Simple Salesforce Explained: How To Get Started With Salesforce Fields

By Thai Nguyen

Salesforce Fields are simple but vital to the world of Salesforce configurations. Each field holds separate pieces of data allowing you to track and report on information related to your customers, accounts, orders, and more. If you think of Salesforce like an Excel spreadsheet where an Object is a tab, a field is a column and each row is a record.

Fields can range from being very straightforward, like holding a customer’s birth date, to being more complex formula fields that can trigger other events in Salesforce. We are going to walk you the difference between Standard and Custom fields, how to actually build fields, and give you an overview of when to use fields in simple Salesforce configurations.

What is a Standard Field vs a Custom Field?

A Standard Field is a field that comes already built into Salesforce. All standard and custom objects have some standard fields, specifically Identity, System, and Name fields:

You can customize Standard fields like changing the field’s name or adding and removing certain picklist values, but you cannot delete a Standard field. You can, however, hide it on a Page Layout so Users cannot see or use it. A Custom Field is a field you build yourself on a Standard or Custom Object. All businesses need to track different types of data and custom fields let you do this. There are over 20 different types of fields each designed to hold different kinds of data! They are also very easy to build.

How To Build New Fields

Custom Fields are so simple to build that even the newest Salesforce User can do it. To get you started, we are going to do a walkthrough of the process of building a new “Member Level” field on Accounts to help better in the Lightning interface.

Let’s say a company manages Accounts through different membership levels each with certain perks. There are three levels: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. You want to track this information in Salesforce because you want to see how many Accounts are in each membership level and what kind of Accounts are in each level. You must start by building a new “Member Level” field.

When you are building new fields you first select the Object you want to build the field on. You navigate to Setup > Object Manager > Select Your Object > Fields and Relationships > New.

Creating a new field can be broken down into four steps:

Step 1: Choose the field type

Since each Account that you have can only belong to a certain membership option of Bronze, Silver, or Gold, you will want to build a Picklist field, so you select Picklist as your field type. Check out the table below to see all of the different field types that exist in Salesforce!

Step 2: Enter the details

Next, you enter the field details. Field Label is the name of the field that Users will see. Values are the options that Users will have to select from when populating the field:

  1. Use a global picklist value set: A global picklist value set is a set of picklist values that you can use across different objects.
  2. Enter values, with each value separated by a new line: Manually enter the values specified for just this picklist field. This is the option we will use.

Remember to separate each value by a new line.

We will also want to restrict the picklist values to the values defined in our set, so the bottom box will be checked.

The Field Name will auto-populate when you enter the field label. Field Name is the API name of the field, or how you will recognize it when creating changesets or referencing it in custom Apex code. We will not worry about this today!

Description is self-explanatory; it’s where you explain what your field is used for.

On a record, your picklist field will have an info icon next to it. When a User hovers their cursor over this icon, the Help Text displays. You should keep your Help Text short and clear so Users understand what information to put into your field.

Once you have completed the above steps, you can click Next to move on to step 3. For now, we will not make this field required by not checking the Required checkbox, and we can also ignore the Default Value editor.

Step 3. Establish field-level security

The last step to creating a new field is determining the field-level security. This is an important step in case you only want certain Users to have access to this field.

Visible: Checking the box allows Users to see the field on Account records.

Read-Only: Checking the box prevents Users from being able to edit the field.

In our case, we don’t want Users with the Marketing Profile editing the Membership Level. We will give them Read-Only access.

Field Tips and Considerations

Congratulations, you’ve just finished building your first field! Now that you know how to build fields, you can start to use them in other places in Salesforce. For example, you can build reports out of data from fields to see what is truly happening with your business.

You can also use Merge Fields to reference field data in automatic emails. For example, the merge field {!Account.Name} will automatically pull the actual Account name into every email that is sent.

There are other many considerations to take into account when creating complex configurations with fields, but as a newbie, focus on understanding the basics of fields first, and soon you will be on your way to becoming an awesome admin!

All Salesforce Field Types:

Field TypeDescription
Auto NumberAutomatically assigns a unique number to each record with a maximum length of 30 characters.
CheckboxAllows users to check a box, indicating a true or false attribute of a record.
CurrencyAllows users to enter a currency amount that the system automatically formats.
DateAllows users to enter or pick a date from a popup calendar.
Date/TimeAllows users to enter or pick a date from a popup calendar and enter an AM/PM time of day.
EmailAllows users to enter an email address up to 80 characters, validated t ensure proper format.
External Lookup RelationshipWhen you create an external lookup relationship field, the standard External ID field on the parent external object is matched against the values of the child's external lookup relationship field. External object field values come from an external data source.
FormulaAllows users to automatically calculate values based on other values or fields such as merge fields. Not available for external objects.
GeolocationAllows users to specify a location by its latitude and longitude.
Hierarchical RelationshipCreates a hierarchical lookup relationship between users. Allows users to use a lookup field to associate one user with another that does not directly or indirectly refer to itself.
Indirect Lookup Relationship An indirect lookup relationship links a child external object to a parent standard or custom object. When you create an indirect lookup relationship field on an external object, you specify the parent object field and the child object field to match and associate records in the relationship.
Lookup RelationshipCreates a relationship between two records so you can associate them with each other. For example, opportunities have a lookup relationship with cases that lets you associate a particular case with an opportunity.
Master-Detail Relationship Creates a relationship between records where the master record controls certain behaviors of the detail record such as record deletion and security.
Number Allows users to enter any number treated as a real number and any leading zeros are removed.
Percent Allows users to enter a percentage number as a decimal.
Phone Allows users to enter any phone number up to 40 characters, validated for format.
PicklistLets users select a single value from a list that you define.
Picklist (Multi-select) Lets users select a single value from a list that you define. Available for external objects only with the cross-org adapter for Salesforce Connect.
Roll-Up Summary Automatically displays the record count of related records or calculates the sum, minimum, or maximum of related records. The records must be directly related to the selected record and on the detail side of a custom master-detail relationship with the object that contains the roll-up summary field.
TextAllows users to enter any combination of letters, numbers, or symbols. You can set a maximum length, up to 255 characters.
Text (Encrypted) Allows users to enter any combination of letters, numbers, or symbols that are stored in encrypted form.
Text Area Allows users to enter up to 255 characters displaying on separate lines like a Description field.
Text Area (Long)Allows users to enter up to 131,072 characters displaying on separate lines like a Description field.
Text Area (Rich) With the use of a toolbar, users can format the field content and add images and hyperlinks.
TimeAllows users to enter a time of day, including hours, minutes, second, and milliseconds.
URLAllows users to enter up to 255 characters of any valid website address. When users click on the field, the URL will open in a separate browser window.

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The Author

Thai Nguyen

Thai is a Managing Partner of Inspire Planner - a powerful yet easy-to-use Salesforce project management app

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