Build an App for That: Two Ways to Publish a Mobile App

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By: Dan Ruley | 7.23.20

App is a vague and funny word. We use it in the twenty-first century to mean a lot of different things. First and foremost, when you think of an app, you think of a program on your phone. But an app can also describe a program running on our computer, an application accessed through a web browser, a process running on a server in the Cloud, or a bundle of Salesforce objects or tabs (here’s looking at you, Salesforce admins).

This last example is very important because one of the great things about Salesforce is that it makes app creation and publishing very easy. In Salesforce, we bundle objects and tabs to build apps, which focus functionality and purpose. These Salesforce apps can be function-specific, like a custom app dedicated to SMS text messaging. Or they can also be role-specific, the way that the app your development team uses to fundraise with Contacts, Accounts, and Opportunities is different than the app your marketing team uses to track success through Campaigns, Accounts, and Reports.

And Salesforce is mobile ready in general. Users can download the Salesforce app from the Google Play and Apple App stores and log into their accounts. Admins can customize records and layouts to optimize for this mobile experience.

But what if you want to make your own mobile app? Can you even imagine the possibilities? Let’s walk through what this means and what tools are available.

 

Mobile Publisher Takes Your Salesforce App to the Next Level

It’s easy for Salesforce admins to distribute licenses and have users log in to different apps by profile. As we noted above, users can log into Salesforce via a browser or the Salesforce mobile app. But what if you want to give users an experience branded and customized for your organization? That’s where Salesforce Mobile Publisher comes in. With Salesforce Mobile Publisher, you can select a Salesforce app, brand it for your organization, and push it to the Google Play and Apple App stores. Imagine someone picking up their phone, tapping a tile with your organization’s logo, and signing into an app you built with Salesforce. It’s particularly handy for publishing your Salesforce Community as a branded mobile app.

Mobile Publisher has a robust feature list like push notifications, state-of-the-art security, and persistent authentication (meaning that a user is only required to log in once). It also provides resources for helping you publish your app. All of these features are available out of the box without having to hire a developer.

Community Cloud helps you launch a community portal with a good looking UI from day one, but there are limitations to what you can do on the platform. In fact, those limitations are there for a reason. Pre-programmed Lightning components make it easy for Salesforce experts to configure a seamless app experience in a low-code environment. This makes app building accessible to most organizations no matter their size or expertise. And as Barry Levine writes for MarTech, “According to Salesforce research, 48 percent of IT departments have ‘a significant mobile developer skills gap.’”

Salesforce Mobile Publisher allows you to make your custom Salesforce apps and Communities mobile, but what if you want to extend beyond Salesforce functionality? Let’s talk about it.

 

With Heroku, We’re Talking About a Whole Other Game

Candy Crush Saga. Twitter. Evernote. Is there an app on your phone you open every day? What app do you find most useful in your everyday life? (And yes, even Candy Crush could be considered useful if the point is to relax, zone out, and destress.)

When we talk about custom apps like these, we’re potentially talking about Heroku. Heroku is a platform as a service (PaaS), specifically a platform that helps developers launch, host, and maintain applications in the cloud.

Let’s think about what these apps do. They don’t just offer a pretty user interface. Even with Candy Crush we’re talking about complex data and computation. Each player has a profile associated with their email address; the points they accumulate are logged; the level they’re playing at is tracked; push notifications get sent out when a player has been absent from the game for a certain amount of time. And this is all on top of the code that makes the game itself run!

When we talk about an app like this, we’re talking about more than just packaging Salesforce. There are two dimensions at play. First, the user interface would be completely unique to your organization, customizable in every way. 

Second, there’s custom complex logic that scales no matter how many people are using your app. That may include some Salesforce data — and Heroku makes it easy to process data and sync it back into Salesforce — but we should think about what’s possible with Heroku as an extension of Salesforce functionality. With Heroku, your app has access to Salesforce data and functionality, but can do so much more.

 

Conclusion

There are a few different ways to build, brand, and publish an app these days. The best solution really just depends on what you need. A partner portal is probably best supported by having your Salesforce admin put together a Salesforce app. If you want to make your Community portal mobile and branded, you might be served by the Salesforce Mobile Publisher. And if you have complex logic or need to integrate Salesforce data with information from other platforms, it might be time to step up your game and build a custom application with Heroku.

Got an idea for an app and still not sure where to begin? Maybe it’s time to talk to a consultant.

 

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