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Hands-On Inspiration and Connection (No Tech Required)

On Designing the Salesforce Experience at Dreamforce 2019

Brian New
Brian New
Feb 6 · 6 min read

The place: San Francisco, Dreamforce 2019. Witness our heroes, the intrepid Salesforce User Experience team, as they prepare for the first influx of conferencegoers at the Salesforce User Experience (UX) booth. This moment has been a long time coming, and they’re ready — arranging the paper and colorful markers scattered across the central table of this, the anchor experience for the massive Salesforce customer conference. But where are the bells and whistles, the high-tech displays and cutting-edge design tools? Salesforce is one of the world’s top enterprise software businesses. So what’s up with the school supplies?

The answer to these questions, it turns out, lies at the heart of our UX mission — and of the overall Salesforce experience. In partnership with product designers and researchers, our team’s mission is to inspire Trailblazers to have four important experiences: learning, connecting, having fun, and giving back. And that means we center booth activities around hands-on experiences that support these goals.

The focus on experiences also aligns with our company’s relationship with its customers. When a customer buys the products we design, they aren’t just buying software; they’re joining a community of developers, partners, admins, and lifelong learners who are here to help them succeed every step of the way. Dreamforce is a chance for us to bring this community together under one roof, and to share experiences that strengthen community for all involved.

This is the story of how the Salesforce User Experience team used simple, hands-on activities to make that happen.

Back to the booth, aka the Rapid Prototyping Station. The low-key, largely tech-free space offers customers a fun, low-pressure way to solve business challenges using Salesforce solutions. Visitors get a handful of colorful markers along with printed “user story” templates featuring a basic Salesforce wireframe. Each attendee is paired with a Salesforce product designer, who works with them to identify a current business use case at the customer’s business. They then sketch out ideas for one or more Salesforce solutions addressing that case.

The goal here isn’t to wow anyone, or show off cool new tools. Instead, this exercise helps us to meet our customers wherever they are on their Salesforce journey, and to help them take the next steps along their path. Accessible, hands-on tools keep the focus on personal connection. And they walk away with new ideas, and even new design skills, to take back to their companies.

Design professionals might find it obvious to start with a paper sketch — but many of our customers are sales, marketing, service, and analytics professionals for whom a hands-on exercise can spur new understanding, foster cross-disciplinary collaboration, and help solve complex business problems.

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Salesforce UX designers giving feedback to Dreamforce attendees on their paper sketches

When we began designing the booth, we wanted a space where we could connect with customers — but even more important, where customers could connect with each other. Visitors were invited to pin their prototyping sketches to a gallery wall, where they could be celebrated and inspire others in the Trailblazer community. A nearby corkboard wall featured questions about the future of Salesforce; customers were encouraged to pin up answers and feedback. The questions also inspired conversations among the Salesforce Experience team and any Trailblazers who stopped by to participate.

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Attendee viewing completed sketches on the corkboard wall

At Dreamforce, the focus is on four elements: technology, products, training — and fun. This year’s Einstein Workshop brought that essential factor to the show floor with the “Spin to Win” game, designed to teach attendees about the speed and prediction accuracy of machine learning, while showing them a good time.

Across the top of the large, colorful game board were images of the Salesforce characters Astro, Codey, Appy, and Einstein. Down the left side ran a series of panels, where the game host could reveal a selection of questions relating to the characters — for example, “Is the character wearing a suit?” or “Is the character waving?”

Attendees would then answer Yes or No to each question, for each character; names of the fastest and most accurate players were added to the daily leaderboard. The lesson here: how machines can be trained to recognize simple detail quickly. Next, attendees took on the role of the game’s supercomputer, testing their predictive learning skills. Instead of answering Yes or No about a character’s attributes, they were instead given the answers and had to predict which character was being “analyzed” — an additional complexity in machine learning.

The result was a playful way to show the complexities of artificial intelligence. As one sales admin manager put it, “This was so fun — it got my blood pumping after that long keynote!”

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Salesforce designers excited to play Spin to Win with attendees

At Salesforce, we work to incorporate our core values into not only our products but customer activities. One core Salesforce value is Equality — a commitment to building products that are accessible to all who want to use them.

At Dreamforce, we manifested this value in part through the Accessibility Pledge Tree. Attendees listened to a short presentation on the importance of accessibility and participated in a head-to-head “accessible vs. not accessible” demo. They were then invited to make an Accessibility Pledge, describing an accessibility practice they would bring back to their business or workplace. We asked those making the pledge to complete the statement, “To design for one more user, I will ______.” Pledges were written out on paper leaves and acorns, which participants pinned to the bare branches of a tree — a representation of how our Trailblazer community “plants seeds” with the potential to blossom into accessible, equitable realities.

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An attendee pinning a pledge to the Accessibility Pledge Tree

As we look back at our Dreamforce 2019 experience, we’re excited to see the results of all those encounters, a-ha moments, and laughs we shared with our customers, Trailblazers, and team members. Through the lens of our core principles of learning, connecting, having fun, and giving back, we’ll continue to ask ourselves which user experience principles most resonated with our customers, and what new activities we can bring into our next events.

The next set of Salesforce events on the User Experience team’s radar are Connections in Chicago and TrailheaDX in San Francisco. Mark your calendars, and come find us at Camp Design. In the meantime, share your ideas in the comments — what would you most like to learn from the Salesforce User Experience team next time we meet?

Follow us at @SalesforceUX.
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Salesforce Lightning Design System

Special thanks to Alan Weibel, Ashley Furrell, Jason Kriese, John Calhoun, Katie Marazita, Laine Riley, Lana Herrera, and Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet

Salesforce Experience and Design

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