meaningful, engaging and intuitive user experience. What we had to achieve were a few things.

Empathy. The screen had to empathise with the user on his concern. He should know that we know what he feels at that moment.

Reassurance. He needs to understand that what he sees is normal. That is expected at that moment and it is ok.

Call to Action. He should intuitively know the next action. He should understand that it is his action that will change that state of emptiness.

What we realised was that it wasn't too difficult. It is something that is easily achievable and should have been done in the first place. But we hadn't. The obvious next step was to look at all possible empty state scenarios and come up with appropriate designs.

We did and the results speak for themselves. We are in good business.

A good empty state design will elevate the brand. Reassure the user alleviating his immediate concerns and draw him to take the next call to action. When managed well, the empty states are singularly important points in a product that can transform into positive user experience.

Manage your state of emptiness well and never miss the opportunity it opens up.