You Won’t Believe What Salesforce Is Doing with Communities in Spring ’17

I just couldn’t resist poking some fun at the ever-present titling theme aiming to intrigue you into reading what is usually a quite underwhelming article. The good news for anyone interested in the world of Salesforce Communities (aka Community Cloud) is that you will find some legitimate content here!

The Spring ’17 release from Salesforce is slated to launch to most production orgs in early  2017, between February 3rd and 11th. Once again, I’ve scoured the list in search of gems.  It is definitely the case that I get excited about every Community Cloud release, but this one has me thinking Sutter’s Mill in 1848. That’s right, folks…we’ve found gold.

Here are 5 noteworthy enhancements in the Spring ’17 Community Cloud release from Salesforce:


1. Community Workspaces: The New Center of Your Communities Universe [link]

Salesforce’s TakeTired of jumping between two different pages to build and manage your community? Ever forget where to find Administration or Dashboards? Now you can access Builder, Administration, Dashboards, and all your moderation tools in one place—Community Workspaces.

The new streamlined Community Workspaces centralizes all your community needs, whether you’re moderating, building, or administering your community. Also access quick links to frequently visited pages, catch up on release notes, and dive into Help & Training.

Community Workspaces

My Take:  If you work with Salesforce communities in any tangible way, this enhancement will directly affect you and how you work.

As the Community Cloud platform has grown over the past few years, the ability to present administration experiences in a clear, concise way has been a challenge. Building or managing a community follows a different paradigm than typical “internal org” work. Standard Salesforce elements like the setup menu, reports, etc., have been around for years and the navigation between these items is well-known, well-documented, and well-traveled. That’s just not the case with Communities. It wouldn’t make sense to have a community administrator jump around within an internal org to take a specific action; that should happen within some type of hub that provides central access to the various tools and data.

While that has been partially available for some time for communities, Workspaces is the first full-fledged attempt to cohesively present all administrative tools for community administrators in one location. Instead of a confusing mingling of the tools, we now get a landing page that presents the 5 community workspaces:

  • Builder
  • Moderation
  • Content Targeting
  • Dashboards
  • Administration

Along with the ability to drill down into a specific workspace, administrators can also toggle between communities:

Community Toggle in Workspaces

Like with any UX redesign, this will take a little time to get used to…but your patience should definitely pay off.

2. Focus Your Community with Audience Targeting for Pages and Groups [link]

Salesforce’s Take: In addition to profiles, you can now add location and record type criteria to page variations and hit your target audience. For example, by combining criteria, you can have a page that’s visible only to sales users in San Francisco or create a custom group geared just to that set of users.

Remote Targeting

My Take:  Salesforce released Profile-Based Page Visibility back in Summer ’16 and I wrote about it here. While I wouldn’t quite call it revolutionary, it was a major step forward for bringing personalized experiences to Community Cloud. For the first time, companies could create “page variations” out-of-the-box and vary the layout and contained components shown to different groups on an individual page. Here’s what I said in that post:

The real value here will be when the Community Cloud team provides configurable user or profile criteria to drive this. Just imagine if you could orchestrate a dynamic, data-driven process to control page variations…

We’re still not there, but we’re closer. Now, you can create multiple variations of community pages and display them based on location or record type in addition to profile. It’s important to understand that there is a priority of the attribute type to determine which variation is shown. The priority is:

  1. Profile
  2. Record Type
  3. Location

This means that if a combination of user profile, user location, and record type of the record being viewed are applicable, then the variation shown is established by considering this priority. Here are some examples of matches and the ultimate variation shown:

  • Profile, Record Type –> Profile
  • Record Type, Location –> Record Type
  • Profile, Location –> Profile
  • Profile, Record Type, Location –> Profile

Make sense yet? If not, I put together this handy visual of how the variation is served up:

audience-targeting

3. Gain Control of Each Page Layout with Theme Layout Types [link]

Salesforce’s TakeLooking for more granular control over the layout of each page in your community? With theme layouts and theme layout types, that’s exactly what you get! Previously, a theme layout applied to all the pages in your community. But with theme layout types, you can apply theme layouts to individual pages and easily switch layouts from one central location. And for developers, we’ve introduced the ability to add properties to custom theme layouts, which are configurable in the Theme area. This feature is available in communities using the Customer Service (Napili) template.

theme1

My Take: We are now getting the tools to finally depart from a predictable “Salesforce look” once and for all within communities. While the introduction of Napili was a huge win for breaking from the very unattractive classic interface (which was very unattractive), Napili quickly became the look that was recognized as a standard Salesforce community. That may be a good thing for a sense of familiarity, but it hasn’t been good for corporations looking to build a personalized, branded community that doesn’t scream “I am a Salesforce site!”

This enhancement means that you can continue with theming to the point of applying a theme type to every page in your community. That’s huge. In the example that Salesforce gives in the release notes, they show that this goes a step further. You can associate each page with a theme layout type, but you separately configure a theme layout for each type. That means that you can apply one theme layout to multiple pages and update all of them without 10 updates; you just simply change the associated theme layout for that type. Additionally, there are properties that can be toggled for each layout.

theme4

All of this adds up to some serious granularity. Community Builder is clearly moving in the direction of a traditional CMS, which is a win for anyone considering a Salesforce community right now.

4. Customizable Groups Now Generally Available [link]

Salesforce’s Take: We’re pleased to announce the biggest improvement to Chatter groups in years! Now, all Chatter groups are completely customizable. With this feature, Groups take a quantum leap and become quick, easy containers for providing any kind of rich collaborative experience you want to give to your members. This feature is available in communities using Lightning-based templates.

What does this mean? Previously you could use Community Builder to change which components appeared in your Groups, but every group would look the same. Now, every group can have its own layout. This means components, actions, publisher, and related lists can all be customized to meet a given use case perfectly.

200_group_detail_page

My Take: Another score! And why, might you ask, is this such a big deal?

Let’s say you are creating a partner or customer community that involves 50 groups of partners or customers. Today, you can set up a group page by configuring the layout, components, and properties on that page and then create a group for each of the 50 customers or partners. That’s fine, but what if some customers get a little antsy about the user experience? You can create page variations and manage a few of those to provide some flexibility. Better, for sure, but now the remaining customers and partners and getting increasingly demanding about a truly personalized experience just for them. They could care less about component A, but need component B. They don’t like the 2-column layout and would prefer a simple, one-column view.

Now, you can stop with the variations and create the right experience for each group. This is really a tremendous advance for multi-group communities and I would expect it to directly impact the related user adoption.

5. Community Builder Gets More Elbow Room [link]

Salesforce’s Take: The new and improved Community Builder gives you more room to work, lets you focus on designing and configuring, and provides easier access to tools. You no longer have to switch between editors, whether you’re adding and configuring components, customizing branding, adding pages, or adjusting settings. As part of this improved workflow, we made a number of changes.

rn_builder_lhs

My Take: Community builders, rejoice! For those of us who use builder on a regular basis, we know that the visual experience can leave a little to be desired. With the Spring ’17 release, we now get a streamlined look and much more space to work with in the builder.

Additionally, the organization of content has changed a bit. For example, you’ll find Layout in the “Properties Area” for a specific page:

rn_builder_page_props_vars

My advice here is not to get frustrated with the changes, but to be patient and get used to them. I think the general consensus will be a resounding thumbs up from users once they get accustomed to the new experience.

Enjoy the Spring ’17 release and follow me on Twitter for other Salesforce info!

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