Salesforce Application Types

In a typical development process requirements are captured and the information synthesised to form a solution design. The constituent components of the solution design are ultimately translated into physical concepts such as a class, page or sub-page view. This analysis, design, build cycle could be iterative in nature or fixed and may have different degrees of detail emerging at different points, however the applied principle is consistent. In considering the design element of the cycle, interaction design techniques suggest a patterns-based approach where features are mapped to a limited set of well-defined and robust user interface patterns, complemented by policies for concepts that transcend the patterns such as error handling, validation messages, stylistic aspects (fonts, dimensionality etc.). This process delivers efficiency in terms of reusability of code and reduced technical design and testing, but also critically provides a predictable, consistent end-user experience. When building custom applications using the declarative tools, we gain all of these advantages using pre-defined patterns and pre-fabricated building blocks. When building using the programmatic aspects of the platform a similar approach should be taken, meaning follow established patterns and use as much of the pre-fabricated components as possible. I can never fathom the driver to invent bespoke formats for pages that display within the standard UI, the end result is jarring for the end-user and expensive to build and maintain. In addition to delivering a consistent, predicative end-user experience at the component level, the containing application itself should be meaningful and appropriate in type. This point is becoming increasingly more significant as the range of application types grows release-on-release and the expanding platform capabilities introduce relevance to user populations outside of the front-office. The list below covers the application types possible at the time of writing (Spring ’14).

Standard Browser App
Standard Browser App (Custom UI)
Console (Sales, Service, Custom)
Subtab App
Community (Internal, External, Standard or Custom UI)
Salesforce1 Mobile
Custom Mobile App (Native, Hybrid, browser-based)
Site.com Site
Force.com Site

An important skill for Salesforce implementation practitioners is the accurate mapping of required end user interactions to application types within an appropriate license model. This is definitely an area where upfront thinking and a documented set of design principles is necessary to deliver consistency.

By way of illustration, the following exemplar design principles strive to deliver consistency across end user interactions.

1. Where the interaction is simple, confined to a single User, the data relates to the User and is primarily modifiable by the User only and has no direct business relevance then a Subtab App (Self) is appropriate. Examples: “My Support Tickets”, “Work.com – Recognition”.
2. Where a grouping of interactions form a usage profile that requires streamlined, efficient navigation of discrete, immersive, process centric tasks then a Console app is appropriate. Examples: “IT Helpdesk”, “Account Management”
3. Where a grouping of interactions from a usage profile that is non-immersive, non-complex (i.e. aligned with the pattern of record selection and view/edit) and likely to be conducted on constrained devices then Salesforce1 Mobile is appropriate. Examples: “Field Sales”, “Executive Insight”.

Design principles should also provide a strong definition for each application type covering all common design aspects to ensure consistency. For example, all Subtab apps should be built the same way technically, to the same set of standards, and deliver absolute consistency in the end user experiences provided.

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