What Does Salesforce Lightning Experience Mean to Me?

Lightning Experience looks amazing! It’s a clean, crisp, modern user interface. Salesforce has clearly given a lot of thought to what users (especially Sales users) need to be able to see and do in order to perform their jobs most efficiently, and they’ve clearly made a huge investment in making it all work.

The Big Announcement notwithstanding, if you’re a System Administrator, you’re asking yourself a lot of questions, first and foremost, “What does this mean to me and my company?” Here are some of the questions you’re probably asking:

  1. When Salesforce fully releases Lightning Experience, will all of my pre-Lightning Experience configuration changes still work?

Yes, rest assured that when Lightning Experience is fully released, nothing will break – only because you don’t have to enable Lightning Experience in your org.

However, once your users start using Lightning Experience, some things won’t work: see below for details. Fortunately, your users can always flip between Lightning Experience and Salesforce Classic, so if something doesn’t work in Lightning Experience, users can always fall back to the old UI.

What does this mean to you? You’ll definitely want to do some testing (preferably in a sandbox) before enabling your users to use Lightning Experience.

  1. What will stop working when I enable Lightning Experience in my org?

The good news is that any processes that you’ve automated using things like workflow, approval processes, assignment rules, the Process Builder, or Apex Triggers will all still work.

The less good news is that processes that are driven by user interaction with the browser will change significantly. A few examples:

  • Custom buttons that point to a URL or call JavaScript aren’t supported in Lightning Experience: they won’t even appear on the page. However, custom buttons that launch a Visualforce page are supported, and will appear on the page.
  • Sidebar components are no longer visible. Salesforce recently stopped supporting sidebar components that were implemented in JavaScript, but no sidebar components will be visible in Lightning Experience.
  • Page navigation has changed. The familiar pattern of “put the record Id at the end of the URL” no longer works. In fact, if you’re in Lightning Experience and you go to a URL by putting the record Id in the URL, Salesforce kicks you out of Lightning Experience and back to the Classic UI. This may take some of your users a while to get used to. Developer intervention will be required for your Visualforce pages to get used it. For example, if you have a Visualforce page that redirects to a record by putting the record Id in the URL, that action will kick you out of Lightning Experience and back to the Classic UI.
  • Speaking of which, your existing Visualforce pages will still be accessible, but (especially if you use SectionHeaders, PageBlocks and other similar components, they’ll display with a Salesforce Classic (Aloha) look. Also, Visualforce pages will display in an iframe, which means that any navigation that the page does within its current window may have to be changed to refer to the “top” window. Also, other aspects of your Visualforce pages, such as the way they navigate from one URL to another, will have to change.

What does this mean to you? It means you’ll need to examine every custom button and Visualforce page to see what changes are needed. For admins of orgs that have even moderate customizations, this could be a significant amount of work.

  1. I have a large investment in Visualforce. What do I have to do in order to be able to use my existing pages in the Lightning Experience?

With several adjustments, you’ll be able use your existing Visualforce pages in Lightning Experience. As described above, you’ll need to make some changes, especially in the area of page navigation, just to get your existing pages to work in Lightning Experience.

However, longer-term, you’ll want to do more than just “get your pages to work.” You’ll want your pages to work well, and to look like they belong to Lightning Experience. For that, you’ll need to (brace yourself!) totally re-write most pages, with a special focus on two areas:

  • Eliminate standard stylesheets, sidebar, and header. (Fortunately, when Salesforce displays a Visualforce page in Lightning Experience, the sidebar and header are automatically removed, even if your page doesn’t explicitly remove them.) Use the new Lightning Design System to specify the proper styling for your pages.
  • Interaction with Apex and the Database. Gone is the Visualforce / Apex Controller paradigm. The new world order is JavaScript remoting: Remote Action methods and Remote Objects. Using JavaScript remoting makes your pages much more interactive and responsive, but it’s a completely different model than using traditional Apex Controllers, and for most Visualforce pages, will require a total rewrite.

Alternatively, you should consider whether you want to work with Visualforce at all. Instead, you could re-implement your UIs using Lightning Components. Doing so will require your development team to acquire a new skill set (more on this below), but because good Lightning Components are designed to be re-usable, using Lightning Components could make it easier for you to create new UIs in the long run.

What does this mean to you? Fully embracing Lightning Experience will take some serious development commitment.

  1. What technical skills do I (or my developers) need to ramp up on?

First and foremost, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. JavaScript frameworks like Bootstrap will also be handy. Fortunately, there’s a lot of training out there, most of it both free and of good quality.

If you’re planning to use Lightning Components, you’ll need to learn how to build them. Fortunately, Trailhead has some really helpful trails about Lightning Components. Start here: https://developer.salesforce.com/trailhead/projects

And, of course, you’re going to want to learn the details of Lightning Experience. Search Trailhead for more information.

What does this mean to you? If you like learning new skills, you’re going to have a lot of fun!

  1. What should my next step be?

Lightning Experience could well revolutionize how your company uses Salesforce, and it will also revolutionize how you configure and build solutions for your company. If you’ve read this far, you know that there’s a lot to learn here. Just remember that you’re not in this alone!

Over the coming weeks and months, Salesforce will be providing more and more training on how to adapt to Lightning Experience. Start with Trailhead, and keep up with the announcements and documentation from Salesforce.

If your company hasn’t already established a relationship with an accredited Salesforce partner, do so. As a Salesforce Silver Cloud Alliance partner, OpFocus has been privy to announcements, previews, and training about Lightning Experience that most other companies haven’t heard about yet. Working with a partner like OpFocus will help you to more quickly develop a plan for migrating to Lightning Experience. You’re not in this alone: we can help you to understand what this all means for you.

MJ Kahn, SVP of Technology at OpFocus

about the author

MJ Kahn

At OpFocus, MJ architects and constructs solutions that would impress the builders of the pyramids. She solves technical puzzles that would frustrate daVinci. She leaps tall buildings (like the new Salesforce tower) in a single bound.

Well ok, maybe she doesn’t. But she does help lead an amazing team of smart, talented, and dedicated consultants who do. MJ’s job at OpFocus is provide technical leadership and guidance to OpFocus clients and team members so that, working together, we can create innovative yet practical solutions to real-world business problems within the Salesforce ecosystem.

Prior to OpFocus, MJ built an extensive background in technology and has held a variety of development, consulting, and management positions at companies like Sybase, Vignette, and Honeywell, among others. In these roles, MJ’s focus was helping companies effectively and intelligently use technology to solve business problems. An Apex and Visualforce consultant since mid-2008, MJ has worked with scores of companies to help them understand and utilize platforms like Force.com to solve business issues and also guide them in developing their own AppExchange product offerings.