While you can create a Salesforce Community using the Community Builder directly in your production environment, I would not recommend it in the majority of cases. Fortunately, it is quite easy to deploy your templates into production by following these three simple steps:
Step 1: Use Change Sets
Use change sets to move all custom lightning components you are referencing in the community from the sandbox to production, as well as any metadata that you set up outside of the Community Builder (welcome email templates, workflow rules, profiles, permission sets, etc).
If you skip this step, it will still allow you to deploy the community and will appear to be successful, but you will see an internal server error in the Community Builder and will not be able to make any updates until you have moved the missing components into production.
I highly recommend creating a deployment template and filling it in as you build your community to ensure nothing is forgotten at the time of deployment; it is an important part of our methodology at Perficient and ensures smooth deployments.
Step 2: A Little Navigation
From your sandbox, navigate to the Site.com Studio and locate the toolbar. Click the arrow next to the widget icon and select to ‘Export This Site’ from the sandbox. Then go into production and create a new community, selecting the same version of the template; going from a Spring ’16 Napili template in sandbox and moving Winter ’16 production environment will not work. You need to go from Winter’ 16 in sandbox to Winter ’16 in production. All customization performed inside the Community Builder will move over
Step 3: Update Admin Settings
Go to the Community Management console and update your administrative settings, topics, moderation criteria, etc. as these do not carry over automatically.
You can use this process to move the community between sandboxes doing the same thing, if a multi-step deployment is part of your change management process. You could also use it to effectively clone a Community, as well.
You may want to do this if you are looking to create a similar community with different users. For example, you might want to have a separate community for French users that looks like your English community, but does not mix French and English conversations in the same community as that can be confusing.
Spring ’17 Update: The navigation inside of the builder has changed since this blog was originally written. To get to Site.com Studio from the builder, you now need to go to Settings > Languages > Go to Site.com Studio Languages.
Summer ’17 Update: Salesforce has introduced a way to move communities between orgs using change sets. For more information, please review the Summer ’17 Release Notes.
Winter ’18 Update: Try following our proven framework for setting up a Salesforce Customer Service Community with the interactive workbook below.