The Evolution of Salesforce Communities

From Salesforce Portal to Lightning Community Builder, here’s how things have changed in Salesforce Communities.
Lightning Community Builder has vastly improved the ability to create communities using Salesforce. Whether you’re connecting with employees, partners, or customers, it’s easier than ever to build a custom-branded community for your company. A few recent projects have reminded us just how much the process of building communities in Salesforce has evolved. What was once a lengthy custom development project is now executed quickly and seamlessly with Lightning Community Builder. And most importantly, results have gone from looking outdated and lackluster to sleek and sophisticated.

Salesforce Portal

Back in the days of Salesforce Portal, you had two choices if you wanted to build a community. You could use the out-of-the-box UI—or you could build everything from scratch. With no WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, or modern CMS system backing to rely on, and no branding capabilities to speak of, Salesforce Portal’s out-of-the box UI was rudimentary at best. Often, it was a non-starter (unless you were happy with a website that looked like it was built in 1995). On the other hand, building a community from scratch was a huge and lengthy undertaking. Every page had to be custom built and manually linked together.
(Below) We built these internal communities with Salesforce’s old community UI. With these tools, branding options were all but non-existent. The resulting look was very outdated.
(Below) Even when updated to the Chatter UI, communities still looked utilitarian.
(Below) Salesforce’s unsophisticated out-of-the-box UI frequently forced us to build a fully custom Bootstrap framework for front end development. That’s just what we did for the page below.
(Below) We built this partner community using custom code. The appearance is an improvement over out-of-the-box tools alone, but the process was lengthy as it (again) required a custom-built UI.

Lightning Communities

Today, you can create branded communities quickly and easily with virtually no custom development. The Lightning Community Builder UI is super user-friendly, and you can use Lightning Components on any community page. This allows for a ton of flexibility in building interactive, custom-branded pages. As a result of these improvements, it’s easier than ever to create public-facing communities that are an extension of your brand. Lightning Community builder provides a powerful template and page editor along with the Lightning Web Component framework. This allows you to build specific, custom functionality into your pages using Salesforce’s out-of-the-box tools and no custom code.
(Below) We built the pages below in a fraction of the time it would have taken to build a custom page—despite their featuring sophisticated custom components.
(Below) For Carta’s support page, we used Lightning Community Builder’s out-of-the-box tools and only a handful of overrides and custom CSS.

Salesforce Communities Resources

For more on Salesforce Communities and today’s capabilities, check out these resources: