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Salesforce Lightning development makes strides, but still falls short

The Lightning development framework in the Salesforce CRM platform has undergone upgrades in usability, but there are still some improvements to await.

When Salesforce made changes to its Lightning platform in June 2016, they came with great expectation. While Salesforce...

Lightning development brought vast improvements to the user interface and functionality, Lightning Experience wasn't able to meet every need.

Lightning is the development framework for the Salesforce Customer Success Platform. Lightning allows developers and nontechnical users to build on top of the Salesforce platform. Most recently, in June, Salesforce made some serious upgrades to Lightning's ease of use and flexibility of the Lightning framework.

Multiple improvements to the homepage functionality, insights improvements and security for Lightning Components are all important enhancements that make admins presiding over long-standing instances more comfortable with switching over to the experience. Lightning is not perfect by any stretch, but given that Salesforce itself has switched to the Lightning Experience in their Sales Cloud, I expect that Salesforce Winter '17 and Spring '17 will include fixes to some remaining issues and make it compelling to switch to Lightning before the first quarter of 2017.

Salesforce Lightning improvements

Since the release, one of the central complaints about Salesforce Lightning development has been the inflexibility of the homepage. With so many great options for Lightning Components, it was maddening that they could not be moved or added to a user's homepage. With Salesforce's Summer '16 release, that has been resolved. Now an admin can delete the performance grid that took up major real estate on the homepage and add components based on user profile, making a custom experience based on the needs of each user group. Lightning is all about an improved user interface, so this flexibility within an easier UI for the user was essential before many companies would even consider switching from the Classic edition.

This is also true for the sidebar and tabs navigation, which is a drastic change from Classic. While the sidebar is still missing custom links, though I don't think that will ever come back and will have to be answered in a Lightning Component, there is now flexibility to add custom object tabs to the sidebar and set up profile-based navigation. This is important because the only other way to access former tabs requires multiple clicks in the Lightning experience and is not user-friendly.

In addition to the homepage, multiple enhancements were made to pieces that are not available in Classic, which makes Salesforce Lightning development more appealing to users of legacy instances. Ask sellers from multiple companies, and they will tell you that Salesforce should be like the Google experience, with the ability to add third-party data to internal customer information. Insights, which pulls news about companies within the instance like an RSS feed, has been a staple of the Lightning experience since the beginning and is a huge win for many admins struggling to find more features to drive adoption among sellers. With Summer '16, Insights can be imbedded within an opportunity, or a user can go to a separate News tab to get news. Automatic account logos within the Account object and Account autofill helps sellers after they start entering the name of a company in a new account, both of which are not in Classic.

Security is being bolstered in upcoming releases of Lightning, though admins may not welcome it. For Lightning Components, if admins and developers want to expand past the out-of-the- box features in the App Builder, the instance needs to be moved to a custom domain. This means rather than having a domain of na24.salesforce.com it would be yourcompany.my.salesforce.com, and users would log in through that domain rather than login.salesforce.com -- though you can allow users to still use login.salesforce.com depending on admin preferences. This improves the security of custom Lightning Components, according to Salesforce, but it could be a pain for companies that need to communicate with users on such a switch and do extensive testing for any integrations that may be affected.

Overall, page load speed is becoming much less of a problem for Lightning. There are still some glitches with custom URL formulas not taking the user to the correct page and the inability to imbed charts into Lightning reports, but the list of issues is getting shorter. For most companies, I would suggest starting the testing now, and not implementing in production until at least a month after Dreamforce. By the October conference, or probably a month later, Lightning will be the right choice for most companies and a huge win for user adoption and satisfaction with the Salesforce product.

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This was last published in July 2016

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