Thursday, December 5, 2013

Building a Mobile App faster than it takes to make Coffee Using Salesforce1

The world is moving towards mobile, screens are getting smaller (and larger simultaneously). Cloud has already replaced the need for the computer as we know it and mobile has now stepped up to finish the job. To become a complete customer company we need to cater to every screen the customers prefer.

Now as a platform loyalist (and a purist at that) I find it really annoying that I have to learn a new language (Objective C for iOs and Java for android) just to build an mobile app. But this nagging piece of overwork is no longer a trouble. Have no fear Salesforce1 is here.

The moment Salesforce1 was announced, it is understood that it is a game-changer. Salesforce1 app is to mobile what visualforce did to cloud development, smash it. Generations ahead of its time, Salesforce1 is a treat to all visualforce developers out there to bring amazing functionality to phones. Before we begin, lets get few things clear.

1. Salesforce1 is a way of building mobile apps around Salesforce, using the existing Salesforce data, heroku and many other services. For full list of API's and Services included head over to Salesforce1 page. (Side note: Did you checkout the awesome new developer homepage? )

2. Salesforce1 is just an extension of existing Salesforce application, so you can migrate any existing Visualforce page to mobile. It does not support Cordova libraries yet but I am sure they will support that in the future. (Fingers Crossed) (Edit: Thanks to @Metadaddy you can get most thinks to work using pure HTML5, e.g. here is a great article that shows you how)

3. Salesforce1 is the most awesome platform that allows you to deploy applications on mobile faster than you make coffee.

Lets get started on building a small form based application that will collect responses from people in a conference. We will build a lead generation page using Visualforce and deploy it for Salesforce1 before you make coffee. So lets begin and don't forget to put that coffee pot boiling.

Step 1: Go to Setup -> App Setup -> Customize -> Leads -> Field Sets

Step 2: Create new Field Set adding the required fields. (Side note: If you are an Salesforce Admin and a Developer is trying to confuse you by using complex visualforce jargons whisper field sets in his ears to scare him. More on field sets here.)

Step 3: Create a Visualforce page called SurveyPage and use the Field set created in step 1. The following code adds a field set called Survey on the visualforce. Note: I am using Standard Visualforce controls, if you intend to add a custom CSS to your page please make sure you use Responsive Web design to cater for all Screens.

Visualforce code:

<apex:page standardcontroller="Lead">
<apex:repeat value="{!$ObjectType.Lead.FieldSets.Survey}" var="f">
<apex:inputfield value="{!Lead[f]}">
<apex:commandbutton action="{!Save}" value="Submit Survey">

Step 4: To enable the visualforce for mobile we have to set the Available for Salesforce mobile apps flag on the edit page.  (Side note: If you are building the page using Development Mode or any IDE, go to Setup-> Develop->Pages to see that flag)

Step 5: Now we are all set, create a new Visualforce Tab called Survey and assign it to the visualforce page.

Step 6: Go to Administration Setup -> Mobile Navigation

Step 7: Add the Survey tab to the Mobile Navigation.
Step 8: Open Salesforce1 app on iOs device and test your page. (Side Note: One super cool feature about Salesforce1 is that if you do not have a Apple Device you can test your application one browser. Go to <Salesforce instance>/one/

Step 9: Enjoy your Coffee.

Compatibility issue:
Salesforce1 is available for all iOS devices and can be downloaded from App Store. For Android devices however the minimum requirement is Android 4.2 (Jellybean), all other devices will receive Chatter Mobile 3.4. I find it offensive to discuss Windows mobile OS.