A 5-minute Primer of the WordPress Admin Area

A 5-minute Primer of the WordPress Admin Area

A quick overview of the WordPress Admin Area, so you can start using WordPress easily.

WordPress Admin Area

Any piece of software can be intimidating to use and learn, and software that runs entirely online, can be even more so.

WordPress to an extent falls under this category, not only because it lures you to get your hands dirty and go DIY, it also throws enough challenges to want you to hate it and quit the entire ordeal. Yeah, it can be super intimidating.

With that in mind, if you got the basics right, you’ll be in good shape to handle things if you ever have to – we wrote this tiny guide to give you an overview of the ten most important WordPress admin screens you need to learn to use.

Keep in mind, this article is aimed at users who self-host their WordPress website.

WordPress Admin Screen Explanation

Settings

WordPress like all software has Settings.

These are fairly simple to understand and probably the first place where you need to venture right after you login to the WordPress Admin interface for the first time.

Look for “Settings” in the left panel and click through to: General Settings, Writing, Reading, Discussion, Media, Permalinks and Privacy. As you install various plugins to extend WordPress, the Settings section will add new options for the settings of those plugins.

Tools

Like the Settings section, there’s one called Tools, and this is probably the least visited part of WordPress. It’s only ever needed if you’re importing or exporting content from a blog or another platform.

There’s an interesting Site Health tool here that checks your WordPress installation and advises you to take action as and when needed. Besides that you also get tools for exporting or erasing your personal data.

Like Settings, some plugins when installed will add their settings under Tools. As an example the Redirection plugin does just that. So if for any reason you can’t find a plugin’s settings under Settings, see if there’s a link for them under Tools.

Users

This is the simplest one to understand – if you have a team of users who will be working on your project, authoring articles or contributing as editors, you can give everyone a login of their own.

You and your web developer would often have to have the Administrator user role so that you have all the privileges to manage the website.

Don’t worry, if your web developer is requesting you for the Admin password of WordPress, they really would need it during development or when updating the site and it’s completely fine to share your WordPress password with them.

If you use WordPress Toolkit, you can even reset the password from your cPanel or Plesk admin interface, and retain control of your website.

Plugins

The nemesis that at times holds WordPress hostage, Plugins are nothing but components developed by various developers to help add functionality to WordPress.

The fundamental rule is that if you install the right plugins that are supported well by their developers, you won’t have any issues.

The only need is to keep your plugins updated regularly and have them updated when you or your web developer can afford to spend time on the website. WordPress plugins are updated frequently by their developers and often the latest version of a plugin would require an update to the latest version of WordPress as well.

So updates are best planned in advance. The more often you update WordPress and the themes and plugins you use, the better your site would perform in terms of security and compatibility. A word of caution though, with time, plugin developers may abandon their plugin or sell them, so keep an eye on this.

Using an unsupported plugin can cause all sorts of problems. Do ask your web developer about their choice of plugins and whether everything that’s going to run your website is well supported, licensed and comes from a known developer.

As an example two plugins, Elementor (page builder) and Yoast (SEO plugin) come to mind – these come from a pool of plugins that are popular, well supported and lead the industry in their respective areas of functionality.

Appearance

The look and feel of your website is managed from Appearance. You have access to Themes, Customization, Widgets, Menus and WordPress’s theme editor.

Your site’s journey starts with choosing a Theme for your website. WordPress has hundreds of thousands of themes to choose from, so choosing the right one comes down to doing some research and finding one that’s used widely.

Generally speaking a theme would allow you to design your website’s layout and setup basic things like site icons, color scheme and typography. Popular themes are supported by their developers and like plugins they come with regular updates and support.

As an example GeneratePress is a fantastic theme which is free to use, however we highly recommend signing up for the Premium version for the additional features and fantastic support.

Most popular themes have a detailed customization option available under Appearance where you can easily setup your website, choose menu items, setup your sidebar layouts, customize your blog pages and choose where to place widgets (tiny bits of functionality like tag clouds and news feeds).

Comments

This is where you manage any comments left by readers of your blog posts. You can easily approve, delete or mark comments as spam from here.

Pages

As the name implies, Pages is where you’d add the most obvious content of your website, these would be pages about you or your company, its products and services and contact information.

As a general rule organize your website’s pages in the mostly logical way, like you were publishing a short booklet. Pages can have parent pages, so organizing can be really easy when you want to share more information with your users.

As an example, you may have a single page dedicated for Services and then several pages under that page for each service that you provide.

In terms of layout and design, WordPress now comes with a fairly useable page editor called Gutenberg which helps adding information to your pages in “blocks”, so you have blocks for adding paragraphs, images or even HTML.

Overall the Gutenberg editor it’s a fantastic way of creating simple page layouts that are customizable (colors, fonts,  spacing, etc) and easy to use.

Media

Your photos, videos and PDF files stay in Media.

You can easily upload media to this section and later use them across your website.

A word of caution, it’s always best to optimize your website’s files (photos and videos, even PDFs) prior to uploading them to your website to save space and to make sure your website is optimized for fast downloads (so images and video clips are the right dimensions and physical on-disk size).

An unoptimizable website will slow down page loads and contribute in lowering your overall ranking within Google’s search index.

Posts

Your blog posts live here, so if you’re planning to publish anything on a regular basis, create a new post.

WordPress has its roots in blogging, so along with Posts, you can add Categories and Tags too – both of which help us group similar posts for the sake of categorization under familiar topics (e.g. news, reviews, etc.) or by tagging posts with similar keywords (e.g. WordPress or CMS, etc.).

The way you setup categories and tags is entirely up to you, and to start with, a post is best assigned to a single category while it may have multiple tags.

Dashboard

This is the page you see every time you sign in to WordPress so it’s also the one you’ll be paying the least attention to when you’re simply going to perform a few tasks.

Still the WordPress dashboard is really useful when you’re getting started or when you want to stay updated about WordPress news and events or your blog’s activity (page view statistics) and input from other plugins that you have installed.

The dashboard is a neat page where you can hide or dismiss notices or rearrange informational widgets from WordPress and other sources.

If you’re considering a content management system for your company’s website, app or event – choose WordPress!

It’s a fantastic platform that offers all the tools you need to have a decent presence – and remember, it’s absolutely free and some of the most popular WordPress themes and plugins are free too – so the only cost you incur is web hosting, and we take care of that!

Yasser Masood
Yasser Masood is a partner at Spiderz. He co-founded Spiderz in 2002 in Dubai, some twenty years ago. His area of expertise is Brand development and Web technology. His other companies are CloudWeb, Zuzaz, Dyrk and 1stAccount. You can reach him by writing to yasser@spiderz.com – he’ll be happy to hear from you!
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