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Nautilus Notes Episode #1: Salesforce App Tips and Lessons Learned

If you’re not yet familiar with our Nautilus Notes, the first video is a great place to start. In this monthly series, we make company announcements, then switch over to celebrating our users with a quote of the month, dive into highlighting new product features, divulge our expert Salesforce app tips, and share valuable lessons others have learned using Skuid. We include an interactive Q&A section, so you can ask questions as they come up. It’s your one-stop shop to learn a lot about app development in a quick segment.

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of our first Nautilus Notes episode.

Skuid Basics for New Users

We recently launched 17 videos about Skuid Basics, covering everything a new user needs to know about getting started with our low-code platform. These videos are designed to replace our 2-3 day professional training services, so you can get all of the key information on your own time and at your own pace. From there you can develop the solutions that meet your unique needs, which leads us to…

Quote of the Month

“We don’t know what our product does until we know how our customers use it.”

—Skuid Customer Success Representative

We have a lot of dreams about what Skuid can do, but whenever we release new features, we always have unexpected realizations about how people use them and what they need them for most. This is what we’re here to learn: how we can deliver the solutions people really need. One of those solutions is DataSource Objects.

Contributor’s Choice: DataSource Objects

Skuid co-creator Ben Hubbard shared some insights about DataSource objects (DSOs), which are related to SQL data sources. In Skuid you can set up a data source through a variety of SQL types on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, or Google Cloud. Using DSOs is like unlocking a secret room that you never knew was there, and it lets you configure metadata, which is data about your data. In Skuid, that includes what objects are available for you to use, what fields those objects have, and what types of fields they are.

When Skuid connects to Salesforce or OData, it reads the metadata at runtime. When it comes to DSOs, we wanted to create a place in Skuid where you own the metadata about your data at config time. This speeds up the inspection of metadata from your databases, because Skuid stores the metadata at config time and accesses it from a fast cache at runtime. You can also augment the data by changing the way fields behave in your Skuid UI. The data source type we rolled out first was the SQL data type, and we are planning to add other data source types behind the DSO interface.

Now that you know more about that handy feature, let’s jump to some of the lessons we have learned about Skuid V2.

Skuid V2 Lessons Learned 

Skuid V2 adds whole new areas of functionality, including the Design System Studio and the Ink Component Library. It’s all still pretty new technology, so we want to share some of the lessons our users have learned so far.

The Design System Studio, which is the evolution of the Theme Builder, lets you create a style guide for your UI, so when you update one element, others in the same category will also update. One best practice is creating a “kitchen sink” page where you can see all of the style components in the design framework, so that designers can see what’s possible. V2 also includes design variants so you can create different button styles for various use cases, including round buttons for mobile development. You can also now render pages based on screen size so you can quickly see your work in action.

Pro tip: We’ve already done a ton of work in the Design System Studio. All you have to do is install the sample pages we have already built onto your Skuid site to use or adapt the designs we have created.

Merging Variables and Syntax

Skuid goes beyond just components. There’s a whole realm of markup that allows you to reach into the data stream to pull in merge variables. You can do a lot of cool things with it, especially with UI-only fields and formulas. (For more on that, start with this Skuid Basics video on UI-only fields.)

You might not know about some of the row-specific merge properties that exist, so Skuid’s co-creator and principal software engineer Zach McElrath shared a few special superpowers you can tuck into your hero toolbelt. With Skuid you can access metadata properties about rows. For example, you can find out if a row has been newly created, marked for deletion, cloned from another record, and more. You can get this information through a javascript API,  but what you might not know is that you can also do it through merge syntax. All of this is captured in a metadata object, called the Record, which is specific to each row. You can use the information in the Record when you run action sequences. For example, you might want to perform a certain action only if a row has been saved, and you can create logic that prevents the action from being performed on new rows that have not yet been saved.

Here’s one more use case just for fun. You can use the record to show the position of a row in relation to its siblings. If you want to know if you’re on the first or last row on the data model, you can do that with merge syntax. You can also get the row’s relative position using the index syntax. You might want to do this to compare data to the previous or next row, or use a formula to multiply the quantity in a previous row.

If you want to learn everything there is to know about merge syntax, check out our documentation, or just try it for yourself.

Take the Skuid toolkit for a spin >>

Skuid Labs Highlight: Custom Formulas

End users have very specific requirements, and sometimes those come up in the final stages of app development. One of the cool things about Skuid is that it’s extensible. You can add javascript onto your actions layer as a snippet. You can also do custom renders and custom components in V1.

To show you what we mean, Skuid Solutions Engineer, Matt Davis shared some pro tips about adding custom formulas to a page. Skuid has a lot of built-in functions for UI-only fields that are very useful, but sometimes you want to do something custom. For example, Excel-type formulas or filters can be added to show KPIs based on the data being displayed on a page. This allows users to get a quick analysis of a data subset without having to do any additional work.

User Highlight

Remember that quote of the month about how our customers light the way? This is a great example of how one Skuid user unexpectedly tapped our tools:. they used the Skuid toolkitto create a mobile app for a manufacturing company. Originally this company started using Skuid for a CPT use case, and eventually they wanted to create a solution for their field service team.

This team visits factories to inspect and service multi-million dollar machines. To do this, they take screenshots, collaborate with engineers, log time, and get signatures to approve billable time. They used Skuid to create a mobile field service application to do all of that work in one place, so they could move away from paper and onto a mobile app that didn’t depend on an internet connection. Some of the lessons learned while building Skuid mobile pages were that decks scale much better than tables, and sliding panels are more user-friendly than popups.

The field team needed the ability to take photos, tag them, and send them in real time. This was solved through an existing snippet in the Skuid javascript library. The result was significant time savings, because the field crew could mark up and send photos to the engineers and get faster responses. For customer signatures that were needed on labor tickets, the solution was a Capture Signature button that opened a page with the relevant billable time, text fields for a typed name and title, and a field where the customer could sign on the screen. This allowed the company to speed up the billing process and get paid faster. This was done with a Skuid component that already existed in the community, a perfect example of the power of citizen developers.

Red Flag: Searcher Beware

The above story is a perfect example of a simple solution to a fairly straightforward problem. However, sometimes a stakeholder asks for something that seems simple without realizing just how complex it is. We call these red flags, and this month we’re talking about the term “search.” When you hear that word, be prepared to think about how the end user plans to use the results, what the data source limitations are, and the search logic that will most likely be employed. Find out what problems need to be solved and build your search function from there. With Skuid, you can utilize our built-in search component, filters, or even build your own from scratch.

That wraps up this month’s edition of Nautilus Notes. In addition to these videos, you can learn more about Skuid features and news by watching our on-demand webinars for more features, stories, and Salesforce app tips.

Director of Marketing

I am a storyteller, an outdoor enthusiast, and an XNFP. I like people, creative projects, and donuts.