The 4 Constants in a Salesforce Communities User Experience

Salesforce Communities have been out awhile now – it’s no news that they are changing the way businesses interact with their partners, customers or employees. A mind-boggling amount of companies utilize Salesforce Communities at this point, ranging from non-profits to Fortune 500s, across all industries. It’s a testament to the built-in power and versatility the Community Cloud offers. I’ve helped design, implement and launch close to 20 myself over the past 3 years! In that time, even with the continuing enhancements each release, I’ve noticed a few constants in the user experience best practices that Communities offers.

Mobile First

This is the heart of the communities experience. It seems obvious, in this day and age, to say that anything accessible on your phone should look good on your phone too, but sadly there are still sites out there that aren’t optimized for mobile viewing.

Since the very start, Salesforce Communities templates, out of the box, are mobile responsive. That means if you are implementing a community and want to get up and running fast, you can automatically have that mobile-ready community as soon as you hit “publish”. This is because of the framework laid out since the beginning: Salesforce Lightning Design System.

This is a front-end responsive framework created specifically for Salesforce Lightning components and Lighting Communities. If you’re familiar with other frameworks like Bootstrap, it’s a similar concept: 12 column grid, myriad pre-built components, all ready for implementation.

Admins and developers alike can leverage this framework to build custom components for their communities (and Lightning Experience) and the best part is the incredible amount of documentation around SLDS. Creating these components with the framework allow automatic mobile-responsiveness.

Accessibility

With thinking of the user first, comes thinking about how they’ll need to interact with the content. This requires thinking through where your users are and what languages in which they’ll need to access your content.

Management of languages is straightforward in the community, and translating content is very modular and simple. Even in your custom components, you can surface editable attributes to your Community Admin or translators, or leverage Custom Labels to translate content. While there are caveats, in general, you just need to make sure the user’s language is correct on their record and the correct content will appear for them.

Searchability

All communities come with a robust and customizable search engine. Based on the user’s profile and permissions on objects, files, articles, etc., they are able to view results in an easy-to-digest format. This is key to giving the user the power to find information fast in our “just Google it” culture. It’s also step one in deflection of cases.

Deflection

If step one in deflection is the ability to search, step two is leveraging your content and community to help answer questions. With built-in Chatter Questions and Groups, users are able to answer and have their questions answered by others. Even the act of searching for phrases or terms can present the user with related conversations even before they hit enter – get that question answered fast so they can get back to work! Your support team is doing enough already – let community users help each other (that’s the definition of “community”, isn’t it?).

Discussions, along with your content, are key in keeping the user away from creating a case. The better you manage and iterate on your articles and content (files, documentation, downloads, etc.), the better chance you have of helping your user find what they’re looking for.

While we can throw all the “safe harbors” out there we want, I’d be willing to bet that these 4 constants will always be kept front-of-mind for Salesforce with future communities enhancements. It’s all about improving the experience for the community user and the company running the community.

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