5 Noteworthy Community Cloud Features in the Salesforce Winter ’16 Release

Bellalu-Photography---Lindsey-Freitas--222_new_MVP_logoGreetings! Dreamforce 15 is behind us, but things keep moving forward in the Salesforce world. I’ve reviewed Community Cloud’s list of new features in the upcoming Winter ’16 release in detail and identified five that are must-know enhancements for anyone interested in Community Cloud.

To see when your org will get the Winter ’16 upgrade, check out the trust calendar from Salesforce.

1. Add Custom Components to Your Community

Salesforce’s take: “Add custom Lightning and rich text components to your Koa, Kokua, and Napili community pages.”

My take: Do not underestimate this enhancement that only garners a 1-line introduction from the mother ship.

If you have ever configured or administered a Salesforce community, particularly one based on a “Tabs + Visualforce” template, you know that customizations within a standard community page are essentially non-existent. You have what is provided and there’s not much you can do beyond that. Sure, you can make some sharing and permissions-related modifications that will control the data that is displayed, but you can’t hide or show specific elements and you definitely can’t move anything around.

It’s important to understand that you must be using a Lightning-based Community template AND the template must be upgraded to Winter ’16. Once you’ve done that, you can add custom components to your community. Take a look at Figure 1 to see an example of custom components on a community page:

Figure 1. Custom Components from CloudCraze have been added next to the standard (OOTB) "Ask a Question" component.
Figure 1. Custom Components from CloudCraze have been added next to the standard (OOTB) “Ask a Question” component.

 

You can build your own custom components or select from an array of third-party custom components on the AppExchange for Components site.

 

2. Drag to Add Components to Pages in Community Builder

 Salesforce’s take: “Drag and drop components on to the Community Builder page canvas to add them to your community’s pages. Use the Page Editor and Property Editor to select and edit components, and then preview your changes before publishing them from Community Builder.”

My take: This builds on the first item in this post (“Add Custom Components to Your Community”). It’s obviously a huge win to be able to add custom components to your community, but the means to do so is important, as well. The great news is that placing a custom component on a communities page is literally a drag and drop exercise.

Salesforce has provided a number of page sections for component placement within the builder. To place a custom component on a communities page, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Click on the page icon on the very left of Community Builder
  2. Click on the puzzle icon to show components
  3. Click (and hold) the desired component
  4. Drag and drop the component on the page

 

Figure 2. Drag and drop your Lightning components on to your community page
Figure 2. Drag and drop your Lightning components on to your community page

 

3. Create Custom Pages with Community Builder

Salesforce’s take: Create pages for your community to add custom content or share additional Salesforce object data in Koa, Kokua, and Napili templates. This allows you to extend the community template functionality to meet your business requirements.

My take: You’re now aware that you can add custom components to existing pages. But what if you want to completely abandon what’s already there and create a page from scratch? Now you can with Winter ’16. This is a paradigm shift from the previous approach, which was creating a Visualforce page. Sure, there is the concept of “components” in Visualforce, but it’s nothing like Lightning Components; you basically had to create a fully custom page from scratch. Now, you can use the Community Builder to drag and drop standard and custom elements on the page. Take a look at Figure 3 for an example page.

Figure 3. A custom community page that shows product information containing custom CloudCraze components.
Figure 3. A custom community page that shows product information containing custom CloudCraze components.

 

4. Share Wave Analytics with Your Community (Pilot)

Salesforce’s take: With Wave Analytics for Communities, your partner and customer users can view and explore Wave dashboards embedded in Visualforce pages on your community.

My take: We couldn’t let Lightning steal all of the Winter ’16 thunder (good one, huh?). As part of a pilot program, you will be able to embed Wave dashboards within Visualforce page and expose them in your community. At least for now, this would only be available in a traditional “Tabs + Visualforce” community, not in a Lightning-based template.

While Wave itself is a paid add-on service, this could be extremely valuable for those organizations already utilizing Wave. The ability to provide granular, targeted information for customers, employees, and partners has an almost unlimited number of use cases.

Salesforce-Analytics-Cloud-cropped

 

5. Compose and Edit Posts with Rich Text in Communities

Salesforce’s take: Format your posts with bold, italic, and underlined characters, and bulleted and numbered lists. This feature is only available in communities created using the Salesforce Tabs + Visualforce. The rich text editor is enabled in the publisher by default in all new and existing orgs.

My take: After 3 features associated with the Lightning Templates in Community Cloud, we round out the top 5 with a 2nd feature that is (currently) available only in Tabs + Visualforce communities.

This is huge! Salesforce already gave us the ability to edit Chatter posts (thank you!). Now, you can take plain text and jazz it up.  We’ve previously run into a number of instances where the standard text just didn’t cut it, but an option to customize the text without completely customizing the Chatter feed was not available. This is great for bringing a bit more color to your community. See Figure 5 for a look at the rich text editor for Chatter:

Figure 5. New rich text editor in Chatter
Figure 5. New rich text editor in Chatter

As great as these features are, more goodies lie ahead just around the corner in Spring ’16. Community Cloud is still young and it will continue to evolve for quite some time.

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