Making the Right Choice for Mobile Salesforce Community Applications

The Salesforce Community Cloud allows organisations to bring together employees, partners, third-party workers, B2B customers, and even consumers. This article will explore three different approaches to delivering mobile Salesforce community applications, and will help readers choose the most suitable option.

Sf_Communities_banner

What is a Salesforce community? 

A Salesforce community is an online platform for organisations to connect employees, partners, and customers, while providing seamless access to the data and records they need to get work done or complete tasks.

community_cloud_rszBuilt on the Salesforce Community Cloud, they offer real-time engagement and the ability to share any file, data, or record anytime and from anywhere.

Why mobilise? 

Community users want to work within their own time and get on with things autonomously, using the channels they’re most comfortable with. Mobile is the ideal way to grant this freedom of use and, as a result, organisations are seeing demand grow rapidly from workers, partners, and customers alike.

Other prominent drivers to mobilise generally stem from organisations wanting to stay in touch and engaged with users, removing traditional boundaries to nurture stronger relationships.

In some cases, though, organisations will actually have the decision to mobilise made for them, with certain types of users now operating as ‘mobile-only’, a trend which is becoming far more common.

For those still trying to fully understand the real benefits of leveraging the Salesforce Community Cloud to serve their mobile users, we’ll cover that in more detail in an upcoming article. For now, though, we’ll be focusing on exploring the various technology choices to mobilise the Community Cloud in depth.

Assessing options for mobile Salesforce community applications

There are currently three broad types of technology solutions to choose from when it comes to these apps, and each has its own unique set of arguments for and against:

Web Apps

Communities can be built which are accessed by users on their mobile devices via a web browser, signing into a portal and proceeding through to a traditional mobile website.

Pros

Image

There are no additional fees required or costs for extra Salesforce licenses

Image

Familiar technology can be used to build these apps, such as Visualforce pages, Apex, and Salesforce Lightning

Image

The use of Lightning-based templates is also possible, allowing the app to be branded for a less one-dimensional design, but each template will have to be assessed individually

Cons

Image

A constant connection to the Internet is compulsory for use

Image

The speed of these apps is very poor, not only because they depend on open network connectivity, but also because the data and logic in use is not local, meaning more lengthy interactions with the server

Image

With some web communities, active users are timed out of sessions and will frequently have to re-submit their login details, adding an unwanted step to the process of accessing the app, which will inevitably lower adoption rates

Image

Making web apps (which will mostly be designed for desktop) responsive to various smartphone models and screen sizes requires a great deal of effort from the developers

Image

Having the same design for both desktop and mobile rarely works smoothly, and always makes the mobile user experience extremely poor

Image

As Salesforce doesn’t support Progressive Web Apps, these kind of communities will have no push notifications, no homescreen icon, and will miss out on other convenient features modern users are so fond of

Image

The app will only have access to mobile device features through web APIs, removing the use of some key native features, such as an encrypted store, filesystems access, barcode scanning, fingerprint authentication, and so on

When should this be used?

A web app could be seen as a first step towards a mobile community, or possibly even a companion or gateway to an installable app from one of the various app stores.

It is important to have a web presence for desktop users and for occasional mobile usage, but for any serious community, a dedicated mobile app (providing the sufficient user experience) will be expected.

Salesforce1

Salesforce1 is Salesforce’s entry point for mobile apps. Users can access their communities by downloading Salesforce1 and logging in for their own personal data and information.

Pros

Image

Salesforce1 is a free app for Salesforce customers

Image

Existing browser-based Visualforce, Apex, and Lightning code can be reused in this case, although styling may not translate to all mobile screen sizes

Image

Users will be given an actual app to open and use as they see fit on their personal mobile devices, rather than having to go through a browser

Image

Authentication, or username and password entry, is generally only required once, speeding up the process

Image

All the data used within the app will be encrypted for additional security

Cons

Image

Salesforce1 only allows the use of very limited amounts of data when offline, which can restrict users outside of areas with WiFi

Image

Salesforce1 has very limited branding, meaning community users from outside the organisation won’t have any direct resonance or awareness of the company’s values or its identity

Image

A Salesforce1 app doesn’t have the ability to be customised within the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, so will appear as a Salesforce app rather than one representing the organisation

Image

Salesforce1 is only supported by a limited range of mobile devices, as can be seen here from these support notes

Image

Salesforce1 doesn’t provide access to preview releases of iOS and Android, so all pre-release testing will have to be done manually, which is extremely time-consuming and adds additional risk

Image

As Salesforce doesn’t support Progressive Web Apps, these kind of communities will have no push notifications, no homescreen icon, and will miss out on other convenient features modern users are so fond of

Image

The app will only have access to the mobile device features which Salesforce allows, again through web APIs only, removing the use of some key native features, such as filesystems access, barcode scanning, fingerprint authentication, and so on

When should this be used?

If an organisation has a community which doesn’t feature its own branding, only supports very basic use cases, doesn’t need complexity within the app’s architecture, and can afford to provide an uninspiring user experience, Salesforce1 should be sufficient.

Custom Apps

Custom communities present the mobile app as an intuitive digital channel into the organisation for self-service and convenience. This empowers all community members, whether that’s employees or external users, to dictate and manage their own experience in a truly mobile-first way.

Pros

Image

These apps can be built with full offline-first functionality, meaning performance will be consistently reliable and trustworthy, with much higher speeds

Image

Custom design means the app’s user interface can directly mirror the optimum patterns and processes users will need to go through, making it as easy as possible to navigate and far quicker to complete tasks than any alternative

Image

Custom design allows full branding and freedom over the app’s look and feel, accurately representing the organisation’s true style, identity, and values

Image

These apps allow full control and personalisation over the notifications being sent out via the app, giving far more dynamic engagement with valued users

Image

Full access to the mobile device and its features is possible, allowing for a much wider range of functionalities to drive adoption within more use cases

Image

Any App Store listings can also be fully customised to present the organisation in an appropriate way to a wider audience

Image

All the data used within the app will be encrypted for additional security

Cons

Image

Due to the extra complexity, custom apps may require more effort in terms of development and project management responsibilities

Image

That additional effort may require bringing in new developers with specific skills for certain app requirements to be delivered

Image

This will also be the case for the design, in order for the users to get the full benefit of a custom mobile user experience with the simplicity they require

When should this be used?

Custom solutions are often the difference between compromising on certain community features or capabilities, and being able to deliver the exact mobile experience the users want.

Custom mobile Salesforce community applications provide constant accessibility and availability into whichever aspect of the organisation customers, employees, and partners need. This is there at all times, with an extremely high level of personalisation, to provide them with the maximum benefit from their relationship with the brand.

Making the right decision

When choosing between those options, organisations should first acknowledge the need to deliver exactly what their community users require in the most effective way possible. Most often that will be a mobile app which is sophisticated under the covers, but extremely simple to use on the surface. This balance has become so important due to the level of expectation created by digital leaders such as Amazon, Facebook, and Uber in the consumer space.

Demand is also high for availability and accessibility at all times, which makes an offline-first approach even more important for organisations looking to provide value from a community app. In order to provide users with the right level of immersion and independence from the mobile community experience, it will often mean going well beyond the limitations of web apps and Salesforce1.

It’s then wise to assume any mobile app of this nature will become the primary digital channel and touchpoint for the community, meaning full control over its design, usability, and performance is crucial to match that level of importance.

Easier said than done? 

While that may sound simple enough, custom solutions and custom mobile app projects can of course be blocked by time-on-task, budgetary restrictions, lack of technical skills, and various other challenges.

The MobileCaddy Application Delivery Framework, however, is a solution which makes custom Salesforce mobile apps far more accessible, affordable, and reliable for organisations of all shapes and sizes.

MobileCaddy is a unique solution, purpose-built for the Salesforce platform. It removes traditional boundaries and obstacles with custom development by providing full set of rapid development tools, a bespoke design suite, and full app lifecycle management for post-deployment support and upgrading.

Where to go from here 

For most organisations building Salesforce communities, the user base will require availability on both desktop and mobile, but any mobile community app will be expected to provide consumer-grade speed and user experience. With that in mind, a custom solution is the best way to deliver that community to its members.

While this used to only be possible for the world’s largest enterprises and organisations, new technology platforms such as Salesforce have made it easy and cost-effective to achieve the required class of mobile app.

To see just how far people are pushing their communities out for employees, partners, re-sellers, customers, and other users, check out these ground-breaking examples of mobile Salesforce community applications built with the MobileCaddy Application Delivery Framework.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Scroll to Top