If you have not yet had a chance to read the Spring ’16 release notes that came out yesterday, go read them now and skip right down to the Communities section because the Spring ’16 features are truly game-changing for Salesforce Community Cloud. After reading through the release notes yesterday, I emailed one of our customers, Sam Jacobs from OpenX who recently built a self-service community on the Napili template, a list of some of the features I thought that her company might want to leverage. Her response? “Wow. They’re all great, but some of them are kind of game-changing. I now have 23 reasons to be thankful this holiday season!” A colleague of mine and fellow blogger, David Wickland, who does web design for Salesforce Communities called it “a dream come true.”
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So what’s so game changing? Imagine that you will now be able to create a community that can be customized to almost the same level as Force.com Sites Templates, except that now it has CMS capabilities to enable community managers to “own” the solution instead of your Salesforce developers. With so many out-of-box Lightning Components that you can drag-and-drop onto the pages, it is faster to implement and easier to update. Here are some specifics of what the Spring ’16 Community Cloud release will enable you to do:
- Transform the template to reflect your brand. I have heard a lot of customers hesitate to use the templates because they did not look enough like their website. With Winter ’16, you could create custom pages, but they had only two layout options, 1 full-width column and 2 columns with a 2:1 ratio, and there was no way to update the layout of the native pages without overriding them with a custom page. Now there are 8 possible layouts and you can update the layout of native pages to use any of these, meaning your home page (or any page for that matter) can look any way you want it to. You can also disable the native Napili header and put in your own header and navigation (e.g. if you want to use your corporate website header and have a drop-down navigation), and overwrite the native styles with Custom CSS. Essentially, you can strip the Napili template down to a blank slate and fill it with any Lightning Components and styles that you want. If you are building any kind of community and currently are not planning to use the Community Builder, you need to stop and seriously re-evaluate if that is the right path.
- Leverage more components with more flexibility.
This release, existing components were made more flexible by allowing administrators to set more parameters on the components to customize them to meet your needs (the leaderboard component is a prime example of this) and many more components were introduced, such as a several different Chatter feed components that have a very modern, minimalist user interface. What you may not realize about lightning components is that each instance of the component inside of the template can be configured differently. I can drag-and-drop the same component five times, enter different parameters for each component and have it render differently on the page.