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How JotForm Rebuilt Its Flagship SaaS Product in 18 Months

Category: B2B News

As the years roll on and technology moves forward, it’s only natural that what was tech-savvy and “in” at one time can look dated a mere few years later. Here at JotForm, an online forms SaaS tool, time caught up with us. We spent years with a laser-sharp focus on the product, making the functionality as useful and powerful as possible, and adding new features and integrations. Somewhere along the way, our style and design hung back and stayed there.

There were several problems that we needed to solve. First, our product was not entirely mobile friendly – users could not yet build forms on their phones or tablets. Second, we needed to do something about the interface design of our product and website. There were many options to mull over and lots of moving parts, and a decision was made. JotForm was going to rebuild its product from the ground up. Our new form builder would be built mobile-first. Named JotForm 4.0, it was going to be the first full-featured online form builder to be completely mobile-ready and have offline functionality.

Collected information

Before formalizing our plan to move forward, our team needed to collect information in order to make data-driven decisions about the direction we would take with JotForm 4.0. Hundreds of usability tests were run to get feedback straight from users. For example, they were given a task to recreate a specific form. As they would build the form, dragging-and-dropping their way through the challenge, they would narrate their experience out loud.

These users would share any thoughts they had from button location, to the ease of finding what they needed, to issues they experienced, and any other feedback. We used the insights gained throughout this information-gathering process to inform our decisions for JotForm 4.0’s updated interface. We continued to run new usability tests throughout the whole journey of creating JotForm 4.0, constantly updating and refining with user feedback in mind.

Keep the project moving forward

As you may expect, keeping a large scale project moving forward over the duration of a year and a half takes a bit of structure and motivation. The JotForm team was organized into cross-functional teams, and we held several hack weeks that spurred creativity and set deadlines for bite-sized chunks of the overall project.

During a hack week, each cross-functional team competed to make the best version of a smaller feature within JotForm 4.0. That Friday, at the end of a very busy and exciting week, the teams presented their findings, their new designs, and answered questions from the rest of the JotForm team. Although the individual teams were competing against each other, the end goal was shared: creating JotForm 4.0 together.

So, teams were encouraged to learn from each other and free to incorporate any other teams’ ideas for the next hack week. As the hack weeks and demo days continued, by the end, the products the teams were coming up with started to look more and more similar. This was because the best ideas won, and the best ideas were incorporated into every future iteration of JotForm 4.0. Holding high-intensity hack weeks fostered strong collaboration, communication, and was a very motivating and efficient way to never lose sight of the end goal throughout the long process of rebuilding our product.

Continuous deployment

The process by which we do product development here at JotForm is with continuous deployment. We frequently release new parts of our software. Piece by piece, we build and release small parts of the product. These new features and sections undergo vigorous testing to make sure that new additions actually enhance usability. Because updates are released on a regular basis, our progression is easily noticed by our regular users. They may log in one morning and notice that a part of the JotForm interface, such as our “Thank You Page Wizard,” has a new look and feel. It may have more features and functionality, too.

As every piece of the puzzle was individually tested, the entire new version of JotForm was also beta-tested for months leading up to the official release day, when all of the new features would be opened up to every user. This allowed us to address any kinks in the product and fix them before being released on a wider scale. Also, some users were given access to the product pre-launch, and their feedback was collected and incorporated during this time.

Throughout the past year and a half of preparing for the launch of the new and improved JotForm, we collecting the needed data via surveys, usability tests, and our own research, including best practices and popular features within JotForm. Teams within the team were propelled forward with vigorous hack weeks, which brought out the most creative and winning ideas. Last but not least, we ensured that hiccups were kept to a minimum by employing a great deal of testing, launching a beta version, and monitoring every individual piece of the product for potential problems.

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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