Build Lightning Apps Your Users Will Love

August 27, 2019 Mark Adcock

In the first part of this series, we explored some pre-work to a successful Lightning migration, business process diagrams, stakeholder personas, and change management plans. Now that we’ve gotten those out of the way, let's dive into the world of building Lightning apps.

Getting Started with the Lightning Experience Transition Assistant

Before we set off on our supercharged journey, we need to check for speed bumps along the way, and the Lightning Experience Transition Assistant, along with the Lightning Readiness report and corresponding tools, is a great place to start.  

The Lightning Readiness report provides a whole range of information to help plan your migration and identify items to address along the way, helping you find JavaScript buttons to replace, features to enable, Visualforce pages to update, and a suite of tools to help you make changes automatically.

The readiness report will also help you complete many of the transition tasks you need to make to move to Lightning Experience and take advantage of the newest features.

Using Old Apps in New Ways

Under Classic Experience, you could certainly create new Salesforce apps, but unless you were willing to get under the hood with some Visualforce and Apex code, these apps were still largely a series of standard Salesforce tabs, list views, and reports. Although these offered a lot of power for managing data, they weren’t always the most visually appealing tools, and highlighting the most important data was definitely challenging.

Lightning Experience opens a whole host of opportunities for app-building goodness. You can choose a standard app similar to the Classic or a Lightning console app, include a utility bar, customize the styling, specify the tabs, and define audiences, just to name a few. Deciding which options to choose when building new Lightning apps or converting Classic apps is where the work we talked about in Part I really comes into play.

Your research into what users need and what drives them will help you select the best navigation format for your app: standard or console. Console offers a tabbed nav interface that allows you to open records in new tabs and any items related to those records in subtabs. If your users manage lots of records at once, bouncing between multiple browser tabs to show different records, console navigation is the ideal choice.

Console navigation view
Salesforce console view with tabbed navigation to manage multiple records.

Next, determine which tabs you need. This is where the business processes will help you figure out the basic pieces needed for your app. In mapping those business processes, you’ve identified the objects and tabs needed to power your app.  

Start off by adding those key objects you identified in your business processes as tabs in the navigation for your app. Think about the path for how to get these tabs; you might not want to add every tab, only those that start a process and use related lists to navigate to the child objects.

Finally, think about adding a utility bar, which is located at the bottom of your app. Components added to it are always just a click away, no matter what a user is doing. The utility bar provides quick access to Chatter feed, History, Recent Items, List Views (which users use all the time), or Notes; users can even check the AppExchange for some cool additions. The utility bar empowers your users, increases their productivity, and can be customized for every app and 

Creating Powerful Pages

In Classic, you can customize the fields on a page layout, related lists, actions, and a few other things, but all too often, you'll end up with pages requiring too much scrolling.

Using Lightning Experience, pages are much more dynamic, with many ways to configure your pages and highlight the most important information about your app. Based on the personas and business processes you’ve developed, you’ll know what’s most important to your users and leverage that information to make pages that empower users and pump up your adoption.

Here are some things you’ll want to look at when it comes to page functionality:

  • The Record Highlights component lets you use a compact layout to display up to seven of the most important fields.
  • Single Related Lists helps you pull the most important related lists into easy view.
  • The Activity component takes actions such as creating a task, an event, or an email (or custom actions) and places them front and center for users to create. The activity timeline beneath shows the upcoming and prior activities in chronological order.
  • Custom Visibility allows you to show or hide components based on specific criteria. For example, certain record types can have one component, while other record types show a different one.

Of course, you can configure your pages using Lightning App Builder in many different ways. The key takeaway is to use what you've learned about your users' needs and business processes as a basis for the information on your app's pages.

One of the most important considerations with the Lightning pages you create is how the pages' configurations are activated. You can have different page configurations activated depending on the app a user is using. So if you’re building an app for support and an app for sales, you can show the same records, but highlight different components and page configurations in each app.  

Expanding Your Components & Building Customized Ones with AppExchange 

Of course, you’re not just limited to the out-of-the-box page components that Salesforce includes with Lightning Experience. Because Lightning pages are so modular, you can leverage AppExchange to discover components to include on your pages.  

In case you’re looking for some suggestions, here are a few:

If you’re an organization that works globally, consider items like this World Clock component to show the local time on client record pages based on the city and country. Or look at a Currency Converter to save some extra steps when handling foreign currencies.

You can make your app more welcoming and highlight details important to your users with this Lightning Carousel and Banner component on your app’s initial page. 

Add some extra power and pizazz to page layouts with this custom metadata-defined Enhanced Related List component. 

These are just a few possibilities and many more options can be explored on AppExchange. Of course, if your use case is so specific that there’s no other option but to build a customized component, Lightning Experience has some really powerful tools for developers to create custom component functionality quickly.

One of the most powerful starting points for building your own custom components is Base Lightning components. These are modular components provided by Salesforce that serve as building blocks for bigger components. They take a lot of the work out of writing and styling apps, providing a great deal of functionality you can leverage with just a few lines of code. The Lightning Component Library is like a fully charged battery just waiting to be tapped to power your custom Lightning components.

If you’re looking for examples, the Lightning Sample Gallery gives you reference examples of custom components and apps you can load into a developer org and experiment with for hands-on learning.

Upgraded Lightning Reports & Dashboards

Don’t forget about your reports and dashboards. Lightning brings a new report builder that simplifies many facets of report building and includes an Enhanced Run Page. This highlights some summary data at the top and makes it possible to turn the display on and off for things like details or totals.

Enhanced Run Page Upgraded Salesforce Lightning Reports and Dashboards
The enhanced run page gives you quick access to detailed information and more options.

Dashboards have also received an overhaul in Lightning and offer more flexibility than ever before, allowing you to give users exactly what they want. Even more spectacular is that these dashboards can be displayed in a Lightning component on record and app pages to unlock even more utility and enable users to access important business data more quickly.

Supercharged for Maximum Adoption 

In addition to getting your migration started, the Lightning Experience Transition Assistant can be used to measure the success of your efforts. Its tools can help you determine where you need to make improvements, increase performance, and move the adoption needle higher. Adoption of any platform is key to success and should be in your core planning as well as analyzing your progress will let you identify, innovate, and then iterate your way to a successful Lightning migration and user adoption. 

Have questions about Lightning migration? Let’s Talk

About the Author

Mark Adcock

Mark, a senior consultant at Appirio, has a background in Information Technology with over a decade of experience in Higher Education and Nonprofit technology. He is passionate about helping nonprofits and education organizations maximize their impact by accelerating their digital transformation, improving their business processes, and integrating their systems with Salesforce. Joining the Salesforce Lightning Champions program in 2019, Mark, a Salesforce MVP and Lightning Champion, takes pride in sharing his experience and knowledge of Salesforce Lightning with the broader community.

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