During the week of Dreamforce ‘15 there came a torrent of Salesforce CRM announcements; among which was the show stopping discussions surrounding Salesforce Lightning. Salesforce.com’s new UI represents much more than a cleaner layout and streamlined navigation. Rather, once you glimpse beyond the aesthetics, you’ll see the implications have much farther reach that will affect how your business utilizes CRM.
The Lightning App Builder and a small handful of other related development features have been around for as long as two years now, exclusively utilized by companies leveraging the Salesforce1 app to support operations. With the new UI release, these development technologies will soon play a much larger role extending beyond just mobile. Instead, they will be used to construct a highly customized, extremely fluid desktop interface which interacts seamlessly with your existing data.
Put another way, Salesforce Lightning will do to CRM what mobile apps have done to enhance our relationship with smartphones. Prior to the new UI, Salesforce developers and admins could extend the functionality of the Salesforce platform by apps offered on the AppExchange, as well as Apex and VisualForce. AppExchange applications, however, have operated within the constraints of the existing UI - relying on comparatively minor Visualforce and Apex modifications to fill a measure of customization suited to business needs. The Salesforce Lightning UI achieves much more flexibility.
Salesforce is quite proud of the new UI, and justifiably so. It is clean, efficient, and logically constructed. Many users will appreciate a past-due departure from the mid-90s-esque ‘old’ (now called ‘Salesforce Classic’) interface. This change, and its implications, will leave developers some new challenges to contend with - but only initially. From a stylistic standpoint, Salesforce has alleviated a lot of the design aspects of that burden by packaging a number of features in the Lightning Design System. Within this framework are tools developers can use to build out custom components without worrying about maintaining Salesforce/customization design consistency.
The components which make up the new customized Salesforce experience will be more code-intensive, however. Lightning Components are the foundation on which every new customized Salesforce UI org are built, and are designed specifically with modularity in mind to encourage component interaction. While this presents some challenges at the outset, these custom components will also be made available on the AppExchange, should the innovating development team choose to make them available. As businesses and developers acclimate to the new UI, it’s widely accepted that the selection of pre-built, ready-to-use components will expand. This puts any company with the resources and initiative to construct these components at the ground floor of a significant innovation opportunity.
While the Salesforce Lightning UI is still in development, it’s important to keep in mind that there are a handful of unsupported features. This will vary by org depending on which aspects of Salesforce are being used, but Salesforce has great incentive to get the entirety of the Classic UI supported by Lightning. With this in mind there is a certainty that before much longer, Salesforce Lightning UI will be the standard for CRM in appearance, functionality, and customization.