Every few years, a technology company will make an important leap forward with a major software update. The new Lightning update for Salesforce is the biggest change to the user interface in the history of the 16 year old cloud software company. In the release video, Salesforce employees who contributed to this update called it ‘the project of a lifetime’ when discussing its scale and importance in the evolution of the Salesforce platform. While the fundamentals of the platform haven’t changed much, users will notice drastic changes to user interface both in terms of the look and feel.
One of the first things you will notice when logging into the Salesforce with Lightning enabled is that the navigation links have been moved to the left hand side of the page. The tabs which were once text have been replaced with modern looking icons on a collapsible bar as part of a broader move towards a more visual experience. Salesforce’s strengths have traditionally been in data management, deep levels of system customization and integration with external software. They never made a strong push towards a visual experience focused on usability. In Lightning, one of the primary motifs is a shift towards an impactful visual and interactive interface. It’s an interface where the data in Salesforce, through visual design, is made easier to discover, digest, and comprehend. The design and user experience is akin to what you might expect when using one the latest interfaces designed by Apple or Google. It’s a combination of simplicity and beauty.
Salesforce users will find nice improvements allow them to make some adjustments which once required an administrator’s assistance. Examples of this include customizing the layout of the homepage and building custom tailored reports / dashboards using drag-and-drop functionality. The complex backend of the system which administrators and developers spend significant amounts of time in will remain for the most part the same, but with a cleaner look and feel. One change to note on the backend side is that Salesforce is making a push away from Visualforce and moving more towards lightning components. These components have improved functionality and better ease of use in the building process. As the Salesforce’s own Trailhead module for building lighting apps says, “Users expect highly interactive and immersive experiences literally at their fingertips.” The goal here is to lessen the technical burden for business analysts to implement business process solutions. With that said, the downside to changing the methods in which the system design is based upon is that some current Visualforce components may not be supported. Salesforce was careful to caution administrators and developers to test old Visualforce pages. That said, the system administrator must enable these updates and can slowly roll it out when the organization is ready. The updates can even be enabled for a select group of users to test before it is rolled out to all users in the platform.
At the end of the day, this update is going to affect everyone who uses Salesforce from users to administrators to developers. While major software updates always take a little getting used to, we think the Lightning update will make the platform even more user friendly, robust and efficient. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics in this update. As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so since this update is deeply rooted visual updates, we thought it is best to show the new ‘lightning experience’ is through combination of screenshots and captions.
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