Lightning Web Components have given Salesforce Developers more freedom in how they build applications - now, we can finally focus in improving Salesforce UX/UI too.
Salesforce has long focused on investing its resources - time and capital - in building out the horsepower of their platform, creating richer back-end functionality that can deliver workflow automation & integrations to their users.
As part of this focus, they needed to enable Salesforce Administrator to more easily design, build, and deploy functionality within their environment. Salesforce was an early pioneer in the low-code & no-code movement, essentially enabling non-technical professionals to build rich functionality without needing to touch code (in this case, Apex).
Building a platform that equipped 'Citizen Developers' within a Salesforce org to leverage process builder, workflow rules, flows, and more to deploy enhancements was critical to growing the customer base and evangelizing the power of the tool within larger orgs.
However, while focused on building out this side of the platform, the front-end user experience suffered. For many years, Salesforce has been criticized for having a slow, clunky User Interface (UI), which are the elements of the platform that an end user directly encounters in the course of using it day-to-day.
It has gotten to the point that vendors like Scratchpad exist solely to improve the user experience for Sales Reps utilizing Salesforce - essentially building a tool you interact with instead of Salesforce itself that then ports all of the data & activities into Salesforce for you. When it's so bad your users don't want to even touch your product, something has to give.
The legacy front-end development language in Salesforce is Visualforce - however, it's extremely limiting in terms of actual visual changes you can make. Over the past 5+ years, Salesforce has been slowly improving the front-end experience, initially with the Lightning experience (essentially a redesigned, out-of-the-box UI) and then equipping Developers to make more significant changes to the UI experience using Aura Components and Lightning Web Components.
For clarity, we don't necessarily blame Salesforce for taking so long to start improving in this area. The core features & functionality of Sales Cloud & Service Cloud are a pre-requisite for management & leadership to extract ROI on their investment in Salesforce, so that deserved the resource & capital allocation first and foremost. Now that the platform has reached a level of maturity in terms of the functionality it offers, improving on the the experience of using it is the next step.
The real breakthrough was the release of Lightning Web Components (LWC).
In short, the flexibility of Lightning Web Components gives Salesforce Developers more control over the User Interface (UI) of what they're building and allows them more freedom over how the application looks to the user instead of just how it functions on the back-end.
As part of this newfound freedom, Salesforce releases an open source design system, which is essentially all of the building blocks you need to design custom interfaces that maintain the same look and feel as the rest of the Salesforce experience. This is the Lightning Design System and was a stepping stone on the path to enabling Salesforce Developers & Administrators to build more robust front-end experience on the platform.
There have been numerous studies done on the link between good design and positive business outcomes, so this is as meaningful to productivity as the pure horsepower of what the application does behind the scenes.
Creating simple interfaces that are easier to actually use the product directly impacts productivity and ****delivers a more enjoyable experience for the user, which contributes to increased adoption rates.
The responsibility of building out these front-end experiences will be shared by Salesforce Administrators & Salesforce Developers.
In a 2019 sample, 15% of Salesforce Admin jobs required a design skill compared to 41% of Salesforce Developer jobs but we expect this to increase significantly and Salesforce establishes the UX Design Training, encourages certification, and begins the overdue investment in front-end UI experience of the platform.
The core areas this Salesforce UX Designer Certification will focus is:
More comprehensive Trailhead Guides will be released in the months to come and for now, there is a Salesforce UX Designer Certification study guide.
Overall, this is a big step for Salesforce. The investments they're making to build a more tightly integrated, multi-Cloud offering across all consumer touch points - Sales, Marketing, Customer Service - and layer in deeper analytics & integrations - Tableau, MuleSoft - make the platform more complex from the internal user perspective.
Steps taken to boost the overall usability of the tool will be critical in competing against upstarts that have prioritized design from the beginning.