- Extensible Community Templates – Outside of Lightning Experience, this could be the biggest feature in Winter 16. For the past 3 releases, salesforce has been expanding the power of the Community Templates, but at the end of the day the templates could only deliver specific functionality and couldn’t be extended. With Winter 16 that all changes. Now you have the ability to take those core templates and begin to customize and extend them leveraging Lightning. There are a few ways you can do this:
- Add Additional Objects – You now have the ability to add additional objects to the template. Need to see Account data or maybe even a custom object? Now you can add them. There’s a Record Detail component within the templates that lets you create these, and then you can link to them with components you build. In addition, you can modify the navigation to place these right on the homepage. Please note, this is only available in Napili. In addition, this appears to only support Accounts, Contacts, Cases, Tasks, Events, and custom objects. I will admit, I’m not sure on this as the release notes are a little unclear. When discussing the new Record Detail component for Napili there are no object limits mentioned. However, in the Custom Page section where it discusses Data Detail pages – which works for ALL templates, this limit is listed. It’s entirely possible Napili has no limits on the objects, but the others do. We will post once we confirm, but if these limits are in place for all templates, I’m bummed that Assets is not included.
- Add List Views – If you can add new objects to the template, you also need the ability for your users to see a list of all of the records. You can now add List View components for the objects you expose and link to them within the Community. Please note, this is only available in Napili.
- Custom Pages – Outside of Record Detail and List View pages, you can also build and add your own custom pages to the Community. This allows you to create a blank page using the Community Builder or an existing template that is within the Builder. Great for custom informational pages or even a new Homepage.
- Custom Components – You can now add custom Lightning Components to pages within the Community. This will allow you to add widgets and other types of custom features throughout the Community template.
A few notes on all of these changes. First, as with all of the new Community features, all of these ways you can extend the Community are mobile enabled. All of these are responsive so the pages automatically expand and collapse to any size screen on any mobile device. Second, if you’re already using the Community Templates, you will need to upgrade them to the new Winter 16 templates. It’s pretty straight-forward to upgrade, but the existing templates will no longer be improved – they actually won’t even be supported going forward.
Overall, this is a huge change for Communities and really makes the templates a viable option even for more complicated Communities. Due to the speed of the Community Builder and these Lightning components, if you’re willing to accept the core features of these templates, you’ll be able to roll-out a community at a much lower cost and extremely fast.
- Other Community Enhancements – Along with the Extendable Community Templates, there are a slew of other enhancements to Communities and the Community Templates:
- Multilingual Support for the Templates – The templates now support the multilingual capabilities that salesforce provides throughout the rest of salesforce. Community visitors now have the option to switch their language using the Language Selector. A few notes here. First, this Language Selector component isn’t added by default, but you can add it through the Community Builder. Second, the Language Selector is only for Guest Visitors. Once a user logs in, the Community will present in the language from the user’s record. Finally, this only works with the 18 fully supported languages. I’m assuming this ties into the Translation Workbench for these, but the release notes don’t specifically mention it.
- New Case Layout Options – Two new options of how you can present your Case Details through the templates. For all templates, you now have the ability to show a “Chatter Layout” which focuses more on the collaborative aspect of the Case and highlights Chatter. If you have Cases where your Agent is engaged in more active dialogues with your customers, this is a template to consider. The second new layout is for Napili only, and it focuses more on the field elements of the Case and is a lot more like the classic page layout within salesforce. This one is called the Record Detail view and is useful if you are trying to show a lot of field elements to your customers.
- Updated User Profile – All 3 templates get a new User Profile page. All of these are visible by clicking on the user’s name. The Napili template in particular gets a big change as it will display statistics as well as what the user has been flagged as an expert in.
- Hide User Activity in Feed – You can now toggle off the ability for other user’s to see a user’s activity in their feed. This is a small but important update.
- Knowledge Article Voting – In all templates, the Knowledge Article voting is now available. This is a component that you can add to the page.
- Centralize the CSS – With Winter 16, you can now leverage outside CSS files to set the branding of your community. Previously you needed to create the CSS within the Community Builder. The nice thing here is this let’s you centralize your company’s CSS, so if something changes to the website, it’s automatically applied to your community.
- Rich Text Chatter – This will either be awesome or horrible. There’s no middle ground and I’m sure it depends on your company culture. This is like emoticons. Now, you can use a Rich Text Editor (limited editor) within the Chatter feed. It will allow you to bold, underline, or italicize posts as well as add bullet / number lists. Thankfully no ability to change colors. So, as long as you don’t have someone in your org that always feels the need to scream and emphasize, you should be ok. Thankfully you can disable this if needed. As a side note, this also works in Community Chatter feeds.
- Chatter Muting – Ever get @mentioned on a post you really don’t care about? Maybe that post is about cats or babies (or worse, babies with cats) and the updates are endless and every single update is being emailed to you? Or, maybe it’s a legitimate business chatter with a lot of back and forth and you don’t really need to receive each update. Now you can mute that chatter post, and you’ll no longer receive updates. When you mute something, not only will you not receive updates, but it will no longer appear in your feed. Only way the mute can be unmuted is if someone @mentions you again. At that point, you need to have a talk with that person. Awesome update.
- Automatic Moderating of Content – A really nice enhancement, especially if you’re in a B2C environment or maybe have a bit more edgier / heated communities. Now you can setup automatic moderating rules to detect unwanted content and change it. For example, you can maintain a list of curse words and automatically have them flipped to ***** when entered into a Community. You can setup 10 total rules, and the keyword list within those rules can have up to 2,000 keywords each, so this is a pretty hefty feature. This can really offload a lot of work from your moderators. It doesn’t look like you can, but would be nice to see reporting on how many times this fires by user so you can see who the abusers are.
- Community Insights – Intriguing new feature. Essentially, this lets a Community Manager create a segment and do a deep dive analysis into that segment. For example, you could create a segment of users that have signed up in the last month, and then run all of the Community reports for just that segment. Pretty cool new feature that I really need to play with more to understand it better. That said, this is really powerful for a Community Manager to get a deeper understanding of what’s going on and who to target and nurture in the Community. One thing to note on this, this is an AppExchange package that will need to be installed.
- External Files Available in Communities – Up until Winter 16, the external files capabilities leveraging Files Connect were not visible to Community users. Now any Files Connect connections you have – Google Drive, SharePoint or OneDrive – can now be searched and accessed by Community users. This to me is an even bigger use case than for internal users. In Particular for Partner Community Users, this is a way to quickly expose internal content, but without having to migrate it all to salesforce just to support the Community. Very exciting.
- Limit Files to being Exposed to Communities – Another very nice feature for Community control. Files, including Content Files, now has a way to set them so they aren’t visible to Community Users. Simple, but elegant and very needed.
- Dashboards on the Community Management Page – You can add a dashboard to the Community Manager homepage. Nice way to keep an important dashboard top of mind.
- Sub-topics for Categories – If you are a frequent reader of these, you know I sort of geek out about Topics. I love my metadata. With Winter 16 you can now group Topics into Subtopics as well. Very nice addition to help navigation for Communities. Excellent…
- Partner Data Management – Two new features that could really extend your Partner Community user’s ability to manage data. First, you can now expose the ability for Partner Users to import Accounts, Contacts or Leads. They would use the same Data Import Wizard that you use. Second, Partner users can now Mass Update Leads as well. These could be a nice adoption driver especially for Partners that you are co-Marketing with.
- Work.com Badges now Linked to the Chatter Post – In the recognition tab on the User Profile, you can now see a link to the Chatter Post that delivered the Thanks / Recognition to the user. Pretty handy especially after some time has passed since the Thanks was given.
Wow, that was a bigger update than I realized when I started this. In addition to the above, there’s some new stuff we covered in the Lightning Experience post like enhanced File Previews and updated Chatter Groups that only work with Lightning Experience enabled. Huge release for Communities in particular, but Chatter had some great additions as well. One more update to go and we’ll cover Sales, Salesforce1 and any platform updates.