Navigating the Salesforce User Interface

PREFACE: This post is part of the Zero to Hero series.

Navigating the Salesforce User InterfaceOur last two Zero to Hero posts have focused on the basics of the Salesforce architecture. Now that you have gotten through that dry and boring stuff, we’re going to start the next Chapter of the series by looking at the User Interface.

Before we get started, make sure that you have a free developer org setup. We will now be getting into the application, and it may be helpful for you to follow along or play with the functionality from this point forward.

To start, let’s define User Interface (abbreviated UI) to ensure that we are all on the same page. Here’s a definition that I like from webopedia:

The user interface is the junction between a user and a computer program. An interface is a set of commands or menus through which a user communicates with a program.

Essentially, the user interface allows us humans to communicate with machines. When you’re on your phone or computer, the software you interact with is the user interface. Every website, including this one, has a user interface.

Accessing Salesforce

Salesforce is a SaaS application. That stands for Software as a Service. SaaS applications are delivered through the internet (otherwise called The Cloud). There are several ways to access Salesforce, but we are going to be focusing on the desktop version.

To login to your developer account (or any production account), navigate to and enter your credentials. You are now logged in!

Salesforce Navigation Basics

Because we access Salesforce through a web browser, you’ll notice that all of the basic web functions you know already will apply to Salesforce. For example, users can use the back arrow to navigate to a previous record. Keyboard shortcuts (like my favorite Ctrl+F) can be used as well.

Account Detail Page

Account Detail Page

In the above screenshot of an account record, you will see that the page is made up of several components: tabs, hyperlinks and form fields. Let’s break each one of these down quickly.

If any of the content definitions below are confusing, just navigate back to the first post: Understanding Salesforce as a Database. We cover some of the basic terminologies there.


Tabs are quick links to objects in Salesforce. Tabs are persistent across all pages with a few exceptions including Reports & Dashboards. The tabs that display at the top of the page can be modified by the individual user to accommodate the way they work. They can also be modified by you, the Administrator, which impacts all users.

Clicking on a tab name will redirect you to a landing page which includes several actions. For example, if you click on Accounts, you will then be presented with an option to create a new account.


Just like any website, Salesforce contains hyperlinks. These links can be used to navigate through Salesforce in a variety of ways. Notice that in the screenshot below, my name displays as a hyperlink. Remember when we talked about relational databases in the first Zero to Hero post? This is what a relational database looks like.

By clicking on the owner’s name, you will be redirected to the owner’s profile. Clicking on any other hyperlink on the page will redirect the user to a new related page or allow them to perform a specific action.

Form Fields

Form fields allow users to enter data into a record. In the above screenshot, the account name and all contact information, including the address, are form fields. We won’t get into the specific field types in today’s post, but several types of fields can be created to capture all sorts of data.

Great! Now that we have that covered let’s look at how to navigate Setup.

Setup: The Admin’s Home Base

As an Administrator, most of your time will be spent behind the scenes in Setup. Setup allows you to manage the entire Salesforce org.

By clicking Setup at the top of the page, we are redirected to this restricted area of Salesforce. It’s important to note that System Administrators are typically the only users to have access to Setup by default. However, users can be awarded access to the Setup menu to complete specific tasks or functions.


Setup is where the Salesforce Admin lives. It controls all aspects of the Salesforce Org.

Accessing the Setup menu for the first time can seem overwhelming. There is a lot of information here, and it can be difficult to know what to do or where to navigate. To start, I want to break down a few of the sections in the middle of the page.

The Center Stack

Recent Items

Recent items is a fairly new addition to the Setup menu and very welcomed by Admins everywhere! It provides a rolling list of the most recent locations you have visited within Setup. It is meant to save time by providing a quick link.

Quick Links

Quick Links provide quick access to some of the more common tasks within the Setup menu. For example, use the New User quick link to create a new user with one click instead of 3.


The Community section allows you to navigate quickly to the most popular destinations on the Salesforce Success Community. The community is the place for you to find excellent resources and help documentation, ask questions, post Salesforce product or feature ideas and more. The community is one of the best I have ever seen. I would highly encourage you to get involved if you aren’t already.

Setup Menu

The setup menu is broken up into three distinct sections: Administer, Build, and Deploy. You’ll live in these three primary sections the majority of your time.


Administer contains permissions related to Salesforce Access. This includes user management, desktop integration (like Salesforce for Outlook), email templates and organization-wide system preferences.


Build contains all of the tools you’ll need to create and manage functionality in Salesforce. This includes the creation of new fields, modification of page layouts, the building of workflow rules and approval processes and more.


Deploy gives System Administrator users the ability to manage sandboxes and change sets – which is a method of migrating functionality from one Salesforce org to another.

Within each of these sections, you can click on any of the sub-section headers and a tree of options will open up. As you work more with the Setup menu building and modifying the system, you’ll become familiar with where everything lives and navigating will become very quick and very easy.

However, to help new users find what they are looking for, Salesforce has a new Setup Search option. This search box allows you to enter a keyword and find areas within Setup that match that result.

So, Let’s say that you need to create a workflow rule but you don’t know where to go. In the Setup Search box, you can type in the word Workflow and the left-hand menu options will dynamically filter to reveal matching results.

Notice how the navigation options filter as you type.

This field can also be used to search for matching custom fields, custom objects, users and other setup items. It makes it fast to find what you’re looking for. I remember when this search didn’t exist, and I had to memorize the location of all of the settings within Setup!

Congratulations on completing this module of Zero to Hero! You are one step closer to becoming an Admin Hero. Next time, we will get our feet wet with a hands-on lesson! I hope you’re excited!

If Zero to Hero, or any post on Admin Hero has helped you, please share it!


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  1. SalesforceAddict

    February 5, 2015 at 3:31 am

    Very well written and crisp information on Salesforce basic.


  2. SalesforceAddict

    February 5, 2015 at 3:32 am

    Waiting eagerly for the remaining chapters. Please publish those fast 🙂


  3. Tim Andrews

    February 9, 2015 at 8:33 am

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience to help others improve their skills!


    • Brent Downey

      February 9, 2015 at 8:57 am

      Thanks for reading Tim. I love the Salesforce Community and am happy to share my personal experience with community members!


  4. george johnson

    April 12, 2015 at 11:50 am

    typo in the 2nd paragraph, 2nd sentence…. “not” should be “now”


    • Brent Downey

      April 13, 2015 at 8:11 am

      Thank you George. I’ve updated the post. I appreciate the feedback!


  5. LRH

    June 23, 2015 at 9:53 am

    Thanks for creating all this fantastic content to help me move from the user to understanding the admin side. Just wanted to let you know in Chrome the pictures in this post are not appearing – after several refreshes. Thanks.


    • Brent Downey

      June 23, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Thanks for reading! I’m not sure about Chrome – everything is working well on my end. Perhaps try in another browser or an Incognito mode to see if it’s cookies or something similar. Thanks again!


  6. farzana

    July 8, 2015 at 10:29 am



  7. Usagi

    February 10, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this blog and teaching us newbies! Your teaching style is completely suitable for an absolute beginner like me -so many other places start out too complicated. I will forever be grateful for your generosity!

    By the way, I’m not sure if it’s a typo or not, but the part under “administer,” in the “Setup Menu” section, did you mean “…organization system wide preferences” instead of “…organization wide system preferences?” Just trying to be helpful, since you’ve been so helpful to me…thanks again!


    • Brent Downey

      February 10, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks for that positive feedback Usagi! I actually haven’t put this post through my new proofreading tool yet, so I not only fixed that item, but a few others as well! Thanks for your comment!


  8. Sam

    May 9, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    I’m just diving into Salesforce. Would it be better for me to learn in Lightening view or Classic? Is Lightening where it’s heading for the future?


  9. Jaswinder singh

    October 21, 2016 at 6:22 am

    Really helpful to understand the basics….


  10. Tiff

    January 17, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I have found this extremely helpful. Thank you


  11. Mrithula

    February 13, 2017 at 12:11 am

    Thanks Brent for your’s really helpful.
    If “Next” button was there it will be easy to travel through posts, instead of going to home page and open a specific topic.It’s just my opinion.


  12. Rob Ratcliffe

    July 13, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Hi Brent,
    First, thank you for this blog. This is some serious time and dedication.
    I have recently started training in SF. My company uses it, and I think I may try some freelancing.
    I have a question. When I sign into my SF sandbox company, it brings me to a “Sales” homepage with several widgets already built but empty. When I click the “Setup” gear icon in the top ribbon, it takes me to a Setup page that is much different than the one shown in your screenshots. I do not have Quick Links or Community in my Center Stack. I also don’t have Administer, Build, or Deploy. I have a left scroll bar with things such as Administration, Platform Tools, and Settings. My page has 6 Get Started boxes for some SF apps, and below that is My Recently Used box. That’s it.
    Sorry for the long email, but can you help me with what I’m doing wrong?


    • Rob Ratcliffe

      July 13, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      Please disregard. It is set to default to the Lightning Experience. I changed my view to SF Classic, under Profile, and it changed to the view you have.


      • Brent Downey

        July 22, 2017 at 10:37 am

        Glad you got it figured out! Thanks for reading Admin Hero!


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