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Last updated: Aug 15, 2022

Salesforce Classic vs. Salesforce Lightning

Author: Jack Foraker
Last updated: Aug 15, 2022
What's inside

Keeping up with the times is a lot of work, especially in tech. (How often have you ignored that software update your phone keeps pestering you about? Don't lie.) Keeping your entire business up with the times? That involves exponentially more buy-in and time.

All that to say, we get it when businesses want to stick with Salesforce Classic rather than migrate to Salesforce Lightning, with its newer, stronger interface. Even a few years ago, the hold-outs had some good points: Lightning might have more advanced features, but migration is a serious pain, and if Classic is working well for you, why bother? "Don't fix what ain't broke" and all that.

But things are different now. Classic is on the outs. Viva La Lightning.

Nothing's changed about migration — it's still a pain in the butt. But Salesforce has made no secret of the fact that it's all in on the Lightning Experience, so it's time to start weighing the pros of staying in your Classic comfort zone against the cons of sticking to a UI that is only growing more outdated. (And maybe learn a little more about migration along the way.)

What's so wrong with Salesforce Classic?

We're not haters. After all, Salesforce built its reputation on its Classic CRM platform, and there's no known end-of-life date for Salesforce Classic. But read the tea leaves: It's also no longer under active development (and if you're new to Salesforce, getting Classic isn't even an option), which means you face losing out on Salesforce's newest features and putting your business at greater risk for bugs.

Yet there are reasons why many companies aren't exactly speeding towards the Classic exit so fast that they leave a cartoon cut-out through the wall. That's not a reflection of Classic's superior features, but rather of the unappealing nature of making the switch to Lightning.

Poor user buy-in

With some companies, especially those with large Salesforce user bases, users might feel perfectly at home with their workflows in Salesforce Classic. And let’s be honest: A pivot to Lightning for hundreds or even thousands of employees — plus all the re-training that comes with it — sounds about as graceful as a tanker ship pulling a U-turn.

Classic still works faster for some users

We trawled the Salesforce forums so you don't have to and found that some users have reported that Lightning doesn't win prizes for speed, despite its name. Our take: Long loading times are always annoying, but given the frequency of updates, this issue will likely resolve itself with time. Nevertheless, it's something to consider as you plan the switch.

Legacy code

Some companies may have made significant investments in custom code or Visualforce pages in Classic. Although customization is easier in Lightning, the idea of losing all that work can be a little hard to stomach.

These are legitimate concerns. But they can't mask the fact that Classic is like frosted tips: ubiquitous in the 2000s, a little . . . less so now.

Is the end nigh for Salesforce Classic?

Again, Salesforce has not yet announced a Salesforce Classic end-of-life date. The platform is still popular with a wide range of users. However, with new updates and developments all being concentrated in Salesforce Lightning, the continued existence of Salesforce Classic shouldn't be taken for granted. Companies should use this as an opportunity to roadmap a seamless migration to Salesforce Lightning, especially if their CRM has custom development needs.

So what's so great about Salesforce Lightning?

Announced in 2015, Salesforce Lightning represents the company's long-term vision for its CRM platform. With a remodeled user interface, Lightning provides a more modern look and feel across devices than Classic. But Lightning delivers more than an aesthetic upgrade. Here's what strikes us as the key features.

Advanced UI/UX

The visual environment of Lightning is probably the starkest difference from Classic. Lightning's interface is more user-friendly and less text-heavy, providing key account news in one location. Plus, it's accessible on any device.

Lightning App Builder

One of the biggest advantages of Salesforce Lightning is the potential for customization — and Lightning App Builder is the engine behind that potential. With point-and-click functionality, Lightning App Builder makes it easy to create custom pages, branding, and navigation for not just the Lightning Experience but the Salesforce mobile app too, making key information and tools available to your users across devices.

Lightning Components

The building blocks of Salesforce Lightning are what Salesforce likes to call Lightning Components: mini-applications designed to help users accomplish tasks. The Lightning Component library is your starting point for custom development in Salesforce Lightning; it contains hundreds of pre-built components that enhance UI and functionality, ready for use "off the shelf" in single-page applications or as the starting point for advanced end-to-end customization.

AppExchange for Components

Need to go beyond Lightning App Builder and the standard component library? In that case, you can directly add third-party components from the AppExchange for Components. Build pages that visualize intelligent analytics, enable 360 views of customer data, and complement your business's unique challenges.

Lightning is just a click away. So . . . what are you waiting for?

Even if there's hesitation at your company about giving up Salesforce Classic, now is the time to audit and roadmap a migration to Salesforce Lightning, particularly when there’s no telling when Classic will be discontinued entirely.

Fortunately, Salesforce wants to make that migration as easy as possible. The Lightning Experience Readiness Check is a good resource for companies still tethered to Classic who want a sense of how much their company's existing code is ready for Lightning and what will need to be readied.

But even for the very nervous, there's good news: To make the switch as smooth as possible, Salesforce allows users to toggle between Lightning and Classic after Lightning Experience has been enabled, so you can take advantage of Lightning while still having access to the deeply customized Classic pages that may require more work and time to migrate.

For many organizations, the transition is likely to cause some chafing. You may even need to build interfaces that support both Classic and Lightning for a period of time. Taking the proactive route and investing in Salesforce consulting can help make the migration less bumpy, and ensure you see vastly improved performance sooner.

With the missing features and speed issues that occasionally hobbled Classic mostly resolved, the only challenge will be roadmapping for a seamless transition from Classic to Lightning. Once you've made the switch, your business is likely to see vastly improved performance with Salesforce Lightning.

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