What’s your type? A guide to record types in Salesforce

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By: Lila Pigott | 8.18.16

It’s always challenging when a word used in the Salesforce ecosystem can mean so many things to so many people! Today, we’re going to shed some light on the word type, more specifically, record type. There’s (record) type; which refers to a record, but is just called a type, and then there’s Record Type. If you’re already confused, don’t worry. Confusion is a sign you’re learning something new!

A record is something you’re tracking in your database. If you imported an excel spreadsheet into Salesforce, the rows of your spreadsheet would be the records. Record Types are larger categories and have the power to set the page layout in Salesforce, whereas type is just a picklist/dropdown field that describes a record but doesn't control anything.

So what’s the difference?

It’s easiest to differentiate between the two using an analogy. Let’s say you collect stamps and rocks.The different collections, stamps and rocks, would be Record Types and any sub-categories within that collection would be the type.

You want to track all of your stamps and rocks in a table and note attributes like color, size, texture, etc. We'll call the table 'Collectibles' and each row will be one stamp or rock record. Some fields, such as 'texture', only apply to the rocks, so on a rock page layout in Salesforce we'll want to see that field, but not on a stamp page layout. By creating Record Types for your collectibles, you can control which record gets which page layout.

Similarly, let's say you have a field called 'Size' that has set picklist values like: 1in X 1.5in, 2in X 2in, Pebble, Marble, Baseball, Boulder. The inch measurement values are only for stamps and the word measurement values are only for rocks. Instead of creating two size fields with two sets of values, you can have one size field with all of these values, but the Record Type will determine which values are available on the page layout.

Since it’s unlikely that most of us are using Salesforce for organizing our collection of stamps, let’s apply this structure to a business need.

What does it mean for me?

If your company sells farm equipment, there might be two different sales departments that acquire leads from different sources. One might have a Record Type for lead sources surrounding tractor pulls, while another might need a Record Type with a lead source for the National Threshers Association. The Record Types determine which information and fields show up on the record. Type is just a picklist field like any other picklist field. There's nothing special or magical about it, it's just a field to describe a record!

Signs that you should use Record Types:

  • Your page layout has a lot of fields that don't apply to all records
  • You have picklist fields that have a lot of values, but they don't all apply to all records
  • Having separate page layouts for different categories would make it easier to look at records
  • You have groups of users that only need to see certain categories of records and not others

Things to consider when implementing Record Types:

  • You'll have to maintain multiple page layouts
  • You'll have to determine which of the existing records will have which of the new record types and update them
  • You'll have to maintain picklist values on each page layout
  • You can assign default Record Types to users based on their profile, as well as only allowing users to choose certain Record Types when making new records

Not My Type

Even if type and Record Type are equally as mysterious as they were before you read this, don’t fret. Some things are difficult to glean from a blog post, and we’ve experienced enough confusion when discussing types and Record Types to know that it’s a common problem among Salesforce users. Check out our list of top Salesforce resources for admins by clicking on the button below:
 

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