With every Salesforce release comes a variety of exciting new features and enhancements. The new Winter ’18 release is no exception. In short – it doesn’t disappoint! With so many changes in one release, though, it can be challenging to comb through. To save you time, we’ll showcase the ones that will have the biggest impact on your community user experience. OUR TOP FIVE PICKS 1. Streams A stream is a filtered feed a user can create for anything in Salesforce. A collection of people, files, certain topics or records from any object. These streams are then viewable in a table on a dedicated page. These first appeared in the Spring ’17 release as Chatter Streams within the CRM Lightning interface. Now they’re available for communities. One use case is a technician who’s interested in several products from a manufacturer. They want to track the feeds of those products and separate them from their global feed. Another use case is a student who wants to stay up to date on campus projects and events related to their major. OUR TAKE This addition will be helpful because users can filter and find the information that matters to them. Currently, though, each stream is unique to each user, meaning users can only see their own streams. Community admins cannot create streams that are viewable to all or certain users. In the future, we’d like to see a future enhancement that: Allows community admins to suggest helpful content Saves users the time of building these out themselves Release Notes 2. Customer Account Portal Template (New) The Customer Account Portal template is ideal for serving up content to specific customers related only to the account. Examples include cases, files, and direct messages with customer support. Most of the components found in Customer Support are available in this template. The emphasis, though, is on self-service rather than community interaction. It also includes: A new tile-based menu component allows up to 8 graphical calls to action (more on this below) The header is now by default a single row saving considerable vertical space The search box reveals recently viewed items in a dropdown list on click OUR TAKE In contrast with customer support communities that offer discussions and idea sharing across the entire customer base, account portals need to feel more locked down and personalized to give a greater sense of security for the individual customer. The account portal fills that need nicely. It also allows for a more simplified interface that isn’t trying to be all things to all people. We anticipate leveraging this template frequently Release Notes 3. Flow (New) You may be familiar with Cloud Flow Designer used on the CRM side to collect, update and create Salesforce information. Now you can surface those flows in communities, as well. OUR TAKE Flows are powerful tools that provide a guided experience for collecting key information and funneling it into your org without having to create a separate page for each step or a complex, lengthy form. Customer surveys and feedback forms are excellent use cases for flows. Bringing this power to communities means businesses can put it in the path of the user and collect information more. This will speed up the ability to personalize information and drive customer engagement. Release notes 4. Tile Menu (New) A tile-based menu is a visual way for users to navigate to the areas most important to them. This format allows you to create strong call-to-action by uploading photos and entering text for a heading. A description is not included, though. Other features Basic mouse-over color change effect on the heading Fully-responsive Able to add more than one row (up to 8 links) OUR TAKE This will be a widely-used component. Other community platforms such as Jive have added similar elements to the delight of their user base. We recognized the lack of this ability in Salesforce and built our own custom component to fill the gap. One downside of Salesforce’s new component is that if you add less than 4 items to the top row, the tiles do not responsively fill the space or center align. They stay the same size in a left-aligned format. Addressing that issue would make this a much more attractive option. Release notes 5. Global Search for Peer-to-Peer Communities (New) This is a simplified version of search that does not include the publisher functions. It’s separate from the header, which means you can customize the header without impacting search. It’s used only in the Customer Service (Napili) template. OUR TAKE We’ve encountered situations where a client’s header would benefit from customization, but it wasn’t workable because the search function would need to be essentially rebuilt if we made modifications to the header. Separating the search function from the header itself opens up many possibilities. Release notes HONORABLE MENTIONS More-Specific Audience Definition You can now target page variations, branding sets and recommendations to users based on any field on the user object. This is an even more powerful way to fine-tune who sees what in your community. OUR TAKE This addition takes personalization to a whole new level of specificity. Any user data you’re tracking can now drive the experience. Release notes Audience-Based Branding Sets With branding sets, you can change the appearance and style of your community pages based on the audience viewing the page. Branding sets take advantage of criteria-based audiences in the same way as page variations. OUR TAKE This addition will be useful to global organizations that have a geographically-distributed employee base with unique identities. With an audience-based branding set, they can now carry a region’s brand through the entire community experience. Release notes Pinned Posts Pinned posts allow community managers to pin certain posts at the top of a feed, in a group or a topic page (still in beta). OUR TAKE One use case is the ability to pin a help message at the top of the feed. A good way to welcome users to the discussion and suggest ways to contribute. Highlighting a major news item or announcement is another likely use case. Pinned posts can be a time saver for administrators. Admins can now highlight an existing post, instead of creating a separate announcement. Release notes Unique Login Page Branding (Dependent on Location) You can now display a different logo, branding and message to users based on where they log in. OUR TAKE Your community’s home page may have a page variation that shows certain content by region. The new personalization features discussed above make that even easier. Because of this, you’ll want to ensure users feel like they’re logging into the correct system before they reach the home page. With this addition you can provide a personalized experience before the user is even in the door. Release notes Recommendations (New) This component shows the most popular files as determined by the number of people who view a file. The file must contain text and also be in a library. Note: This is a new component. The former “Recommendations” component is now the ”Recommendations Carousel.” OUR TAKE Salesforce could have avoided some confusion by naming this component “Popular Files.” Regardless, it’s a welcome addition. Algorithm-driven content suggestions reduce the burden on community managers to curate and feature content. We see this component getting a lot of use. Release notes Libraries This component now supports a tile view so it’s easier for users to find that one colorful photo or spreadsheet. OUR TAKE A grid view is always a welcome option. This is especially useful for content that is visual in nature allowing for easier scanning of the content. This component could be improved by allowing an admin to set a certain view as default. Release notes Embed Rich Publisher Apps in the Chatter Publisher Chatter Publisher now allows you to add a form, video or other types of apps to a Chatter post. OUR TAKE Utilizing apps means the possibilities are endless. Predefining the formats of social content helps lessen confusion for users and results in a more consistent experience. Release notes OUR TAKEAWAY ON WINTER ’18 Yes – this list is a small fraction of all the changes included in the Winter ’18 release. However, we know these items will have a significant impact on the overall community experience. How can you get a closer look? Browse the full Winter ’18 release notes. Sign up for a Winter ’18 dev org to start playing with the features If you come across other additions that you feel deserve an honorable mention, let us know in the comments Have fun exploring!