Developing Custom UIs (Declarative vs. Development)

In Best Practices, Custom Development by Andy YangLeave a Comment

Salesforce provides a plethora of point-and-click power at your fingertips.  With every new release, more functionality is added to enable customers to add a new process capability, or track a new business function.  That being said, “clicks not code” functionality can only have so many customizability options that attempt to meet as wide a set of use cases.  If it meets your business needs, then you are in luck — there are a lot of advantages to using what many call Declarative functionality. Firstly, set up is fast and maintenance is easier. Additionally, this functionality may be improved with future releases, many times “automagically” – but on the flip side, “improved” functionality may potentially conflict with how a specific customer might be using it. Building in review/test process with every relevant major release may be in order.

There are times where declarative functionality does not quite hit the mark. It might be the case that functionality does not address the scope of the use case completely – perhaps it doesn’t handle certain edge cases well.  Another scenario we’ve often encountered is that a customer may want to customize their screens entirely. The following are some possible situations where I would recommend using the Salesforce platform’s Development capabilities to extend Salesforce and customize it to your specific needs:

1) Your use case has some specialized business scenarios that can’t be addressed with the declarative functionality provided by Salesforce, enough where the downside outweighs the benefits

2) The screens provided by Salesforce are too confusing or too busy for generalized usage, increasing training costs and frankly, affecting morale. 

3) The screens provided by Salesforce require too many clicks, whereas a more streamlined custom interface can improve efficiency and scale (i.e. more compact screens, fewer clicks)  

4) The screens provided by Salesforce have extraneous options that would never be used by the end-user.   If a user shouldn’t click on a link that’s on the screen, then why have it there at all?

5) The screens provided by Salesforce may not have the right branding options, particularly if the interface is used by customers, partners or franchise/non-HQ locations.

If you feel limited with what Salesforce provides out-of-the-box, taking an extra few hours to build a custom, simplified, and clean power-user interface can pay many dividends in training, efficiency, scale, and accuracy. Just about anything you can do on the web and on mobile can be done on the Salesforce platform.  However, as we noted before, creating pages takes some platform development and general UI skills (most popular is being able to create modern responsive designs).  Ongoing maintenance, troubleshooting and building upon the features will continue to require that expertise, so be prepared for that as part of considering both the potential benefits and costs of this approach.  We’ve found that many use cases have benefits far outweighing the time/effort/cost it takes to build (and maintain) a custom interface.

Many custom UIs take the best parts of Salesforce, and extend or modify them for better use.  Still other interfaces look almost nothing like the standard Salesforce interface and create wonderful, efficient and branded experiences that greatly enhance business for their respective creators.  The choice is yours!

Andy Yang is one of MondayCall’s co-founders.

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