Learn how to Build SaaS products from scratch

SaaS Manual teaches you how to build commercial software services that are production-ready, scalable, maintainable, and secure. It teaches you all of this from scratch.


Warning: Keep reading only if you are ready for inception.

Curious? Read on, you are at the right place 🤗

Nikolai Onken

I (find me here on Twitter) started working on the web around 1996 and since then was fortunate to build many SaaS products with incredibly talented people, including most recently, Cloud9 IDE as the VP of Engineering.

Cloud9 IDE was acquired by AWS and I have spent the past three years at Amazon, gaining a lot of valuable insight and learning many lessons on how to build and operate software systems at scale. It's time to share this knowledge with you.

There are many topics which you need to learn about when you build software products for the web. Often, courses, books, articles, or tutorials cover individual topics, like "Client-Side JavaScript", "Service-Based Architectures" or "Serverless For Dummies", you name it.

SaaS Manual takes on a different approach. Instead, we'll be building a complete software service from scratch and cover topics as they come up.

There is a catch. And it's cool! Let me explain:

You might say, "But pleeeeaaaase, not another TODO list, pleeease??". I got you covered, you won't build another TODO list.

We will build saasmanual.com instead!! We'll be eating our own dog food 🎉. And you can be a part of this journey. You actually already are, because you have read until here 🤗.

SaaS Manual will become a fully-fledged product. Call it a learning platform. With accounts, billing, a public/private API, static and dynamic pages, a CDN, infrastructure as code, CI/CD, serverless and so much more (don't worry if those words don't mean a thing to you just yet).

Everything will be public 1 and there won't be any hidden secrets2 or parts where you’d wonder "how do they really work?". And we won't rely on too many external tools or frameworks, so you’ll really get to learn and see what it takes to build a software product. It is the real deal.

In other words:

Imagine you are going to build a house, from scratch, for real, finding some land, stacking the bricks, building a roof, until you can move in3. You will make many mistakes, like forgetting a wall, placing sockets in the wrong places, making a measuring mistake... But you'll get it done. And you'll be so happy that you did. Because you’ve learned invaluable lessons in building your own house.

With SaaS Manual, you can join the journey of building a complete software service.
From scratch.

Join the journey

SaaS Manual currently exists only on this page. The domain saasmanual.com, Twitter handle @saasmanual, Facebook page, and GitHub organization have been created but nothing else exists. Sign up below, if you want to join this journey. I promise it will be fun and insightful. And in case you wonder what the first lesson will be? It most likely will be the creation of the actual SaaS Manual landing page.

What will you learn?

To begin with, you will learn how to build a complete SaaS product from scratch, and that is kind of a big deal. By building saasmanual.com into a fully-fledged learning platform you will learn how to build SaaS products from scratch. I know it's kind of a mind-warp! By reading this, you already entered the Matrix, there is no way back 😎.

Secondly, as we embark on this journey, we will come across a number of topics that I wrote down below. Basically a brain-dump of my experience over the past 20 years. We might never get to cover some topics because they won't be needed to make SaaS Manual a successful product, but we also might. In my experience, we will cover most... eventually.

The topics below will likely be covered by building saasmanual.com. The below table is not a TOC. It is not complete and it is a work in progress (WIP). Feel free to leave comments or ideas on what needs to be covered or what you would love to see covered.

Enough talk, are you in? 🤗

Ok, this should give you an idea of what you will embark on if you decide to join this adventure. Leave your email below and you will be the first to get notified of the next steps of building SaaS Manual.

Ideas for SaaS Manual?

There are a lot of topics that need to be covered when building a software service from start to finish (really, it never ends 🥴. Somehow we humans like to be busy). I welcome any feedback, ideas, and thoughts on how to make SaaS Manual a reliable place for information about building software services. Are you thinking that a topic is missing? Finding some ambiguous information? Feel free to comment on this page or message me on twitter if you find anything in need of improvement here. Because, trust me, I have made mistakes before.

Whats next?

This page really is the blueprint for the idea. The whole point of saasmanual.com is to take the journey of building a product from zero, nothing, to something real and useful. So from here on, we'll take the next steps to actually build saasmanual.com and launch saasmanual.com as an online service. And you can be part of this journey.


Is SaaS Manual good for a beginner dipping the toes into building software services?
Absolutely. SaaS Manual will go through each and every step in the journey of building a software product. And if something is not clear, you can ask and I will update the content of the course.

What does SaaS Manual cost?
Currently, it is free. Future prices will depend on when we will implement the billing/subscription part of the service. Because, really, what would be a SaaS product without subscriptions??? Can't go without it + I need to buy food 🥕. And there will be a free tier, for sure.

Isn't it super expensive to run my own SaaS product?
Not with SaaS Manual. We will rely on services like Lambda or DynamoDB which only charge when you actually use them. So if your service doesn't make any money, you won't lose any money. It's a win-win.

Is this the only way to build SaaS products?
No. Imagine we only had one music style in the world. Argh, that would be kind of sad! SaaS Manual teaches you one way, the way which hopefully will make saasmanual.com a successful and useful product for people who love to build. There are a million other ways. Hopefully, this way will inspire you to go out and find your own way.

What Cloud provider will you use to teach SaaS Manual?
We'll be using AWS. The concepts should be translatable to any cloud provider with a similar product offering as AWS. Also, and of course, I am biased 🙈, AWS is really quite cool!

SaaS Manual principles

These are the principles I will follow as I will create the lessons for SaaS Manual. Those are the principles I won't compromise and they provide guidance to make sure you will have the best learning experience possible.

Follow best practices:
SaaS Manual provides you with an in-depth guide on how to build a complete SaaS product following industry best practices.

Build for customers first:
SaaS Manual only promotes best practices that support a great customer experience. (E.g. shipping kilobytes of client libraries does not do that)

Know your dependencies:
SaaS Manual teaches you how to build a service from the ground up with as few dependencies as possible. The ones you use, you will learn to understand.

Learn the fundamentals:
SaaS Manual teaches you how the building blocks work and how you can build most of your service from scratch, so you can deeply understand what you are building.

Provide a great developer experience:
SaaS Manual teaches you how to setup a fast, and joyful development process. So you can build for your customers instead of dealing with tooling pains.


Content for SaaS Manual gets reviewed by experts in their field. Thank you for your valuable input, thoughts, and feedback:

You made it until here, wohooo!

There is nothing more to say, you made it and that is amazing 🙈. If you love the idea, join the journey below, it'll be a fun ride 🙏🏻.

Updates / Articles

You can find all previously released articles here.

That's it, really, no more scrolling!

Ok, wow, it's addictive isn't it? You can do it. Stop now!

Stop it!!! Really, its done! 😇 🥴

Ok ok, you won!!! In case you didn't join the SaaS Manual adventure yet, here you go 🤗:


My god, you are still here! You can follow SaaS Manual on Twitter here 🤗.

Haha, this is getting crazy 😳 Here is the Facebook page. Let's make this thing big.

Ok, bye ❤️

Ah, before I forget: You can follow me on Twitter here 🎉.

❤️ The End.

  1. Except for customer data or any personally identifiable information (PII) which would violate privacy legislation.↩
  2. Except for the secrets which are required to access certain paid AWS accounts/services, because, yep, those are real secrets and we can't provide free AWS accounts to the world 😅↩
  3. If I wasn't into software I would have built a course similar to this amazing project in France. They built a castle from scratch! I mean, how amazing is that??? Maybe the next version will be actually building a house, who knows?↩