Salesforce Experience Cloud Communities, formerly known as portals, encourage and support communication and collaboration between organizations and their constituents. Before portals were known as communities, they focused on providing access to specific Salesforce components. Now, communities allow teams to create a space for information sharing, collaboration and self-service through both templates and custom build tools.

Experience Cloud Templates

Experience Cloud has various out-of-the-box templates that are often geared towards case management or self service requirements and can quickly stand up things like customer account portals, partner hubs, online customer service centers, online help centers, and basic apps (Aloha). These templates allow users to drag and drop out-of-the-box components onto a page as well as easily change themes and branding through color scheme options and additional elements that are template specific. A few examples of standard components provided in Experience Cloud templates are contact forms, ask buttons, topic catalogs, and channel menus. Templates are faster and easier to configure but will limit users to the properties included in the template. 

Creating a custom community also begins with a template. However, these templates simply provide the basics while allowing developers and Salesforce partners to configure environments based on the unique user experience needed. Experience Cloud offers two customizable options: 

Custom Option 1: The Build Your Own Template

The Build Your Own template option is Aura and we like to call this a “hybrid” option. Aura provides the flexibility of customization by creating a skeleton template that has preset pages and essential components. According to Salesforce, Aura is best for Developers who are comfortable working with Salesforce DX, User Interface API, and Apex. WIth this option, teams are using a template plus customer components which gets the environment set up quicker. However, you’re limited in customization and some custom components may still have a cost. 

Custom Option 2: Lightning Web Runtime

The second option is Lightning Web Runtime (LWR). LWR is a true custom option that does not have any pre-built components provided other than some HTML and rich text. Everything from navigation to branding will need to be designed. This template is best for advanced Developers who would like to use their own editing and development tools. Skills required to successfully build a custom experience are HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and Apex for the backend. However, if there are components that will require known changes, an experienced Developer can give these components builder properties, which makes the component easier to change without code.

With LWR, you’re only provided a base framework so cost will depend on things like features and pages. Everything is hand coded which means teams can control all aspect of the build. The slip side of this is that the LWR option requires more resources like time (i.e. development and testing) and money.

When to Consider Taking the Custom Community Route

Generally, if your Experience Cloud digital experience will be used for showcasing or modifying information and data, templates will accomplish what you need. If your team is using an Experience Cloud digital experience as a hub for engagement and will want advanced features as well as a more branded or customized user experience, a custom build is probably a better way to go to support the ideal constituent experience. . 

Our Approach

At Elevation Solutions we often use the hybrid approach meaning we incorporate custom built lightning components on top of a provided Experience Cloud template. Our primary focus is the ideal user experience, whether that be for a student, donor, volunteer, etc. An example of custom components we may utilize for an education institution include registration checklist, student specific calendars and schedules, course registration, and more. 

Course registration welcome page
Example registration page

Not sure which Experience Cloud option is best for your team? Let us help! You can connect with us using the form at the bottom of this page, or email us at

Ready to power up with technology?