Salesforce Classic vs Lightning: what’s your option?

Salesforce Classic vs Lightning: what’s your option?

August 31, 2020

Roman Erohin

Salesforce Expert

Salesforce is an industry pioneer and one of the biggest names among customer relationship management software vendors. Users love it for low-code customization options, flexibility, smooth cross-device operation, and a huge app marketplace. To keep its status of an advanced and evolving company, Salesforce launched Lightning Experience, a more modern alternative to its original Salesforce Classic UI.

While users toggle between the two UIs, Salesforce keeps nudging them into sticking to the Lightning version. For instance, the platform switches Classic to Lightning regularly once a week, shows Lightning to all new users by default, and lets admins hide the switch-to-Classic option altogether.

As an experienced Salesforce consulting company, we will explore advantages and limitations of both Salesforce Classic and Salesforce Lightning Experience as well as share practical tips for a successful Classic-to-Lightning transition.

What is Salesforce Classic?

Prior to the Lightning Experience release, Salesforce Classic was the face of the number-one CRM platform in the world. Today, however, the UI looks outdated due to its text centricity, big share of unused space and scarce graphical elements displayed in low resolution. As a result, new users find it difficult to navigate the Classic UI and succeed with Salesforce implementation.

Salesforce Classic UI

Unsurprisingly, Salesforce puts all new users onto Lightning Experience (with the option to switch to Classic, if necessary) and reserves the Classic version to Salesforce veterans who have put a lot of effort into customizing the platform according to their specific workflows and who thus find it difficult to migrate.

Salesforce Classic won’t cease to exist anytime soon, but its UI comes with a pinch of uncertainty—one day Salesforce will inevitably end the Classic version support.

What is Salesforce Lightning Experience?

Salesforce Lightning Experience was announced at the Dreamforce conference in 2014 and was fully rolled out in 2016.

Salesforce Lightning UI

Though positioned as the future of Salesforce and a leap forward in terms of functionality, productivity, and usability, the new UI didn’t satisfy early adopters due to poor performance and the lack of key features.

Over time, the most critical drawbacks were fixed, and in 2019 Salesforce announced they wouldn’t be adding any new features to Classic. Today Lightning Experience is more than just an alternative UI; it’s an entire framework that provides vast and low-code options for building modern cross-platform apps and gives access to visually-rich tools for real-time business analytics, both at a glance and in the smallest detail. Lightning Experience also provides a consistent experience across all the devices that users utilize to work in Salesforce.

According to Forrester’s Total Economic Impact Study published in 2018, deploying Lightning leads to greater productivity, faster time-to-market, and ROI of 341% over three years.

Benefits of moving to Salesforce Lightning

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Top advantages of Salesforce Lightning Experience

Lightning Experience is Salesforce’s protégé, the UI that is dynamically updated and provided with the most advanced features. For every organization planning to adopt Salesforce, Lightning Experience is an obvious option.

Salesforce Lightning by business area

Those teams that keep using Salesforce Classic because it’s familiar should consider the following benefits of switching to Lightning Experience.

Unique features

As Salesforce stopped introducing new features to the Classic version and directed all its innovative efforts towards Lightning Experience, those who use Classic only miss out on a considerable amount of advanced features. Here is the summary of the most exciting features available only in Lightning Experience.

General usability

Such features as Customize Home Pages, Lightning Console Apps, Global Actions, App Launcher, Utility Bar, User Switcher, Einstein Recommendations, and an array of components (Related Record, Related List, Flow, Accordion) give broader possibilities for creating, displaying and organizing pages as well as providing efficient navigation and easy access to optimized workflows, filters, and the ability to manage different actions (log calls, send emails, create and edit pages, etc.) without leaving the current page.


With the help of Sorting Results, search results can be shown based on different sort orders, while Instant Results provide quick access to recent and matching records from multiple objects. It’s also possible to personalize how search results are displayed, see spell-corrected results, and narrow down search results to a specific object.

Setup menu

In Lightning Experience, Setup has got its own tab. Now users can proceed to editing objects from the setup menu and view records in the object manager as well as easily see how record pages are currently assigned. Setup is also enhanced with App Builder that allows creating and managing apps from one place.

Development tools

With User Interface API, Lightning Web Components, and Lightning Component Network, developers can create custom dynamic mobile and web apps with unique branding and appearance. Lightning Data Service accelerates performance of Lightning apps and lets developers create, read, update and delete data without writing Apex. Lightning also gives access to the rich library of Base Lightning Components to accelerate building custom components, as well as to Testing Service to create and run component-level tests. Meanwhile, Lightning Locker Service securely runs components from different authors side by side.


The core sales features are News (relevant updates about customers, partners, competitors, and industries), Path (step-specific guidance and resources), All Activity History (an aggregated view of all past activities), Enhanced Lead Convert (lead conversions with added flexibility), email templates and a new email UI with a WYSIWYG view, calendar enhancements, and Lightning Dialer (a call list, local presence, autolog, call notes, and voicemail).

Additionally, there’s a strong focus on accompanying sales with artificial intelligence. Einstein Account and Opportunity Insights help build fruitful relationships with customers and get predictions on deal closing probability. Einstein Automated Contacts and Activity Capture save time on data entry and event logging.


Lightning Experience boosts productivity of service reps through the updated Service Console that can be customized in a few clicks, Lightning Knowledge that streamlines knowledge base management with dozens of Lightning-exclusive features, Compact Case Feed accompanied by handy filters, macros, and Einstein Bots that help automate repetitive tasks.

Agile user experience

Lightning Experience is not only an eye candy with its sleek interface, rich graphics, and efficient use of space. It’s a powerful instrument for agile transformation. It allows admins to do without coding and Visualforce but make use of the drag-and-drop functionality and an array of pre-built and custom templates to create and modify Salesforce pages. As a result, it’s possible to save time on developing, testing, and deploying minor customizations. At the same time, developers can make use of Pro-Code tools to deal with more challenging tasks.

What’s more, Lightning Experience provides access to intuitive Kanban boards for more objects in Opportunities, Leads, and Contracts. The drag-and-drop function makes it easy to visualize and group data in the most meaningful way. It’s also possible to add critical data from the current record or its child or parent records, create groups of fields, and repurpose them.

Opportunities tab

Deeper integration of AI

One of the most powerful features of Salesforce is Einstein AI. It’s available in both interfaces but received its major evolution in Lightning Experience. In this interface, the built-in AI helps automate data prepping, modeling, and updating in order to enable analytics in real time and predict next-best actions for sales and service. It powers apps with NLP and image recognition, extends reports with AI, uses intelligence for opportunity, account and email insights, and helps build smart bots.

Powered by Einstein, Salesforce dashboards update hourly, providing users with the freshest data as well as letting them drill into details.

Tips on Classic-to-Lightning transition

To transit from Classic to Lightning Experience, you need to just toggle the switch. However, it actually takes a bit more than this Though there are no direct costs associated with migration to Lightning and there’s no need to solve the common challenges of Salesforce adoption, organizations still have to apply much effort to complete the transition successfully. Here are a few pieces of advice to guide you in the right direction.

Make use of transition tools

Salesforce developed the Lightning Transition toolkit, a suite of tools that facilitate moving from Classic to Lightning Experience and the latter’s further adoption:

  • Lightning Experience Readiness Check analyzes the current state of the platform, identifies compatibility issues, and provides suggestions on how to optimize existing pages, processes, and workflows for Lightning.
  • Lightning Experience Configuration Converter scans your Salesforce org and prepares it for Lightning by streamlining or automating transition tasks.
  • Magic Mover for Notes and Attachments automatically converts attachments and notes to open in Lightning and associates multiple versions with a single file.
  • Lightning Usage App provides insights into who and how uses the platform to measure the adoption progress.
  • Lightning Business Assessment calculates how switching to Lightning can influence the business value.
Lightning Business Assessment

Take care of compatibility

Your Salesforce Classic version might have pages customized with the help of Visualforce or even custom code. A general recommendation is to move such pages one by one to allow spotting disruptions and code that needs repairing as well as to make sure that your essential functionality is still there. In addition, it’s necessary to check that data, interrelated objects, attachments, and access permissions are moved and mapped correctly. Plus, make sure to test the new system early, starting from the sandbox environment.

Migrate team by team

If you have a multi-team organization, don’t move the entire pool of users to Lightning— it’s better to break it down into phases. First, define a concrete business case for moving to the new UI, covering the gaps you plan to fill and the results you expect to get. Based on these plans, pick the most suitable department or a pilot user group for moving to Lightning, set up user accesses to prevent the test group participants from switching back to Classic, evaluate their performance, inflicted costs and overall usage of the Lightning UI, and implement feedback-based improvements for the next group.

Launch training

Technically, it takes just one switch to move from Classic to Lightning, but in order to ensure smooth transition geared for higher productivity, you’ll need comprehensive preparation. All users who are going to work with the new UI should not be overwhelmed but familiarize themselves with the new system gradually once it’s live. Here’s what you can do:

Make use of Trailhead

Trailhead is Salesforce’s training hub that contains numerous courses dedicated to migrating to Lightning Experience, including those for specific roles and departments, such as sales, service, marketing, admins, and more.

Appoint super users

In the course of the training, some users will appear more comfortable with the system and eager to help others to learn. Involve these employees in the supervising process within their departments or smaller units. Such people are more likely to know how their team members are getting along with the new UI, can incorporate the specifics of their job responsibilities into the Lightning adoption, and follow up with their colleagues after the new UI launch.

Run in-person training sessions

In-person training is important for explaining employees why the organization has decided to take a leap with Salesforce Lightning as well as for demonstrating how it’s going to be more efficient in the short and long term. Employees should understand from the very start that moving to Lightning is not just a whim but a step towards higher productivity and agility for particular departments.

A hybrid Salesforce UI: yes or no?

In some cases, a full switch to the Lightning UI can become a highly complicated process, often viewed as aesthetics over capabilities. For example, for those companies that need to shift thousands of users to the new UI, or those that invested a great amount of resources into code-heavy customizations and integrations of third-party apps, or whose admins and users have got exceptionally skilled at using the Classic instance. For them, a full switch to Lightning would mean large investments into reconfigurations, code rewriting, and training.

Under these circumstances, such users can keep to Classic but switch to Lightning in order not to miss out on advanced features exclusive to the latter. Is this a working alternative?

Switching forth and back is quick and easy but it affects the URL routing logic and reduces the overall productivity—it’s difficult to be proficient with two UIs. However, it can gradually prepare employees for the moment when Salesforce ceases to support Classic and all seasoned Classic users will have no other choice but to move to Lightning.

Summing it up

When the Lightning Experience UI was first launched, it was full of frustrating issues, such as low speed, poor performance, and absence of critical features. But once Salesforce managed to make Lightning a truly advanced UI by vehemently fixing problems and adding much-demanded features, the company decided to stop updating the Classic version and focus entirely on Lightning.

Since then, Classic has been mainly existing in the ‘as is’ state for those companies that invested heavily into customization and find it extremely effort-consuming to move to the new UI completely. However, every company whose operations strongly depend on Classic should develop a transition strategy, as it’s obvious that one day there will be no Salesforce Classic vs Lightning dilemma anymore as soon as Salesforce ceases its support of Classic altogether.