The context: We're working on a small SaaS solution for freelancer and very small companies (<5 employees). We know that people will sometimes need to create several sheets that contain almost the same content.

So my approach is that they create a sheet, and if they need a new one with almost the same content, then they duplicate the previous sheet and change what they want to change.

Of course, a different approach is also possible: The user creates a template and creates new sheets from that template.

I don't like the template approach at all because it destroys the user flow (have to create a template first, THEN create the sheet you actually want). Also I don't want to "bother" the user with templates and template handling.

A lot of software uses templates. Like MS Office. Remember the context, our users are freelancers and small businesses, which pretty sure are familiar with some office functionalities. So I guess that on the one hand, our users might know the concept of templates, but on the other hand, I can imagine that they don't use them anyway. They open an already existing document, change the things they want to change and save them as a new one. (Just like my favorized approach)

So in my oppinion, our SaaS should not provide templates. Or am I completely wrong?

  • Isn't it possible to have templates but not require you to start from a template? What are these sheets for? Data entry? Reports? – Ben Brocka Jul 11 '12 at 13:26
  • @Ben Brocka: Well that's also a possibility I was thinking of. How ever, it would still require to implement some kind of template handling. And I'm just not sure, if the majority uses templates at all. My oppinion is, that templates are an expert functionality. – Alexej Froehlich Jul 11 '12 at 13:38
  • What about create templates from an existing sheet? that way you wouldn't destroy the user flow. The user could make several sheets from scratch before it realizes he has a pattern and decide to template it. – jpsstavares Jul 11 '12 at 15:29

If you, as the SaaS provider, are able to offer predefined templates, it helps you stand out as an 'expert' for users and prospects. If this is possible, then that is a huge win for you. Being able to label 'Templates' as a time saving feature, will often entice users to subscribe because it sounds more useful than duplicating existing records. Remember, the SaaS game is about subscribers, so marketing plays a big role.

In our app, we have a Save button with a dropdown option, where they can Save their record, or Save and Create Template. The second option creates a template from their new record. Similarly, when adding a new record, they have an Add from Template option as well. It's not really different than duplicating an existing record that you've proposed, but from a sales and marketing perspective, it's hugely different.

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