Develop Without Code

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
  • Describe the benefits of the metadata-driven development model.
  • Define and give examples of the no-code and low-code development approaches.

The Power of Metadata

If you completed the Salesforce Platform Basics module, you probably remember the discussion of Salesforce terminology. Specifically, we defined three important terms: objects, fields, and records. Let’s take that definition one step further.

When you look at data in Salesforce, you might think that you're looking at a user interface sitting on top of a run-of-the-mill relational database. But what you’re actually looking at is an abstraction of the database that’s driven by the platform’s metadata-aware architecture.

In this abstraction, objects are our database tables. The fields on those objects are columns, and records are rows in the database. This analogy is true both for standard objects that come with Salesforce by default and custom objects that you build yourself.

You can see metadata in action on record detail pages. On this detail page for an account record, you can see field names like Type, Account Number, and Website. These are the metadata that define the structure of your app. The values of each of these fields are our actual data, and in terms of our data model, they aren’t particularly relevant.

An account page.

In short, metadata forms the structure of your org. Whether you’re defining fields, business processes, or something more complex, metadata holds your configuration. The platform then renders your app’s metadata in the user interface along with its associated data.

This metadata-driven development model is one of the key differences between developing on the platform and developing outside of Salesforce. Because the platform is metadata-aware, it can auto-generate a significant part of your user experience for you. Things like dialogs, record lists, detail views, and forms that you’d normally have to develop by yourself come for free. You even get all the functionality to create, read, update, and delete (affectionately referred to as CRUD) custom object records in the database.

All this prebuilt functionality frees up your development time to work on more sophisticated custom features. Let’s take a look at how the metadata-driven development approach works in action.

What’s Inside DreamHouse?

The DreamHouse app is an example of what’s typically referred to as an internal employee productivity app. It’s built using various parts of the Salesforce platform. This diagram gives an overview of the system landscape of the DreamHouse application set. It includes Heroku services and other connected devices, but let’s focus on the core platform piece for the time being.

A diagram of the technologies in DreamHoues, emphasizing the Platform aspect

For DreamHouse, we’ve created three custom objects that support the app’s core functionality.

  • Brokers: information about partner brokers
  • Properties: photos and information about properties that are on the market
  • Favorites: properties customers have favorited
Let’s take a look at what the DreamHouse data model actually looks like. The platform provides a handy tool called Schema Builder so you can see your entity relationship model in action.
  1. From Setup, search for Schema Builder in the Quick Find box. When you initially open Schema Builder, you see all the custom and standard objects in your org.
  2. Clear all current selections. From the Select from menu, choose Custom Objects and then select all. You see something like this:
    The schema builder interface.

Pretty cool, right? Schema Builder provides both coders and non-coders with an easy way to visualize and configure an app’s data model. We won’t do a deep dive into data modeling right now. If you want to learn more, check out the Data Modeling module here on Trailhead.

No-Code and Low-Code Development

It can be surprising to hear, but the Salesforce platform encourages you to minimize code. And it’s not because we don’t love code. It’s because the platform’s metadata-driven architecture lets you complete most basic development tasks without ever writing a line.

Salesforce offers a host of tools for point-and-click—or declarative—development. Most of these tools require little to no understanding of development principles: no code. Someone who thinks JSON is just missing a letter can construct a robust and complex data model. A person who hears Cron and thinks it’s some kind of sci-fi film can schedule batch jobs.

In fact, someone without any coding knowledge at all can develop entire apps in Salesforce using prebuilt components and point-and-click tools. Here’s an example of Lightning App Builder, which we used to build parts of the DreamHouse app.

The Lightning App Builder interface

Some development tasks, like writing validation rules or hooking up components with UI elements, are considered low code. That means they require some basic programmatic knowledge to complete, but aren’t so rigorous that they’re considered programmatic. For example, if you know something about logic, conditions, and CRUD operations, you can do more with Process Builder.

The Process Builder interface.

The no-code and low-code development capabilities that the Salesforce platform provides means that you, as a developer, can move faster. If you’re the only person at your company developing on Salesforce, you can use the platform’s many declarative tools to build more in less time. If you’re working on a team with non-coders, you can leave the declarative development tasks to them while you double down on more code-intensive projects.