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Ride the Lightning Experience, Salesforce’s Modern Reboot to Drive User Adoption

Oct 31 · min read

Part I – The History of Lightning Experience

The modern update to Salesforce, Lightning Experience (LEX), delivers a web component-driven set of capabilities that can truly transform every user, administrator, and developer’s ability to present that most relevant data and behavior in Salesforce in a way not possible with the legacy Classic experience. While today I can say that Lightning Experience is 1000x better than Classic, it has been a long and arduous road to get to this point and the history here matters quite a bit as it pertains to user adoption.

This history has technical aspects but the implementation tips to follow will focus on Clicks, not Code.

Have you ever heard anyone say to you that they don’t like Lightning Experience? There are reasons…..and likely good ones.

  • 2013: Salesforce Releases a Brand New look and feel and component-based architecture, starting with Salesforce1 mobile.

  • 2014: The first Lightning experience browser release delivered the first component framework, Aura, which brought modern javascript capabilities natively to the platform.

EarlyLightningExperience-left-sidebar-1024x543.png

Wait, that’s not the way LEX looks like today!

Here’s where the early mistakes were made and a decade of trust was threatened. For 13 years, users had powered their sales lives with Salesforce Classic. Unless you had a wayward implementation partner, your app was performant and your data was in front of your face, in a very obvious way, FAST. In 2014 Salesforce flipped the entire app concept 90 degrees and while they did not force users to switch, those that did regretted it immediately. Truthfully, the navigation didn’t make a lot of sense. Thankfully, it didn’t last long.

  • 2015 to 2018 a.k.a. the heady promise of the Aura: The UI was fixed and we had a jump into Aura web component based implementations. As app designers, we had all sorts of new goodies to play with, intra-component messaging frameworks, Drag and Drop interfaces to marry standard and custom features. Really promising things.

StandardNavLightningExperience-1024x406.png

One issue remained as it pertained to end-user experience: Performance. Aura is a dog. Have you ever heard of a javascript octane score? No one cared prior to Aura. All of a sudden we find ourselves measuring browser performance benchmarks in fear of the experience we were delivering to our users. In a way it was a perfect storm because of the juicy potential of the framework: It unlocked so many new design patterns that product managers started implementing them, rapidly (guilty as charged):

  • Need to re-render 4 components based on filter selections of another? Aura can do that.

  • Need a single custom data table component to render special column and row behavior underpinned by custom metadata configuration? Aura loves dynamic patterns.

A quick aside. When Salesforce started developing Aura, there was little alignment in JavaScript frameworks. Angular, Jquery, Backbone, Knockout, Angular 2.0. No compatibility, each with specialized syntaxes. Great for specialist developers but awful for product managers and app designers. Salesforce Engineering deserves credit for Aura. The desire to create a component framework and open source it is admirable. Give back to the ecosystem. Really great things. It had so much promise.

The problem at the end of the day was speed. Salesforce has a standard internally for application performance: Entire page rendered to the user in 3 seconds or less. Classic can do that, custom VisualForce with a smartly written controller can do that. With Aura and some early Lightning Experience, even standard page load times sometimes were upwards of 10 seconds. The architecture was just not performant. I can offer some lived experience with these issues firsthand. I led an implementation team where we were rendering data tables and every part of the table was a dynamic aura component: cells, headers, rows, columns, values….everything. It turns out that we couldn’t get the page to load faster than 20 seconds reliably when tables started to grow very large. When it was all said and done we had to strip out all of the dynamic component creation and shift the solution to javascript rendered HTML in the Aura component. Even then, the page still didn’t load faster than 9 seconds, often as high as 15, and the same controller returned data in a single second to the Client. 15 seconds of Client-side processing. Unacceptable. It turns out that not-so-ideal end-user experiences like this have collectively added to some bad blood. I have heard more than once from Account Executives:

“I’ll stop using Classic when Salesforce pries it from my cold dead hands.”

It is now our job, as implementers, to prove to them that Lightning Experience deserves another look. And this, my friends, is the moral of the story. The culmination of 5 years of growing pains to truly get to that modern look and feel has left a bad taste in a lot of longtime end users’ mouths. This is why so much adoption remains to be realized with Lighting Experience.

I’m here to give you hope. The platform is ready.

And it’s truly awesome.

At present, and for quite a while before today, we can honestly say that not using Lighting Experience is now putting your users at a disadvantage. Starting in late 2016/early 2017, Salesforce embarked on an aggressive 6 release roadmap to address User Experience with:

  • Apps and Lightning page enhancements, especially Lightning page activation granularity

  • A brand new Lightning Console and navigation API

  • Lighting Web Components to replace Aura.

Salesforce, instead of rolling a new framework, is admirably leveraging new industry javascript standards controlling Shadow DOM, Custom Elements, and HTML Templates with Lightning Web Components. For the first time, it is possible to write modern industry-standard javascript components in Salesforce UI builds. That may satisfy developers, but the focus of this series is to arm you, the administrator, with the tools needed to overcome end-user’’ challenges to Lighting Experience adoption. Over the next few posts, we’re going to explore tips, tricks, tactics, and things to remember when crafting a rollout or correction of a Lightning Experience Implementation. Our focus is adoption and creating an unmatched user experience. Watch this space!

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