Q: What’s a page layout, what’s a record type, and why do they both exist if they have similar purposes?
Let’s look at each individually, then we’ll figure out how and why they must work in tandem.
Let’s start here. A page layout is what it sounds like it is — it’s the physical layout of a record page. An admin can decide which fields will be displayed and in which order, and can group them under headings. In addition, she can decide which related lists and buttons will be shown as well as embedding lightning components or Visualforce pages to take customization to the next level. It’s also important to note that she can set up different page layouts for different profiles, meaning that a manager viewing an opportunity may see far more than their subordinate.
Record types are designed to allow you to use an object in a more flexible manner, usually in regards to business processes. Creating a “Sales Process” instance, an admin can decide which picklist values are available for Opportunity stages (as one example), and then can assign that process to a specific record type. More generally speaking, using record types we can create different lead statuses, opportunity stages, and case statuses. This allows us to follow a different pattern when selling or servicing to different customers, ultimately resulting in more organized, efficient employees and better outcomes.
Let’s imagine my fictional sunglass business which sells both to sunglass stores and directly to the consumer. When there are issues with the quality of our products, we might receive cases from both types of customers — individuals and resellers, and they will likely require very different attention, as replacing a defective pair for a individual customer probably requires less effort than recalling a shipment of 1000 pairs to a big, important reseller. Because of this, we might create two different record types on the Case object, so that we can make sure these two processes remain separate, are treated differently, and both get the proper attention from the right employee. From a security perspective, record types can also help us distinguish which users have access to which business process — so that someone providing care directly to individual customers doesn’t accidentally start working on a case from a reseller that they aren’t equipped to handle.
Why do I need both?
This is a pretty simple one — because as an admin with page layouts alone, you can’t have two different page layouts for the same object applying to the same profile. What? Sounds confusing, I know!
Let’s try again: record types extend page layouts by allowing you to apply a page layout to a record type for a profile. So if we have two case record types, let’s call them “Standard Case” and “Reseller Case,” we can make sure that users with our employees with the “Customer Support” profile see different layouts for each, “Standard Case Layout” and “Reseller Case Layout.” As the business processes will be different, it’s likely that the information we show to our users will need to be different too, and with only page layouts, this isn’t possible, but with page layouts and record types, it totally is.
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