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Differences Between Lightning & Visualforce Communities

For awhile now, there’s been lots of chatter (pun intended!) around Salesforce Lightning Communities and the capabilities have only been growing stronger over time. In fact, with each release, the reasons you thought you needed a Visualforce Community are waning. In fact, I’m in total agreement with my colleague, Kara Allen, in predicting the end of use of Visualforce Communities, and you can read why below:

Reasons to Use Lightning Communities

Faster to Go-Live

With Template / Lightning Bolt solutions, custom themes, and pre-configured components, it’s as simple as dragging and dropping the right pieces in the right spots and clicking Publish. Admittedly, it’s not often that easy, but even if you require custom functionality, or extensive branding to be applied, it can still shave months off a project compared to a Visualforce solution.

Reduces Maintenance Costs

In most cases, you won’t need a developer to maintain your community, especially if you just want to update a description, a translation, or an image. It can all be done by a community admin with no coding experience required, and minor WSYIWYG training. Salesforce has continually improved the Builder user experience, including introducing the Community Workspaces in the Spring ’17 release, and centralized branding properties in the Summer ’17 release. Even with custom Lightning components, you can surface attributes that are editable within the builder – no need to go into the code!

Built-in Mobile Responsive Design

Lightning Communities are built with the Lightning Design System, which is Salesforce’s HTML/CSS/JS framework. This means that the pages you customize and create in the Community Builder are already mobile responsive! (Confused about all the Lightning terminology? We explain the differences in Salesforce solutions here.)


Need to apply extensive branding? Use a custom theme (or two, or three). You’ve already launched and you need to add some functionality? Use a Lightning Component dragged onto the page. Need to add another partner tier? Use page variations to surface customized content. The ease of extending the capabilities of Lightning Communities are endless and will only get better over time.

Reasons to Use Visualforce Communities

As you’ve read up to this point, Lightning Communities offer many benefits over Visualforce. Many of the roadblocks to choosing Lightning have been overcome in the recent releases including the ability to customize look and feel, concern that LockerService will break old custom Lightning Components, and even surfacing Visualforce Components in a Lightning Community. All of these have been addressed and are no longer a factor in deciding against Lightning Communities.

In fact, there’s really only four reasons you’d need to choose Visualforce over Lightning:

  1. If you require access to Objects that aren’t yet supported (Contracts, Entitlements, Quotes, Orders, etc.)
  2. If you require use of third-party web application frameworks
  3. If you have Visualforce functionality that won’t work in the Builder’s new Visualforce Component
  4. You require older browser support like IE9-10 (e.g., employee community with systems where IE version enforced)

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, then you should go with a Visualforce Community. But keep in mind that first reason, the object support, is on Salesforce’s roadmap, so it shouldn’t be considered a permanent roadblock.

So what are you waiting for? Let us help you build out your Salesforce Lightning Community!

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Laurel Jones, Senior Business Consultant, UI/UX Design

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