Lightning strikes again: The new mobile app of Salesforce

In this article, PwC's Salesforce Lightning Champion explains the evolution and benefits of the new app.

Our mobile devices have become an essential part of our daily lives. Wherever we go, wherever we are, all the information we need is just a tap or swipe away. We’re no longer bound to a computer to access the digital highway. Salesforce understood this back in 2013 when it announced Salesforce1, a mobile app giving every Salesforce customer access to their data without additional licence or development costs.

Now, six years later, the app’s getting a boost with the latest version slated for release in winter 2020.

From mobile to Lightning Experience

In 2013, when the new mobile app was released, all of a sudden your Salesforce data was accessible wherever you were. You could access it from any device, and Salesforce customers have been doing so via either the app or a desktop browser ever since.

Easy access to Salesforce from any device has always been a great selling point, especially given that it comes at no additional cost. However, if we look at how users experience mobile vs desktop, we see a gap. Accessing Salesforce from a mobile is a different user experience than the desktop experience. Some actions are simply easier on a desktop than they are on a mobile. There were also differences in some of the core functionalities between devices. 

When it comes to the navigation between desktop and mobile, for example, then we notice a big difference in the end user experience. On a mobile, the navigation menu was always the same for each user - there was no easy way to provide a specific navigation experience for different user types. A salesperson, for example, would value different tabs than a service user. A manager would be interested in different items than the salesperson in the field. If we compare this to the desktop experience, the difference was significant. On a desktop, you’re able to build apps for each type of user by structuring the tabs. This was something that was not yet available on mobile.

With the release of Lightning Experience for desktop, the rift between the mobile and the desktop experience deepened. Suddenly there was a wide variety of options available in terms of building a user interface (UI) on desktop. 

Over the past few years, Lightning Experience has drifted further from the classic approach to page layouts. The record pages built using the app builder are, and will continue to be, increasingly detached from the old page layouts. While all this was happening over the past four years, mobile was still heavily dependent on the classic approach, widening the gap between the mobile and desktop experience even further. There was support for Lightning on mobile using Lightning pages, but it  was limited. 

In the last few years, Salesforce has focused heavily on bringing Lightning Experience to the desktop. It’s come a long way since its initial release. More functionalities are being added with every release.

Now, in November 2019, Salesforce has closed the gap between the mobile and the desktop experience in a single bolt of Lightning: the winter 2020 release will bring the Lightning Experience to mobile. This release brings many features that you currently find in the Lightning Experience desktop version to the mobile version, creating a seamless user experience when accessing Salesforce across your devices.

Lightning strikes again

In 2016, Salesforce released the first version of Lightning Experience for the Salesforce platform. So far Lightning Experience has been focused mainly on upgrading the UI for Salesforce on desktop. We’ve seen the arrival of the Lightning App Builder, where Salesforce admins are able to customise the look and feel of record pages to the liking of the customer, and where developers can enrich the UI further with custom Lightning components. Now, in the winter 2020 release, all this goodness is coming to mobile.

The mobile interface will no longer be bound to the classic approach of simple record details and related lists based on the classic layout. Using the Lightning App Builder, admins will now be able to customise all the record pages specifically for mobile. Just like you can do today for desktop, it’ll be possible to create your pages easily using the drag-and-drop functionality to structure the different UI components on the page. This way, admins can give their users the same experience whether they’re using Salesforce on desktop or on a mobile device.

The App Builder for mobile comes with a large set of out-of-the-box components that can be used to build the pages. When these components aren’t sufficient, developers can enrich the mobile experience with custom inline Lightning components. These can even be tweaked to behave differently on mobile as compared to desktop.

Do you have components you don’t want to show on mobile? Simply hide them using the component visibility feature in the App Builder. You can now define the visibility of your components using the form factor criteria. Here, you simply choose device on which your component should be visible

A last point to highlight from the new mobile app is the navigation experience. As mentioned above, there was a significant difference between desktop and mobile for the past few years. Now, in the Lightning experience version of the mobile app, users will encounter the same navigation approach across devices. A mobile user will be able to select an app using the App Launcher, just like on desktop. Each app will consist of a set of tabs available to the user and can be shared between mobile and desktop. To ease the transition, users will still have access to the old mobile navigation menu.

The features above are only a subset of the available features in the new mobile app for Salesforce. See more features in the official Winter ‘20 release notes.

With the new mobile version, Salesforce is not only bringing a unified experience between mobile and desktop, but it’s also showing its commitment to Lightning Experience and how important the app has been and will be in the coming years. If you haven’t made the switch from Classic to Lightning Experience yet, the winter 2020 release is another reason to do so!

PwC Author and Lightning Champion: Lieven Juwet

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