If the central focus of your project is related to publishing some form of content online, then WordPress could be a great choice -- William Craig
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Want to know how to use WordPress for your SaaS offering? Read on.

If you were alive at the time Microsoft Office was sold on a CD (also the time when hot pants were fun and Catfish meant a literal fish), you’d know how far we’ve come. Emails were uncommon, spamming wasn’t a thing yet, and flyers on the porch and hand-out brochures were perfectly acceptable ways of advertising your business.

From software being sold on a CD to it being sold online, the dot com fad has become a fixture. The new ‘it’ thing on the block is SaaS. SaaS, Software as a Service, is where you pay a subscription fee (at regular intervals) for your data to be stored on the cloud. It’s on-demand software that you can use from your computer/s or practically any device with an internet connection.

SaaS vs Traditional Software Infographic

 

SaaS makes it possible for your business to know all about your user before they walk in (Salesforce), send automated emails (MailChimp), and about a million other things. (The internet is a wonderful place.) SaaS companies essentially use software to serve their users. It's customizable and you can change the way it looks, feels, and works for you.

WordPress on the other hand was traditionally designed to be a CMS (content management system). Over the years, WordPress has evolved and so has its community. WordPress essentially has the core feature requirements for any SaaS platform (think API Systems, great plug-ins, extensibility, and scalability). WordPress.com’s Multisite feature allows you to create a network of subsites under a single WordPress, for example, WordPress.com itself. (This is so meta!) A few other examples to consider are Restaurant Engine, PressBooks, and ManageWP.

Now that you know you ‘can’ build SaaS on WordPress, the question remains, ‘should’ you?

Here’s why you should be considering WordPress for your SaaS

  1. WordPress is used by millions of people, 455M to be precise, and 1 in 4 websites is hosted on WordPress. (The official Star Wars blog, Beyonce’s Website and even SaaS companies like VaultPress)
  2. WordPress has a ton of plugins, and by a ton, I mean 50,000+! Combine it with the 11000+ available themes and great WordPress developers, and you will have found yourself a goldmine.
  3. You'll save a lot of time by using the Multisite feature. It allows you to create and manage an entire network of multiple websites from a single dashboard.

And here’s why you shouldn’t

  1. WordPress’s security concerns are genuine. Think of it this way, if every house on the block was designed the same, wouldn’t it be easier for robbers to break into all of them if they managed to break into one? If hackers find a loophole in one system, chances are, they'll probably find it in many others too.
  2. WordPress relies a lot on plugins. This means having to deal with a lot of code that isn’t your own and a slow WordPress admin
  3. WordPress was originally designed to publish blogs (which it still does). That is its primary use case. It’s like using body wash for your face, it does the job, but it’s not meant for it.
  4. You can’t build WordPress for SaaS unless you do it all at once (the process isn’t lean). Not to mention every update made will add to your costs (if you hire a developer).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Drishti Sanghavi
In my free time, I can be found baking cookies, fixing up furniture, or critiquing things I don't know all that much about. I write about Technology, SaaS, Marketing, and everything that interests me. In my natural state, I can be found slouched on a chair in front of my computer, pretending it's the 1960's and I'm a cool lady with a typewriter.
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If you’ve made up your mind, here’s how you can start building SaaS on WordPress

Figure out your approach : Single site or Multisite. If you need your users to log in and be introduced to the same features, use a single site. Here, the same version of your SaaS will be displayed to all users. The data, of course, will be different. However, if you want your users to be able to customize their accounts like the ability to expand their themes (Restaurant Engine), use Multisite.

A caveman analogy would be - Single site is buying a chicken, multisite is buying a farm. A single site can host one site, Multisite can host anywhere between 2 to a few million.

Single site vs multisite chart

It's also important to consider the technical implications of using WordPress for SaaS. Here are some valid questions that need to be answered:

  • What are your requirements?
  • How flexible would your system be?
  • Is your technical infrastructure designed to work flawlessly with a software stack?
  • Are your resources and infrastructure equipped for this?

WordPress SaaS plugins

WordPress plugins are add-on software components that are attached to the original software. This lets you customize your software without having to write your own code (but can require you to if you want to modify it).

If you’re going to be using a single site SaaS offering, you can build your own or find a prebuilt function like the WPJobBoard.

For a multisite offering, there’s a number of plugins that you can use

  • Using singular plugins to tackle a specific function. For example, if you want users to be able to sync/unsync from one site of your WordPress Multisite Network to the other, you can use an individual plugin like the WordPress Multisite User Sync/Unsync
  • If you want to save up on time you can just use WP Ultimo. As the name suggests, it takes care of everything for you. It can save you months of rigorous effort by giving you a done-for-you solution.
  • Or, you can just build your own.

Plugins and themes chart

If you’re going ahead with Multisite, this is what it's best for:

  • With Multisite, you can manage a network of independent websites and also control the extent of customization allowed to the user with regards to its design, content, and functionality for each subsite.
  • WooCommerce is an e-commerce plugin that you can use to build a network of online stores.
  • Perfect for building a corporate Intranet where different silos can manage their instance of WordPress.
  • You can use WordPress for SaaS to build a simple application that benefits from each user running their subsite.

WordPress SaaS Themes

Themes are to design what Plugins are to functionality. Themes will determine how your SaaS looks for both the user as well as the backend developers. There are a few themes that are perfect for the typical SaaS look and feel like Startus, Vibrant, and Appon. If you want to stand out or find a theme that suits your requirements better, you can always find a ton of SaaS theme options on Themeforest.

WordPress for SaaS: these are the takeaways

  • If you’re building a portfolio, a blog or going to be offering a publishing-based service, WordPress is your best bet.
  • WordPress plugins and themes are lifesavers. People who can’t code have been able to use WordPress effectively (doesn’t mean it is easy!). You can save up on a lot of time and resources by using WordPress for SaaS.
  • If you’re building the next Airbnb, WordPress probably shouldn't be your first choice. Or your second.
  • Don’t set yourself up for failure. Build your SaaS on infrastructure that can support multiple users. Hope for success but expect scalability.

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