Drag and drop your way to Salesforce success

Harry Bohosian

Dreamforce this year has been touted by some as the year of the admin, and it was not just because there was a dedicated Admin Zone. This year additional declarative tools, such as the Lightning Process Builder and Lightning App Builder, were announced which enable #AwesomeAdmins to implement changes to their Salesforce instance quickly and easily using “point and click” and “drag and drop” tools.

As I watched a live demo of the lightning application builder, I was not only blown away by what it means to the future of enterprise mobile application development but it also reminded me that we already have tools similar to this at our disposal. At that point I realised that I do not use them enough. Since then I have revisited and fallen in love with the Schema Builder due to the amount of time it saves me on a regular basis.

At System Partners we have discussed as a team what we think the introduction of Lightning will mean for customers and developers alike. My colleague Chris Nugent has posted a series of blogs including Lightning the load and Lightning fast mobile apps in which he discusses how he thinks Lightning can be best used. 

The focus of my post is the current declarative tools Salesforce provides, with particular focus on Schema Builder and why I think the new Lightning product family will be a game changer. I will explore what I believe Schema Builder does well versus what it does not. The post is concluded with my thoughts on how Lightning will change how we develop enterprise mobile applications in the future.

Modifying the Data Model (what Schema Builder does well)

Salesforce allows you to create custom fields in a 5 step point and click wizard, which is quick and easy, but can quickly become cumbersome when you need to create a handful of fields across multiple objects. However using the Schema Builder, you can create new fields by dragging and dropping the required field type onto the desired object, drastically improving the speed of configuring changes to the data model and improving your efficiency as an administrator.

Drag the required field type onto the desired object

The Schema Builder brings all of the steps required to create a field into one screen.

Once a field is created, you are able to manage field permissions by right clicking on it.

Defining the layout (what Schema Builder doesn't do)

The missing piece is selecting which page layouts the field belongs to, the schema builder doesn't provide that option. I find it more effective to create all the fields that are needed, using schema builder, and then update the page layouts as required, ensuring that the relevant information is available to the users that require it without cluttering the screen for others.

Easily build responsive applications for any screen (what Lightning allows you to do)

In the (near) future building the user interface and business logic of enterprise mobile application(s) will be a simple declarative drag and drop process much like the schema builder, using the tools bundled in Lightning.

Lightning is the next generation of the Salesforce1 Platform, announced at #DF14. Lightning provides a framework of components for producing mobile applications that scale to the screen size of any device without the need to be reconfigured. This framework uses JavaScript on the client side and Apex on the server side.

Allowing developers to develop their own Lightning Components, and modify and extend standard components made available by Salesforce. But, Lightning is not just limited to developers, with the addition of the Lightning App Builder, a drag and drop tool that allows non-developers to compose applications from all the components built by Salesforce, in house developers and the developers in the appexchange ecosystem.

The exciting part about Lightning is that it allows non-developers to create Salesforce1 mobile applications that scale responsively across any device; from a wearable device, to a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. Non-developers are able to create mobile application user interfaces by dragging and dropping components onto the screen to define the flow of a user through the application at lightning speed (all puns intended).

Currently the Lightning Components framework is in Beta and Lightning App Builder is in Pilot. Right now you can enable Lightning Components in your org and start developing components and apps in code, but the drag and drop builder is only available through the pilot program. We should see this functionality become generally available in future releases. To be nominated to join this pilot program, contact your salesforce.com Customer Success Manager or Account Executive. Additional terms and conditions may apply to participate in the pilot program. Also note that enabling Lightning Components will cause Canvas apps to no longer work in Salesforce1 so consider the impact to your instance before clicking save.

Talk to us and find out how we can work together to deliver a mobile application to create business value for your organisation.