Lightning vs. Classic Salesforce: It’s Time to Make the Switch

lightning vs classic salesforce

The Lightning Experience is Salesforce’s latest effort to deliver a quality user experience that drives end user adoption and increases productivity. Although Lightning has been around for a few years, the latest version is the most robust yet and is poised to replace Salesforce Classic in organizations around the world.

In this blog post, we’ll explain why there’s no time like the present to make the switch to Lightning.

What is Salesforce Lightning?

The Lightning Platform, also known as the Lightning Experience, is the latest reskin of Salesforce’s CRM user interface (UI). Compared to Salesforce Classic, Lightning provides administrators and consultants with a wider toolset to better customize the look, feel, functionality, and automation of a Salesforce instance without affecting your existing data or system architecture.

Salesforce introduced Lightning in an effort to create a cohesive user experience (UX) across all of the devices through which users access Salesforce (desktop, tablet, and mobile). Lightning’s design framework is based on Salesforce’s mobile application, which users praised for its clean design, functionality, and ease of use. When Lightning first debuted in 2015, it wasn’t yet full-featured, which forced many users to continue to depend on the Classic version in order to access Salesforce’s full feature set. Lightning was also initially slow, which led many Salesforce customers and partners to form a negative opinion of the platform. Lightning has come a long way in the years since its initial release due to the efforts of Salesforce to resolve issues and make system enhancements, as well as listen to early adopter customer feedback.

Customize Your Layout With Lightning Components

The Lightning Platform makes a number of improvements to Salesforce Classic, starting with enhancement to the page layout. Lightning “componentizes” design elements, which makes it easy to add critical data from the current record, its parent record, or its child records, as well as expose more Account data on an Opportunity page. This componentization also enables you to create groups of fields or related lists for child objects that can be repurposed for both the mobile and the desktop experience. These Lightning components and drag-and-drop functionality form the backbone of the page layout editor, making it possible to move fields into different templates and formats to create a more consistent UX across devices.

Based on this framework, Lightning has a much larger customizable layout component library than Classic. For example, you can create paths — visual representations of pick lists. As its name implies, the path component creates linear, horizontal paths in which each step represents a pick list value. This component is especially useful for sales because you can define the stage of an opportunity, from the top of the funnel all the way to the bottom of the funnel. Lightning renders all of this information on a path component, making the entire sales process easier to follow and update. For guided selling, a Salesforce administrator can add key fields to fill out at every stage of the sales process as either a drawer or a slider underneath the components, as well as key selling tips for that stage. This path component is unique to Salesforce Lightning.

Another popular Lightning feature is the Kanban view. Traditionally, users who wanted to see records of the same object type had to go to a list view — a tabular list with key fields (not unlike an Excel sheet) with list view filters. Kanban view also uses this filtered concept but, rather than present it in a linear, tabular chart, displays each object type as a drag-and-drop vertical list. Each record is represented by a card with other key fields, such as company name on an account record and date, and you can strategically group list items. Kanban view effectively changes how you look at all of your records and changes the data manipulation as you interact with the element.

For a more complete list of Lightning Experience features, please refer to Salesforce’s official documentation.

Everything in One Place

The primary advantage to Lightning is its improved UX; early reports indicate higher levels of user adoption and satisfaction for Lightning vs. Classic Salesforce. From an administrative perspective, Lightning also provides more design flexibility than Classic. Where Classic only permits two columns of fields on each page, Lightning enables you to choose from a standard set of templates with multiple page layouts; if you aren’t happy with those options or want to take advantage of branding opportunities, it’s easy enough to create your own template.

Another major advantage to using Lightning is that it presents a 360-degree view of customer data. For example, you could look at an Account page for a client and view the following from a single page:

  • All company contacts
  • Closed business
  • Ongoing projects
  • Open opportunities
  • Referrals they’ve given you
  • Products they’ve installed

This single pane view makes it easier to derive insights from customer data and use those insights to make important decisions, all without having to click around for information, the way you would with Classic.

A Few Things to Consider

For all its advantages, Lightning still has a few drawbacks compared to Salesforce Classic. Certain features, such as the Big Deal Alert, Similarities Opportunities, and Opportunities Split Details, are only available in Classic. Salesforce also provides two types of forecasting, collaborative and customizable, of which Lightning Experience only supports the former.

If you currently run a heavily customized Classic instance, you might be understandably wary of moving to Lightning. For example, in Salesforce Classic, it’s possible to use custom JavaScript buttons. These buttons enable you to create inline JavaScript code, which you can invoke with a button or link embedded on a record or list page, to auto-populate fields. Lightning doesn’t support custom JavaScript buttons due to the security risks they pose. All Salesforce customer exist in a multitenant environment, which essentially means customers share the underlying infrastructure, including the server on which the application is hosted. If a malicious actor were to gain access via JavaScript to one customer’s database, they could potentially access to other databases on the server.

(You might have heard of Locker Service, the protocol that limits the use of certain JaveScript applications in Lightning. If you’d like to have a more technical conversation about how to replicate this functionality with more secure, Locker Service-compatible Lightning features, VennScience can lend a hand.)

Another reason Salesforce Classic users might be hesitant to migrate to Lightning is that Lightning is only compatible with certain third-party applications after some reconfiguration. Take, for example, Conga Composer. Conga Composer is a popular application that performs automated document generation (such as a sales proposal) so the user doesn’t have to key in account name, buyer price, and other important details each time. Conga Composer uses custom buttons similar to JavaScript buttons, and codes various IDs directly in a URL, which makes storing data. A qualified consulting confirm can help make Conga Composer compatible with Lightning by rewriting application queries. Fortunately, many third-party app developers have already adopted Lightning and have released additional features and components for their customers to leverage once they’ve transitioned to Lightning.

Although these last two items could be perceived as a drawback to Lightning for current Classic users, they’re actually a conscious effort on Salesforce’s part to improve end user security.

Think Before You Migrate

If you’re considering upgrading to Lightning, there are a few things you should do before you get started. Take Salesforce’s Lightning Experience Readiness Check to see whether your organization is prepared for a migration. The Readiness Check evaluates your current UX, issues a general report that provides an overview of the benefits Lightning can offer your business, and identifies potential compatibility issues. This report is a helpful first step to putting together a comprehensive Lightning development strategy.

Next, develop a testing strategy, make changes to your system in a sandbox environment, and invite key users to perform quality assurance tests to the system within that environment. When testing out system changes, be sure to evaluate custom buttons and third-party applications and determine which ones you’ll have to change to make them compatible with Lightning. Consider your UI design prior to implementing Lightning; with all the new features and customization options the Lightning Experience provides, it doesn’t make sense to just replicate your Classic UI. Think carefully about how individual constituents will interact with the system, which features they’ll need, and how they’ll use those features.

From the change management side, clearly communicate with all of your users the timing and potential impact of system go-live. Establish user enablement tactics such as training, office hours, and drop-in sessions so users can figure out how they’ll be able to complete the tasks they currently perform in Classic in Lightning.

Finally, consider partnering with a Salesforce partner to perform your migration. Although it’s possible to upgrade from Classic to Lightning singlehandedly and without prior experience, issues are more likely to arise, especially when rewriting third-party app queries. VennScience, in particular, has extensive experience helping clients migrate to Lightning — in fact, we represented many early adopters in helping shape the direction of their Lightning implementation. We began to work with Lightning back when many other Salesforce partners were still skeptical of its abilities. As a result, we’re a very experienced Lightning development shop — not to mention, Lightning Experience users, ourselves.

Ultimately, it isn’t really a question of Lightning vs. Classic Salesforce because, eventually, all users will have to make the transition to Lightning. Salesforce is no longer improving Classic, which means any new features the company adds to its UI will only be available to Lightning users. The way those of us at VennScience see it, there’s no sense in delaying the inevitable until your back’s against the wall — the sooner you upgrade, the better. And, when you do, we’ll be here to help.

If you’d like to learn more about VennScience or our Salesforce Classic to Lightning Experience migration service, contact us.

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