Many of you have heard about the upcoming release of GreatVines Serenity, which by all accounts sounds like another one of our regular package updates. We would like to give you a quick overview of this exciting new technology that we are bringing to you.

Serenity is NOT a standard GreatVines update but rather the foundation for a complete and total redesign of our Mobile application suite. We have taken the learnings from many years and many thousands of users using our app to re-develop and modernize our approach. With 95% of our users working on a mobile device daily or weekly, these apps, along with our embedded reports and dashboards, have largely become the center of our product universe. While the GreatVines Mobile user experience of 2013 was slightly ahead of its time, there is no question that the user interface has started to show its age.

In the six years since we first launched our offline mobile application for the iPad, we have learned a lot about the complexity of first generation mobile web applications and network availability. Additionally, the offline and online demands of our users continue to evolve rapidly and keep our team busy solving difficult technical challenges. The following are three core principles which are driving this evolution of our mobile offerings.

Progressive Web Applications

Much more of a concept than one specific technology, the move to PWA architecture represents the best of web browser technology combined with the simplicity of “apps” on today’s modern devices. More importantly, it embraces the concept of “progressive enhancement”, is browser/platform agnostic and supports offline use by default. PWAs utilize a combination of new technologies, from the latest ES6 Javascript standard, to IndexedDB databases and Service Workers. These technologies are not specific to mobile devices but rather leverage the power of the modern web browser, which is continually evolving and improving to meet the demands on today’s information generation.

What does this mean to the average GreatVines Mobile user? It means significantly faster interactions and data sync performance, whether on your phone, tablet or desktop, as well as a massive jump in overall reliability and compatibility. It also represents a unification of the entire user experience, as we begin to deploy a single codebase across all platforms (mobile, desktop, salesforce1).

Another tenet of the PWA methodology is to further blur the lines between online and offline operations. This means that a new user can be up and running on a phone or tablet in 15 seconds instead of 15 minutes, while the app looks for and syncs critical data in the background. The architecture will now support multiple offline caching capabilities that the code can leverage at different times.

Lightning User Experience and User Interface API

In order to more closely align with the core platform, we have ditched the old jQueryMobile and Backbone technologies and embraced the more sophisticated Lightning Design System. SLDS, as developers call it, represents a leap forward in application design principles, user experience and best practices. Many of our newer modules such as Goal Management and Photo Browser already utilize this cleaner more modern look and feel.

A bit deeper under the hood, we are now utilizing the Salesforce User Interface API to more closely mimic the objects, layouts and data that your users will interact with across device platforms. For administrators, this means no more field sets and less custom settings to manage!

More Data and Enhanced Flexibility

Another significant change to the mobile stack is the move away from the Salesforce Mobile SDK, which we feel introduces unnecessary complexity and overhead to the application. However, thanks to the new APIs and Service Workers, the application can now process Salesforce data changes, updates and configurations more effectively. With the default online mode, users can find relevant data from years ago, as opposed to being limited to a strict date range. This also means that List Views, Page Layouts and Custom Settings can be deployed more rapidly without requiring the dreaded “Full Sync” which would abort each time the user left the application.

Too good to be true?

Like the browser wars 15 years ago, the support for these newest mobile technologies vary between the major players. Whereas Microsoft’s Internet Explorer lagged behind Netscape, Firefox, Safari and later Google Chrome for over a decade, the most universal support for PWAs as standard applications exist within Windows 10, Microsoft Edge and the Microsoft Store. We are hoping to see both Apple and Google catch up quickly with regards to full PWA support in iOS 12 and Android P respectively. This means including PWAs as standalone apps in their respective app stores, and without any default storage restrictions, limits on background processing or other browser funniness.

So when will it be available?

We had optimistically hoped that Serenity would be live and available to customers by late summer 2018. And while we have deployed pieces of the Serenity engine inside of a few specific components already, the overall change in architecture requires significantly more QA testing and tweaking across all mobile platforms. As a result, we are now hoping to include a Beta release to select customers along with our Fall GVP update, with full customer availability in 2019.

Those familiar with our old “Mobile Container” model may see a shift in our approach with Serenity as PWAs are more akin to bookmarking a website than installing an app. We still have a few big decisions to make with regards to packaging and deployment before we commit to any dates, but the good news is that we are “firing on all cylinders” and making tremendous progress.