Record Types in Salesforce Explained

11/22/2019 by Berkeley Baker
Record Types are an extremely powerful function of Salesforce. Here’s a brief look at how to properly use them.

When doing an initial walkthrough of the architecture of Salesforce, and the Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) in particular, there’s always a bit of trepidation around Record Types.  One of the top ten posts on the Arkus blog deep dives in Record Types. In this post, we're going to step back and look at the basics of Record Types and how they're used in Salesforce.

How does Salesforce Define Record Types?

Before I break down some use cases for record types, I thought it would be effective to start with how Salesforce explains what they are and what they do.  According to Salesforce documentation:

“Record types let you offer different business processes, picklist values, and page layouts to different users. You might create record types to differentiate your regular sales deals from your professional services engagements, offering different picklist values for each. Or you might display different page layouts for your customer support cases versus your billing cases.”

In NPSP specifically, the Account object comes with two record types: Household Account and Organization. Having these two types of accounts as different record types, makes it possible for different fields to be tracked on each. For instance, on a household account, you may want to see the number of household members rolled up in that account, whereas for an organization record, that field would not be needed because individuals would not be considered part of a household.

Within that same record I could have one “Account Type” field with different options for each record type. Maybe for my organization records my options include a number of values like Corporation, Foundation, etc.  For my household account, I can choose to have far fewer options.

Page Layouts with Record Types

One of my favorite things about record types is the functionality it gives you with page layouts.  First of all, what’s a page layout? Salesforce documentation explains what page layouts do in the following way:

“Page layouts control the layout and organization of buttons, fields, s-controls, Visualforce, custom links, and related lists on object record pages. They also help determine which fields are visible, read only, and required. Use page layouts to customize the content of record pages for your users.”

A common request is to configure Salesforce so different teams see different fields or different data on one record.  One way to meet this need is by creating different page layouts for each of the different teams. For example, my fundraising team may need to see different fields on the account than my sales team. If my fundraising team is using a Fundraising User profile in Salesforce, and my sales team is using a Sales User profile, I can display different page layouts to each team. 

Fundraising needs access to all fields related to money in a section at the top of the page and sales only needs to use a few of those fields. I could create a Sales Account Layout, and a Fundraising Account Layout, and display the different fields to them as needed. There’s no need for me to create separate picklist fields for each team.  

The record type makes it possible to display only the options that each team or profile needs to see without creating a separate field. Another added bonus is that through the page layout, I can make different fields required for these different teams.  When my sales team creates an account record, it can be required for them to fill in the “potential sales goal” field to save a new record. The fundraising team may not need to see that field at all. That’s a plus for data integrity!

Salesforce Tips for Record Types

If you are new to Salesforce or exploring the options within it, I recommend checking out Salesforce Trailhead.  Trailhead is a great teaching tool that defines the Salesforce architecture and gives you hands-on training for how to use it.  In particular, there’s a helpful trail on Page Layouts and Record Types that is a great starting point to learn more.  You can also check out the NonProfit Cloud Trail to get more background on the Salesforce CRM as a whole from a nonprofit point of view, or this Salesforce Admin Certification Trailmix to give you a great overview of basic Salesforce functionality.

For a more in-depth look at Salesforce record types and ways to use them check out that top ten all-time post, “Deep Diving into Salesforce Record Types” by Justin Edelstein. 

What are some tips you’ve found?

What are some things you’ve found useful to do with record types? Any cool shortcuts? Feel free to comment on the Salesforce Trailblazer Community or chat with me directly on Twitter @berkeley_t_b.