Communities & Portals Overview

Portals – A Thing of the Past

In the not-so-distant past, Salesforce had several portal offerings:

Customer Portal: Allows customers to manage their cases, view solutions/knowledge, contribute to communities (questions, answers, ideas), and access data within custom objects.

Partner Portal (Partner Relationship Management): The key difference between customer portal and partner portal is that partner users can access leads and opportunities. This allows your organizations and its partners to collaborate on your organization’s sales pipeline. Partners can also manage cases, view solutions/knowledge, contribute to communities (questions, answers, ideas), and access data within custom objects.

Self-Service Portal: Allows customers to manage cases and view solutions/knowledge.  Discontinued prior to launch of communities.

Communities – The Future

Communities replaces these portal offerings moving forward.  Whereas portals essentially gave external users (partners, customers, etc.) the ability to access Salesforce, Communities is aimed at connecting the right people  (whether internal users, partners, or customers) together within Salesforce.  The structure of the features is similar, but there are several differences as well:

  1. External users (partners/customers) can communicate via Chatter in Communities.  Portals do not support Chatter.
  2. The standard Communities user interface is very close to that of a regular internal Salesforce user.  The out of the box portal user interface looks dated.
  3. The licensing model for each is similar; however, Communities may have a slightly higher fee ($500 additional per year per community with the same license cost, last I heard).

Upgrading to Communities

Contact Salesforce to upgrade an existing Partner Portal or Customer Portal to Communities.  Portal licenses can only be added for customers with an existing portal – new Salesforce customers must purchase Communities.

Ideas & Answers

Chatter Questions

Chatter Questions allows internal users, partners, and customers to collective ask and answer each others’ questions.  Chatter Questions replaces Chatter Answers and Answers moving forward.

Chatter Questions
[Could / Short /]

Chatter Questions can be used in a variety of ways, most commonly:

  • Internally, as a digital Q&A referendum for employees.
  • Internally and externally, as a method for customers and employees to interact together.

Chatter Answers

Chatter Answers has been replaced by Chatter Questions.

Chatter Answers Implementation Overview
[Could / Medium /]

Chatter Answers allow internal users, partners, and customers to collectively ask and answer each others’ questions.  Chatter Answers replaces Answers moving forward.


Answers has been replaced by Chatter Answers.

Answers Overview
[Could / Short /]


Ideas provides a mechanism to capture feedback.  Users submit ideas, and vote on ideas submitted by other users.  Each vote translates into additional points for the idea; the most popular ideas gains the most points.  This allows moderators to prioritize the most popular ideas.

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Ideas can be used in a variety of ways, most commonly:


Community Structure

You can create multiple communities; each has its own members, login page, branding, etc.  A typical example would be to have a partner community and a customer community.

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26 Responses to “Communities & Portals Overview”

  1. Khandro July 24, 2017 at 6:26 pm #

    UPDATED June 7, 2017.
    1. What is the change and when will it happen?
    With the Spring ’18 release, Salesforce will no longer support Chatter Answers, and users of Chatter Answers will no longer be able to post, answer, comment, or view any of the existing Chatter Answers data. Customers will have until the Spring ’18 release to complete their transition to Chatter Questions.
    Chatter Answers is a Questions and Answer (Q&A) feature that allows users to post questions and receive answers and comments from other users or support agents. The functionality is used within portals, Communities, or internally as a separate object within your Salesforce org.
    NOTE: Chatter Answers is unavailable for new orgs created with or after the Summer ’16 release. Such customers will need to use Chatter Questions.
    * Currently targeted for February 2018; date subject to change.

    • JohnCoppedge July 25, 2017 at 8:38 pm #

      Thanks – I will make sure the materials are updated. Several of these legacy chatter features have been dropped from the guide along with other features that have been discontinued.

  2. Champakali July 12, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

    Hi John,
    I have to build up a Community for my company and I got a question referring the access to records on the account & opps object etc. For instance should a user only be allowed to edit his own records and see only the tabs needed as well. Am I right that I only have to set up the right OWD via Profiles to complete that task?
    Thanks in advance.

    • JohnCoppedge July 13, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

      You would set OWD to private in sharing settings, yes. You will then need to configure the roles and community settings to open up access.

      • Champakali July 14, 2017 at 7:28 am #

        Thanks John, wish you a great weekend!
        Of course I wish you all a awesome weekend!

  3. March 15, 2017 at 11:24 am #

    The following two statements seem contradictory…

    Chatter Answers replaces Answers moving forward.
    Answers has been replaced by Chatter Answers.

    And a bit above these statements are following statements

    Chatter Questions replaces Chatter Answers and Answers moving forward.
    Chatter Answers has been replaced by Chatter Questions.

    So, what is true?

    • JohnCoppedge March 17, 2017 at 2:05 am #

      Chatter Questions is the new standard

      Chatter Questions replaces Chatter Answers and Answers moving forward.

      Answers –> Chatter Answers –> Chatter Questions

      (I know a lot iterations here- will clean up this page a bit next release)

  4. jcohen2014 March 9, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    Can you give an example of companies that use communities with Salesforce so I can see this online? I tried googling this, but did not see the answer. Thanks!

  5. Samantharaes January 31, 2017 at 12:20 am #

    “Manage cases” is the term I keep seeing, but what does this mean, are customers able to close a case on their own in self-service communities?

    Also, can customers edit contacts in communities now?

  6. mcpacific August 23, 2016 at 10:20 pm #

    I can’t seem to find Chatter Answers in my Summer ’16 developer edition. Am I missing something?

    • JohnCoppedge August 24, 2016 at 8:29 am #

      Chatter Answers is being deprecated – updated materials, thanks

      • laurenlala November 15, 2016 at 10:35 pm #

        Do zones still apply to Chatter Questions? It looks like this section (pasted below) needs to be updated. Thanks!


        Zones are used to delineate access to records for certain objects (which do not use the standard security model):

        Chatter Answers
        Answers (Replaced by Chatter Answers)

        • JohnCoppedge November 16, 2016 at 10:37 pm #

          Thanks – updated (removed)… zones still used ideas but not really a focus for the admin exam.

  7. JonnySimmo April 16, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    Can I just clarify what is mean’t by the term ‘Partner’ or ‘Partner User’?

    What is ‘Partner’ describing a partner company that may want access to your org and data?

    • JohnCoppedge June 13, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

      Partner user refers to the user record. Partner would depend on context- it might refer to the account record representing the partner.

  8. smweathers February 27, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    Are Chatter Questions and Chatter Answers related? On the surface, it would seem like they are each half of the same coin, but I don’t think so, and I’m having difficulty finding any information that links/compares the two.

    One of the reasons I don’t think they are is that one of the objectives in the Winter ’16 Study Guide is “Describe the capabilities of the Community application, such as Ideas, Chatter Answers and Chatter Questions” and it lists them separately as though they are different features.

  9. Nemz November 17, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    SuccessTV: Learn how to enable Chatter Answers
    [Should / 10m /]

    No longer works – May want to remove, replace it 🙂

  10. MKramer17 November 13, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

    The video below has been removed by the user and should be removed or updated in the materials. Thanks.

    SuccessTV: Learn how to enable Chatter Answers
    [Should / 10m /]

  11. Larry Deckel October 14, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Is Salesforce “Answers” still available? When I look in my dev org I’m told it is no longer available, and has been replaced by chatter answers.

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