From Users to Creators: Transforming Your SaaS Into an Ecosystem

Victoria Rudi
May 3, 2022
⌚ 6 min read

Your growth practice 

Enable your users to become creators and transform their product-related skills into non-monetizable and monetizable assets.

Quick explanation

Inspire your existing users to show their creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial skills, and use their product-related skills and knowledge to build something new. Break the boundaries of conventionality and think about your users as powerful creators who can improve and leverage your product beyond its immediate functionality.


📓 Users: People who use your SaaS product to achieve a specific goal. You may acquire trial, non-paying, or paying users.

📓 Creators: Users who generate third-party assets, such as templates, apps, or integrations as a result of their product-related skills and knowledge. 

How does it work? 

If it’s justified and your platform allows it, you can nudge your users to build third-party elements such as templates, integrations, or apps. Subsequently, they can submit these third-party assets to your company’s library or marketplace. 

► Quick note: You’ll have to decide whether you’ll allow your users to monetize or not the assets they’ve submitted. 

Creators can also publish, share, and sell their platform-based templates, integrations, or apps on their personal/business websites. As a result, you’ll build an entire third-party asset ecosystem around your product.

Types of creators

  • Enthusiastic creators: These users care more about the fun of building and sharing something new than about incentives or recognition. 
  • Incentive-driven creators: People interested in building something new in exchange for social recognition or monetary wins.

Types of third-party assets

  • Templates: Workflows, project designs, and frameworks users create to achieve a specific goal. For example, a creator may build a Notion Template for tracking a team’s Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).  
  • Integrations: Third-party tools that work independently from the platform by receiving and/or passing data through an API connection.
  • Apps: Third-party tools that are built using a platform’s native tools. For example, the Salesforce apps are made using the native Salesforce tools within Salesforce itself. Compared to integrations, you’ll have a certain degree of control over the third-party apps. 

Type of rewards

  • Recognition-based: Building new assets motivated by industry or brand community recognition and connections with like-minded people. 
  • Monetization: Creating templates, integrations, or apps to generate a monetary profit. 

► Quick note: Allowing creators to monetize their assets will motivate them to participate in the economy you’re creating and build truly valuable and high-quality assets and products.

Distribution platforms

  • In-house template libraries: (internal) Companies such as Miro, Notion, or Webflow allow their users to submit their templates directly to an in-house library. 
  • In-house app marketplaces: (internal) Companies, such as Atlassian or Shopify, built in-house app marketplaces, enabling creators to distribute and sell the products and the integrations they’ve built. 
  • The creator’s page: (external) You may find creators publishing or promoting their templates through personal websites. For example, Ayk Martirosyan uses his personal website to promote and sell premium Notion templates.
  • The page of the asset: (external) Some creators may have a product page. For example, take a look at DelightChat, a customer support app for Shopify.
  • Third-party platforms: (external) Curated, third-party collections of platform-specific tools. As an example, here’s a curated list of Notion apps, tools, and resources. 
From Users to Creators

Your growth opportunities

By nudging users to create something based on your platform, you’ll create multiple growth opportunities for your business, such as:

  • Retain your existing users. The possibility to create, share, and maybe monetize their assets based on your software will boost people’s interest and motivation to stick with your product.
  • Increase brand awareness and recognition. Creators will promote your brand when sharing templates, integrations, and apps with their communities. For example, when promoting their Webflow templates, creators will also promote Webflow.
  • Help your new users to get started faster. A pre-existing and growing library of templates will simplify your new users. Think about the wide variety of user-built templates on Notion or Miro. New users don’t have to start from scratch as they can try and adapt the already-existing templates. 
  • Expand the capabilities of your product with third-party apps and integrations. Think about the Shopify App Store and its multitude of third-party apps built to improve and streamline the users’ experience on the platform.  
  • Increase your revenue. You can do that by taking a cut for offering a marketplace to your user-creators. 

Case examples

>> Webflow, a no-code website builder


🗃  Templates market (monetized)

Webflow Screenshot

🗃  Webflow Integrations

Webflow Screenshot

Fact: According to Bryant Chou, the co-founder of Webflow, some creators make around $500K / year by selling Webflow templates. As Chou highlights, the Webflow Templates page drives thousands of new users. 

LinkedIn Screenshot


🗃  Flowbase is a Webflow resource site with premium components, templates, and apps.

🗃  Lightning Lab is a studio dedicated to designing Webflow templates. 

🗃  Nikolai Bain is a Webflow expert who creates and sells templates.  

>> Miro, a visual collaboration platform


🗃  Miroverse (Miro Templates)

Miro Screenshot

🗃  Marketplace

Miro Screenshot

>> Atlassian, software development and collaboration tools 


🗃  Marketplace

Atlassian Screenshot

Fact: The Atlassian Marketplace surpassed $2 billion in lifetime sales by December 2021. With +1,250 Marketplace Partners and over 5,300 apps, the Marketplace took seven years to reach its first $1 billion in sales. But it took only two years to get the new milestone of $2 billion.

>> Coda, a centralized doc creator


🗃  Gallery (templates)

Coda Screenshot

🗃  Marketplace (under construction)

Fact: In 2021, Coda launched the Maker Fund, setting aside $1M. The fund’s goal is to enable creators to build Coda Docs and Packs that millions of people can use. As Coda highlights, the Maker Fund money will be allocated to developers excited by integrations. The page indicates, “Funding can primarily be to offset the cost of building or marketing your solution, but we’re open to hearing from you about how it could help you build more on Coda.”

>> Notion, a centralized workspace


🗃  Template Gallery

Notion Screenshot


🗃  Notionery, free and premium Notion Templates

🗃  Super, a Notion website builder 

🗃, a Notion website builder

🗃  Queue, Twitter scheduling tool for Notion

→ Find more by checking Notion Everything and Notion Tools, pages that include curated lists of Notion third-party apps, tools, templates, and educational resources.

>> Shopify, a complete e-commerce platform


🗃  App Store

Shopify Screenshot

>> Tally, a free online form builder


🗃  Tally Showcase

Tally Screenshot

>> Alamanac, a knowledge management platform 


🗃 Templates

Almanac Screenshot

What to consider? 


  • Are templates relevant for my SaaS products? If not, there’s no point in building a templates library or marketplace. 
  • Will third-party integrations and apps improve my product and the experience of my users?


  • Your product is complex and has different use cases. 
  • There’s a need for multiple, use case-based templates.
  • Your product allows integrations. 
  • Third-party apps will increase the value of your platform. 

► Quick note: It’s crazy that companies such as Typeform and Mural aren’t allowing user-built templates. 🤯

→ Your action framework

Guidelines: managing creators building templates

 Assess whether user-built templates are justified and necessary.

➡ If yes, create a page where people can submit or publish the templates they’ve created. 

💡 To consider: You have the option to create: 

  • A regular templates page: Enable everyone to publish templates without going through a submission process. You can reduce friction and encourage more people to create and share their templates. 
  • A template submission page: Create a submission process to ensure quality control. Fewer people may be willing to create templates. However, you’ll have better control over the quality of the templates. Also, the creators whose submissions were accepted will experience a higher degree of recognition. 

➡ If you choose the second option, which requires people to submit their templates for approval, create a template submission checklist. Here’s an example from Miro

💡 To consider: Your submission checklist should include the following elements: 

  • Quality. Can you accept the visual quality of the template? 
  • Purpose. What will your users get by trying the new template? 
  • Use Case. Can you attribute the template to a specific use case? 
  • Coherence. Is the template format and structure coherent? 

➡ Set up your template submission form and publish it on your template submission page. Here’s an example from Miro.

➡ Design a submission review protocol. Assign a team member responsible for checking the templates. Also, decide how long it should take from submission to template approval.

➡ Notify your existing users about launching the Template library. Encourage them to submit their templates. In some cases, you may want to incentivize them. 

► Quick note: You can incentivize users to become makers by allowing them to monetize their templates. 

Examples: managing creators building integrations and apps

🔗 Miro offers an excellent Build Your App guideline. Check it out for inspiration. The same company provides design guidelines and best practices to help creators build a great app experience. 

🔗 Atlassian published an exhaustive Marketplace guide focused on assisting the creators in building, submitting, and monetizing their apps. 

💡 To consider: Notice how Atlassian is listing the benefits of becoming a creator, including perks such as: 

  • Accessing a vast customer base
  • Using Atlassian’s licensing support
  • Streamlining the checkout
  • Making money 
  • Automating the communication with customers
  • And more

Finally, as Atlassian concludes, “It’s in our best interest to help you profit, and vice versa: Access to solid apps helps market our products, and our flexible products help market your apps.”

🔗 Shopify provides an extensive app submission guideline for its creators. Check it out for inspiration. The Shopify team is also offering live AMA sessions for creators on how to publish their apps to the App Store. Here’s an example.

💥 To remember: Don’t think about your SaaS as a product. Think about your SaaS as an ecosystem where users have the power to create new things and contribute significantly to your growth.