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What is Lightning Web Components, and Why is it a Gamechanger for Modern User Interface?

With Lightning Web Components (LWC), the Salesforce platform provides a richer, more modern, interface for its users—with the vital ingredient: flexibility.

With more and more consumers becoming reliant on online experiences, omnichannel delivery, and long term multiple-touchpoint engagement from their most loved brands, the digitization of the demand chain is vastly outpacing that of the supply chain.

Along with rapid digitization comes rapid evolution; the only way for supply chains to keep up with this growing imbalance is by adopting a platform with a focus on flexibility. 

Enter the Salesforce developer framework Lightning Web Components (LWC).

LWC arrives at an ideal moment as user interface functionality becomes just as important to business users as it is to consumer users. Now more than ever, B2B platforms are itching for the flexibility to meet their customers needs on an individual basis. 

Salesforce’s previous platform was based on the Aura framework, which proved more inflexible than what today’s consumers require. Customer experience is far too important to rely on a rigid, one-size-fits-all model. 

Principal Design Architect at Salesforce, Adam Doti, noticed these same trends from the perspective of non-developer business users: “More people want to roll their sleeves up and design and build their own solutions, their own websites, or their own apps. On complicated platforms such as Salesforce, more designers are wanting to play a hands-on role in creating these experiences.”

With product developers evolving into customer experience creators, they need an interface with flexible custom elements to meet each customer’s needs more precisely. 

LWC is the answer to this moment.

Explore how Propel's Salesforce-native solution gives product companies an advantage with a 100% LWC user interface. Try it for yourself.

So, what is LWC?

For the laypeople out there who aren’t regularly writing javascript or spending time in a web development environment, it helps to think of Lightning Web Components as the LEGOs of your platform.

Similar to the childhood toy, when it comes to creating a custom interface using LWC, the building blocks allow for a wealth of possibilities for both customization and functionality. And most importantly, any business user can do it — from product managers to account executives to customer success teams.

When it comes to platforms engineered for easy customization, as Doti puts it, “There's a lot of complexity underneath the hood… What we want to do is try to strike a balance of making that the most amazing frictionless experience that you're using as a [business user] while staying true to those complexities.”

Let’s back up. What is a component?

A component is effectively a single LEGO block. Just as we can build different LEGO structures by combining and configuring different LEGO blocks, non-developers can craft many user interfaces by combining and configuring different web components. 

In the early years of the web, there was a minimal set of HTML elements built into a browser. Remember those weird, gigantic off-brand LEGOs that could only make limited, basic structures?

As the web evolved and browsers became the foundational technologies for modern applications and app builders, they incorporated more fluid languages like standard javascript and css, and reading metadata and xml configuration files. 

Along with this evolution, the web developed the ability to make custom components. The web components standard evolved into a set of APIs to create custom, reusable, encapsulated components in web applications. 

Web components work across modern browsers, and according to Salesforce, because the underlying technologies are built natively into the browsers, “they are lightweight and deliver exceptional performance.” Plus, with these types of components, you’ll never experience the pain of accidentally stepping on one barefoot…

How do web standards factor in?

Modern browsers are based on what are known as web standards, which are the open, non-proprietary specifications that describe aspects across the entire web. These standards are constantly improving to enable browsers to provide a performant and efficient user experience. 

LWC is built on modern web standards, which allows companies like Propel to use the new programming model as an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) of Salesforce—keyword being: independent

Modern web standards essentially offer free rein for everyday users to build with whatever custom elements they see fit, whereas the Aura framework required the use of particular proprietary implementations, language extensions, and modules in order to function at all.

For some, the Aura components work fine. Maybe those people were the kids who excelled with those finite, instructional sets of blocks and templates to build the perfect LEGO Hogwarts castle or LEGO Millennium Falcon.

But what if you were the kid who took one look at a huge, mixed tub of various LEGOs and saw boundless potential? LWC might just be the programming model you’ve been waiting for.

What are the benefits of LWC?

LWC seems pretty technical. Why should non-developers care about it?

Broadly speaking, LWC refers to technologies built on top of standard web components to make it easier to create user experiences. 

These lightweight frameworks form a web stack that allow business users the flexibility to customize experiences for customers without worrying about knowing standard javascript or what an Apex platform does. 

In the background, reusable code is used to create a dynamic interface, or what’s known as a Document Object Model (DOM). All this really means from a user standpoint is more access to more components and more modules, which means more functionality and possibility. Think of the little LEGO section at Target versus an entire LEGOLAND® store.

With all the innovations that come with LWC, now SaaS platforms, CRMs, and other types of customer-centric APIs can offer a broader breadth of customizable user experiences. Broken down, some key benefits of LWC include:

  1. An opinionated way to build custom UI components
  2. A library of pre-built components
  3. Lightning Data Services to integrate Salesforce data
  4. Bulked up security
  5. A testing component framework to test functionality before running
  6. A wide collection of templates including easy-to-digest reusable coding modules and LWC recipes offered by Trailhead, Salesforce’s learning platform  

B2B software services like Propel can offer hyper-specific configured solutions built with LWC in order to meet the needs of not just a handful of identified use cases, but potentially any specific customer need on a case-by-case level.

Put another way, services that are still built with the old framework have to offer a specific number of LEGO sets in finite boxes with finite instructions. If customers wanted a fancy LEGO car with working pistons and moving wheels, they’d have to settle for the standard model with some clunky add-ons.

With LWC, companies can not only give customers the LEGO car of their dreams, they can ask things like what color, and how about we make it motorized?

Discover how LWC kicks open the door for what Propel can offer by accelerating Propel’s product value management solution. Combined with LWC, Propel will be able to innovate faster and deliver higher-quality products by:

  • Evolving rapidly
  • Combining innovations from the LWC platform and the existing Propel platform
  • Becoming even more reliable and secure

Request a demo of the solution.

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Post by
Kishore Subramanian
CTO, Propel

Kishore hails from Google, where he was a Sr. Software Engineer. At Google, he most recently worked on a Java/Kotlin library for the Google Assistant and led key areas for the Files Go Android App and Google Web Designer. His previous experience includes senior engineering roles at Motorola Mobility, JackBe and Agile Software.

Fun Fact: Kishore led the team that built Agile PLM's first web-based user interface.

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Kishore Subramanian