“Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you’ve ever wished for an easier way to learn about Salesforce, take a look at Trailhead. Trailhead provides developers and administrators a guided, learning path through the key features of Salesforce, using a set of interactive, online tutorials. A collaboration between the Salesforce Developer Marketing and Doc teams, Trailhead launched at Dreamforce 2014. Since then, we’ve been enhancing the site, steadily adding new features and lots of new content.
Who Trailhead is for
Trailhead’s initial content is targeted toward beginning and intermediate users. Over time, we plan to cover more advanced topics, so Trailhead is a useful resource for developers and administrators at all levels of experience. The long-term goal of the Trailhead project is to transform how customers learn to use Salesforce, by radically simplifying and redefining the learning experience.
Why Trailhead stands out
Some key features of Trailhead are:
- Self-paced, online learning – you can learn what you need when you need it, by choosing the appropriate trail. Trailhead applies the model of interactive learning made popular by websites such as Code School, Codecademy, Udacity, Treehouse, Coursera and Khan Academy, to the goal of learning Salesforce.
- Learning paths –Trailhead content is arranged in a hierarchy, with three levels: trails, modules, and units, and presented in a specific sequence, so customers have a predefined path to follow, and don’t have to spend time deciding what to read and in what order.
- Modular and engaging content – each tutorial consists of short units, which can be read in 10-15 minutes each. The content is designed to be simple, self-contained, and directly useful, to maximize the value of the learning experience.
- Interactive assessments – at the end of each unit, you can take a challenge to verify what you just learned, either by answering multiple-choice questions or performing specific tasks in a DE org. On completing a challenge, you can click a button and get instant feedback on whether you got it right.
- Gamification – we award points and badges on successful completion of units and modules, respectively. The points and badges are displayed on your user profile, so you can get recognition for your expertise.
The combination of these features makes Trailhead a refreshing, new approach to learning, offering a simpler, easier, and more engaging option to get started with Salesforce. Previously, it was difficult for new users to learn about specific product features, because even though a large amount of detailed and accurate documentation is available, it’s not always clear what to read and in which order. The integration of content and assessment is another key factor in Trailhead’s value as a learning tool, and differentiates it from the other types of documentation and user assistance we provide.
How it compares to other resources
Trailhead content is similar to the Doc team’s other deliverables, such as online help, developer guides, and implementation guides, as they’re all intended to help customers learn to use our products and features. However, Trailhead provides more of a guided and curated learning experience. Each module is designed to be simple, specific, and self-contained. The goal is to provide users with all the basic information required to learn a feature—background, contextual, conceptual, and procedural—in one integrated package. In other words, each module explains what a feature is, why and when it’s useful, as well as how to use it, while being simple and concise.
The docs most similar to Trailhead are our workbooks, which provide simple tutorials, introducing users to a particular area, through a series of steps. However, workbooks can’t provide interactive assessments. Also, the later steps in many workbooks require previous steps as prerequisites, so the user can complete a larger project, such as building an app. Trailhead units, on the other hand (at least for now), are designed to be relatively independent, so that even though they’re arranged in a particular sequence, you can pick and choose the content of interest without having to go through all units in a module, or all modules in a trail.
The response so far
Trailhead, along with videos and walkthroughs, is part of the Doc Team’s ongoing efforts to make the learning experience as easy, enjoyable, and effective as possible. Since the original launch, Trailhead has generated an enthusiastic response from the developer community, with over 1500 tweets in the last 30 days alone, and more than 50 blog posts with detailed reviews. Here’s a selection of comments from various developer blogs.
- “Trailhead is by far and away my favorite learning tool for Salesforce development.” – Kevin Poorman
- “I’ve found this a great resource that makes learning fun and entertaining…” – Kieren Jameson
- “If you’re new to the platform there is no better way to learn…” – Matt Lacey
- “The gamification aspect of earning points makes it fun and also makes it easy to keep going and/or come back for more.” – Peter Knolle
- “In short, Trailhead is awesome. I wish there had been something like this available when I started out with the platform a shade over 6 years ago – I’d have been productive in an even shorter time.” – Bob Buzzard
A huge thanks to all our reviewers who have been sharing their enthusiasm for Trailhead via blog posts, social media, and email. We really appreciate your feedback, and it’s gratifying to know Trailhead is proving helpful to so many people.
So, what’s new?
Over the last few months, the Trailhead team has been steadily improving the site: adding new features, and expanding the list of topics covered. Currently, there are a total of 20 modules, with new ones being released every few weeks. Here’s a list of some of the new modules we’ve added in the last few months.
- Data Security
- Process Automation
- Chatter Basics
- Lightning Components
- Visualforce Mobile
- Application Lifecycle Management
- Reports and Dashboards
- Lightning Connect
In the latest update, two weeks ago, we also reorganized the content into four new trails, conveniently identified by role and experience level.
- Admin Trail – Beginner
- Admin Trail – Intermediate
- Developer Trail – Beginner
- Developer Trail – Intermediate
We’re actively developing new content, so check back on the site often. Here’s a partial list of topics we’ll be covering in upcoming modules.
- Asynchronous Apex
- Apex Integration Services
- Mobile SDK Development
We’re currently planning the next version of Trailhead, which will include additional modules as well as new features and types of content. We welcome your feedback on topics you’d like covered as well as on the functionality, design, and overall concept. Go ahead and blaze your own trail!
As a Lead Technical Writer at Salesforce, Pavi helped design the information model for Trailhead and wrote its first module. His current focus is on shaping the Platform Doc Team’s content strategy, which includes the next phase of Trailhead’s development. He has strong opinions about user-centric content, and it’s best not to get him started on that subject.