Objects, Record Types, and Fields – OH MY!

Getting started in salesforce can feel pretty overwhelming, especially if you've never worked in a database or CRM before. So today we are going to take a look at some of the structure behind Salesforce in order to help you build a database that reflects your organization.

As you go through your data modeling process, here are some helpful ways to think about how salesforce works. 


First, let's start with Objects. These are the BIG containers that separate different categories of data within your org. They define the big-picture data items that you will be tracking. 

Built into Salesforce are multiple objects already. These are Leads, Contacts, Accounts, Opportunities, Campaigns, Activities, and plenty of others. 

One of the easiest ways to think about objects is by imagining a spreadsheet file full of data. An object would be an entire table, full of data. You would have one table to track people and a separate table to track Donations. 


Record Types

So how do you separate out the different sub-categories within objects? For that you use Record Types. These help you to segment your objects into smaller units that match your business and make reporting easier. 

One important thing to remember about record types is that a given record can only have ONE type. For instance, in a youth-serving organization, a contact might be a 'Youth' or an 'Adult' record type, but they would never be both at the same time. 

It wouldn't make sense for most organizations to have different record types for volunteer contacts and donor contacts, because often your volunteers are also donors. Because they can be both, you don't want to create separate record types.



Fields are the simplest part of the structure. These are the actual pieces of information that you want to have in your system. 

An example of a field is 'first name' - this is a field that you will have on your contacts. It is something that you, or somebody on your team, will actually be typing in. 

If you think about a spreadsheet, a field is most like a column of data. The title at the top tells you what to type in - that's a field in a database.

One really important thing to know about fields in Salesforce is that you can use the same field for multiple record types under a single object. So you don't have to create  a 'first name' field for every record type. 

Salesforce's built-in objects come with many fields already present, and you will likely want to adjust them to suit your needs.


Bonus - Page Layouts

So how do all of these come together? WHen you are entering data, they all come together through what Salesforce called page layouts

A page layout is the formatted page where you actually enter data. It determines which fields you fill in and in what order they show up. Page layouts can be used to hide un-necessary fields. One awesome thing about Salesforce is that you can create different page layouts for different record types. This helps your team save time by only showing them the fields that relate to that specific record type that they are creating.