Dynamics 365 Unified Interface: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Unified Interface for Dynamics 365
Unified Interface uses a responsive web design to make Dynamics 365 portable to reflow records whether being viewed on a large screen or a small mobile device. This reflects the same responsive principles seen in websites that are rendered for optimal viewing and interaction across any screen size, orientation or device.
Why has the Unified Interface been introduced?
The new modern UI has been developed to ensure consistent experiences using Dynamics 365 across different devices and screens.
And another driver of change is Dynamics trend to becoming ever more app-centric. With increasingly connected and diverse app modules being implemented to handle different work-streams it is essential that apps only need to be designed once, quickly deployed and shared across clients rather without the complexity of developing and maintaining multiple forms for each device or screen.
Microsoft’s answer has been to introduce the Unified Interface to develop a seamless experience across desktop, mobile and Outlook.
What else is new?
Other aspects of the Unified Interface include embedded interactive dashboards across all devices including mobile. As a result, embedded Power BI dashboards can be accessed from within Dynamics 365, even using a mobile device.
Visual filters help users interpret dashboards and list views before drilling down into the data.
Among the many navigation changes, users are able to dock or pin guided process flows so that these remain on screen when users navigate to other areas of the record form including form tabs.
The return of form tabs and the addition of related items simplifies navigation to reduce clicks enabling users to quickly find detail which can include contextual records.
When records are opened from a list view, a new control enables users to open an additional panel and scroll through other records in the list.
A new timeline control replaces the activity / notes panel that features new filters and visualisations that help users navigate record notes, posts, emails and tasks.
Through a new reference panel, users are able to access contextual information by switching between sub grids without clicking away from records or launching pop-ups. For example, on a contract record use the reference panel to toggle between related cases, open opportunities and entitlements.
Crucially, Microsoft is no longer investing in new features for the legacy web interface so these enhancements, and future feature releases, will only be available for the Unified Interface.
What is Microsoft's plan for the Unified Interface?
Microsoft’s goal is to make the Unified Interface the only client interface across all Dynamics 365 apps.
This was introduced in v9.0 and it is now the default interface for the Dynamics App for Outlook, Dynamics mobile app and for all new Dynamics 365 app modules.
Unified Interface represents the future for developing Dynamics 365 and it will ultimately replace the legacy web UI. For the April 2019 update, Microsoft declared this now provides the 'mainline experience'.
How does Unified Interface work with the legacy web Interface?
If you have implemented or upgraded to Dynamics 365 v9.0, you already have access to the Unified Interface in a desktop browser but for the majority of desktop users this has yet to be enabled.
In v9.0 and v9.1, Unified Interface co-exists with the legacy web interface for existing customers. Upon upgrading to v9.0 Online most administrators opted to deploy a refreshed version of the regular web interface rather than activating the new experience.
That’s because several functionality gaps have existed between the old and new interfaces. Commands such as advanced find, merging records and bulk edits weren't available in the initial Unified Interface roll out which proved an obvious barrier to adoption. These gaps have closed as Microsoft has released updates to fix issues and introduce new capabilities.
While the legacy web UI and new experience currently co-exist, Microsoft has signalled that at some future point it will switch off this side by side arrangement and migrate all customers to the Unified Interface.
How does Unified Interface improve performance?
During its Business Applications Summit in June 2019, Microsoft highlighted a series of statistics to demonstrate how the Unified Interface improves performance and reliability. These included:
- 63% improvement in grid load
- 37% improvement in form load
- 45% improvement in dashboard load
- 30% improvement in quick create load
When will the legacy web UI be deprecated?
Microsoft says its deprecation of the legacy web interface is 'imminent' but has yet to release any time-frame. Telemetry is increasingly used to understand how users are interacting with the product and this will be a factor in determining when the legacy interface will be deprecated based on adoption of the new UI.
Microsoft has stressed it will provide ample notice before it removes the legacy interface and migrates all environments to the new UI.
With new investments being concentrated on the Unified Interface, updates for the legacy UI are now focused on bug fixes and this will not support newer capabilities.
Rather than waiting for a migration deadline set by Microsoft, planning a transition now will allow for a flexible and incremental approach to begin introducing the benefits of the Unified Interface.
How is the new UI structured?
To ensure a consistent experience across clients, a fundamental part of the Unified Interface structure is the PowerApps Component Framework.
Essentially, this is a layer that sits on top of Dynamics forms that enables extensible controls to be built. Some examples of custom controls include dials, switches and sliders which are designed to provide greater visualisations across forms for entering data.
Within the Unified Interface every control, such as a text box, calendar, or switches and dials, will be built using the unified PCF. Developers and partners can now use this framework to design, build and deploy custom functionality in first-party Dynamics 365 apps and model-driven apps through the Unified Interface.
What are Hybrid Experiences?
To address some early functionality gaps highlighted, Microsoft used using hybrid experiences.
Advanced Find was added to Unified Interface last year and running this has been one example of a hybrid experience. Selecting this command from the main Dynamics toolbar opened up the legacy interface to display to define search terms.
Clicking an item in the search results will always open records in the new Unified Interface. As a result, the legacy experience is strictly contained and won’t leak to other functions such as when records are viewed. These are being replaced as a purely Unified experience is delivered and Microsoft has now revealed a new format for Advanced Find.
How should I prepare for the Unified Interface?
For existing Dynamics 365 users currently working with the regular web interface the new experience is a significant change and migration to this interface should be careful planned.
Firstly, consider the different use cases in your business. Each work-stream can have its own specific Dynamics 365 app and user experience so consider which aspects of the Unified Interface, including custom controls, can best be utilised for these requirements.
To gain familiarity with custom controls and other aspects of the new experience, you can take a closer look within your non-production environment.
Microsoft recommends an initial test within a development environment using a realistic user persona where Unified Interface is enabled prior to creating a parallel test app. After mapping out the key business activities needed to managed specific scenarios, a quick check will highlight any issues or gaps that will need to be addressed in the new UI.
For example, some functions and plug-in's that you currently use may not be supported in the new experience. The legacy Dynamics 365 contracts entity and dialogs are examples of this. When legacy functions and customisations are no longer used this represents an opportunity to relaunch Dynamics 365 with an uncluttered interface.
A further step would be to create a pilot app that is used by a small user group which has the essential functionality to handle specific use cases and generate some excitement by introducing the new capabilities.
Preact will help you through this process to ensure a smooth transition and help your users get started with the new interface.
Enabling the Unified Interface
Speak to us, to learn more about the Unified Interface. We'll help you enable the latest UI and plan your migration including user training that will cover management of the new experience.
Please get in touch if you want to know more, or to get advice on migrating to the Dynamics 365 Unified Interface.
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