Ask an Expert: Trust in Salesforce Experience Design

Trust is a huge reason why leading ISVs either make Salesforce the backbone of the product they are building or decide to sell an app on the AppExchange to reach new customers. Whether you’re a net new company or a veteran brand looking at market expansion, aligning with a platform that your prospects already believe in can give your business a head start.   

Why is Salesforce so highly trusted? Some of the most commonly cited reasons are:

  1. Salesforce is secure. Salesforce has spent decades building one of the most secure cloud-based products in the world. In an era where costly data breaches hit the headlines on a weekly basis, security equals trust.
  2. Salesforce has a robust client base. Over 150,000 businesses around the world already trust Salesforce with their data, from AWS to Zillow. No matter the size of the business you’re targeting, they’re likely to be at least familiar with the company or platform.
  3. Salesforce is transparent. Salesforce is very committed to transparency around the safety of data on their platform. Salesforce provides live data on system performance and updates on any recent phishing, malware, or intrusion attempts, so clients can easily learn the state of their data at any time. 

What I want to focus on, however, is one of the most overlooked ways Salesforce establishes trust: consistently providing a good user experience (UX). 

Your product could be the safest, most secure, transparent, intelligent solution in your category — but a bad user onboarding experience, a confusing interaction with data, or a moment of frustration figuring out how to best use the product can work like a pickaxe, chipping away at your customers’ trust.

In this post, I’ll cover how Salesforce builds trust in their own products through superior UI and UX design, and how you can build on that foundation to keep your product’s users coming back for more. 

Defining the terminology: user interface vs. user experience in Salesforce

To help set up trust from an experience perspective, let’s first explore the difference between the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).

User interface in Salesforce

When we’re talking about the UI, we’re talking about the colors, typography, shadows, corners, or other design elements that make up the screen you see. Salesforce’s Lightning Design System (LDS) is a powerful and well-thought-out framework that can be referenced for all things UI.

User experience in Salesforce

Think of UX as the way you use a feature or piece of software — for example, how you navigate from one piece of information to another, or how you enter data into a form. Salesforce has built their own foundational paradigms of UX that can be easily leveraged right out of the box.

Building trust through the user experience 

Salesforce understands the importance of establishing trust when it comes to the UI and UX for customers while also empowering users to build apps with clicks not code. 

That is all very forward-thinking, but it comes with its own pitfalls. Salesforce is so robust and diverse that it’s easy to get lost and lose focus of what you need to provide for your customers. 

That’s typically where we come in — helping ISVs to build trust with their customers through compelling user experiences. Critically, this means understanding your users from the absolute start to finish of their experience on Salesforce. 

At CodeScience, we have worked with many ISVs who decided to create custom features for Salesforce that made a lot of sense. Other times, we’ve found that the clients just weren’t shown what the platform could do with a little bit of configuration magic and creativity. 

Sometimes, it’s easier and more cost-effective to leverage the out-of-the-box tools the platform provides, but sometimes it’s right to build a custom feature or piece of functionality. Whatever the case, it’s critical that the user interface and user experience are working together in unison. 

What does that mean exactly? This takes us back to our UI/UX discussion.

Consistency matters

Salesforce’s Lightning Design System does a great job of ensuring any custom functionality or experiences you create will flow with how a customer experiences the user interface. This means the elements of the UI — the colors, the rounded corners, the subtle shadows, the typography — will all stay aligned. 

Maybe this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal — a shadow is just a shadow, right? But if we use the wrong shadow depth, typeface, or a completely off-palette color, it will start to create tension in the experience. Those subtle moments of tension will then create distress for your users, leading to more swings with that pickaxe…

Understanding tradeoffs in UI and UX decisions

We have encountered instances during CodeScience engagements where an ISV wants to bring in their own design system, instead of using LDS. For large companies with established brand standards, this case can make sense. While Salesforce provides ways to bring subtle pieces of a brand into the platform out of the box, you’re still following Salesforce’s design system and principles to build experiences on the Salesforce platform. 

At the end of the day, though, when we get this request, we always ask, “Why?” Is it just to have the interface “look” a particular way? If that’s the case, we need to dig a bit deeper:

  1. Do your interface needs trump the features and experiences you get natively in Salesforce?
  2. Do you have a team that can maintain and manage a robust design system that can keep up with Salesforce’s three-times-a-year release cycles?
  3. What is the business value for steering away from the user interface and experience features of Salesforce?

If you choose to shift your interface away from Lightning Design System, you’ll lose access to the robust tools and functionality the platform has to offer. You will forever be chasing your tail trying to remake features that don’t have the same user interface as everything else. It is a dire path to go down — trust us, we’ve been there and done that. 

Embrace LDS to chart the best paths for your users

Instead of fighting the user interface, we work with LDS to ensure we have created the desired user experience for customers. We can leverage the Lightning Design System to ensure we maintain trust through the user interface and explore out-of-the-box experience features Salesforce has to fit the needs of your customers.

And yes, there are times we will build custom experiences to fit the needs of those customers — but we still leverage LDS for the interface.

In very rare cases, we have created completely custom user interfaces for clients. This approach ending up fitting the client’s solution but came with limitations of its own. For example, with a completely custom Salesforce UI:

  • You no longer have access to Salesforce’s powerful Lightning App builder which allows you to change page layouts and fields with simple clicks — no code.
  • You are limited by your own design system and what you can create and manage.
    • This is where we see the biggest bloat in budget. All of the little things we take for granted that “just work” have to be rebuilt and tested from scratch.
  • Installation becomes a much longer process due to the custom interface, and experience is not easily configured with standard Salesforce administrative tools.
  • Security becomes more of an issue and the development required to protect your data grows.
  • The power of using Salesforce to build fast becomes limited. You will need full development teams to create and test new features or push bug fixes. 

And those are just to name a few.

Alignment leads to better UX

Ultimately, as a Salesforce partner, trusting Salesforce’s platform can help you build more trust with your customers, creating a better overall experience that increases acquisition and retention. Salesforce is highly attuned to the needs of ISVs, so they’re continually releasing improvements and expanding opportunities to customize your UI and UX natively in the platform.   

When in doubt, keep the needs of your customers and users top of mind. 

It is our mission that no ISV navigates Salesforce alone. If you’re looking for guidance on your product design and development, help supporting your customers, or just need to ask an expert, get in touch today!

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