Thursday, 18 June 2020

[#Blogged] - Can In-App Guidance Replace Validation Rules?

As new features are released throughout the year, it’s natural to wonder if others will be retired in their place. Most of the time, features are continuing to be improved, however, some features are intended for basic functionality, and really don’t need any more pizza. One common mistake Salesforce users make is seeing similar functionality in two different features, and mistake them for being equal options at resolving a problem. As we all know, the tool you choose to resolve your issue can help contribute to smooth growth in a year’s time as your org matures a little, or it can be stifling due to a tangled mess that needs to be reworked. We’ve all been there!

Consider the issue of data entry for your Sales and Services teams. Many orgs have problems with making sure fields are not missing data, or displaying incorrect data. Data quality is a huge struggle with a lot of Salesforce orgs! How do you resolve this? How can you encourage your teams to fill out the appropriate information so your dashboards and reports, marketing teams, and users all see correct information every time? Many people would say Validation Rules, but with new features being released throughout the year, are there other options we should now consider?

Let’s consider a feature that came out in Winter ‘20 called In-App Guidance, for example. Some may wonder if it’s a replacement for Validation Rules. I’m going to explore that thought a little more in this post.

Example of a prompt created for the Account landing page.

What is In-App Guidance?  This is actually a nifty little tool that many have not had time to explore. In-App Guidance is a feature used to support User Engagement, and can be used to guide your users by displaying prompts at various points on the screen. For example, you can set it up to appear in the bottom right corner as a pop up on the Account page, so the user will be reminded about a new feature, or to follow best practices. 

When Should I use In-App Guidance? Have you ever been using a page somewhere, and due to the amount of pop ups, were ready to throw your phone or laptop out the nearest window? Yeah, let’s keep that in mind. You definitely don’t want to overuse In-App Guidance and have the tool lose its lustre. It’s great for reminding your users of information that could be overlooked, or may not fit in a banner, and anything that you’ve changed recently that they may have missed hearing about in your company wide email. Prompts are not the best for really complex procedures or that would generally take too long to read. Remember, you want them to see it, and act on it, but if they’re overwhelmed, they’re just going to close it out.

Is it easy to Use? Confession - I set up my prompts for this blog post in a matter of minutes. In-App Guidance is easy to use, and has a few options so that it’s not overwhelming you with decision points, but allows you to have some say in how it appears. You can choose a floating prompt, which appears in one of six places on the screen, and is great for very short messages that don’t require much action. You can also include a docked prompt which stays anchored, but contains more text, and can even hold an embedded video for your users to reference. You can also influence how frequently it appears with scheduling, so that if dismissed, it will reappear after the amount of days you set. Also, the real kicker here, is that you can view metrics to see who is interacting with the prompt and how frequently. This can help you improve your process over time, to maximize its impact.

In-App Guidance Setup - You can ensure how frequently the prompt appears for your users.

That’s a pretty cool feature, huh? But let’s not forget about our old pal, the Validation Rule! 

What are Validation Rules?  Validation rules are like a parent, letting you know when you’re not doing what is expected! They’re great guardrails for restricting missing or incorrect information from being saved on a record. Validation rules provide a red error message either by the field, or at the top of the page, letting users know what they need to correct before saving the record. And, the record can’t be saved until they correct the issue. 

Image: A Validation Rule Edit page, where Conditions and the Error Message are required to set up the validation rule.

When Should I use Validation Rules? Validation rules can be fairly easy to use, and a simple rule can be constructed in a matter of a few minutes. If you have a field that is really crucial for users to complete, a validation rule is your “tried and true”. You can use it to indicate required fields, or even to restrict the correct type of data, such as limiting numerical data in text fields.

So, Can In-App Guidance Replace Validation Rules?  This is the million dollar question, here - can it and, better yet, should it? Honestly, it depends on what you’re looking to do. The plus that In-App Guidance has on Validation Rules is that it can appear as the page loads, so the user can see what needs to be done without first entering the data incorrectly. However, validation rules can give a hard stop to the user progressing forward unless the data is corrected, thus ensuring the data is correct before the record is saved. While In-App guidance is considered a part of driving User Engagement, I would say validation rules lean more towards data quality. 


So, can In-App guidance be used instead of validation rules? Well, if all you are looking for is a gentle reminder instead of a hard stop, then yes. However, if you ask me whether it should, my answer would be no. Both of these tools have their own ideal scenario that allows them to shine as they are intended, and using tools to strive for peak performance is the best way to use Salesforce!

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