The WordPress Dashboard

Learn about the WordPress dashboard and how to navigate your way around inside the WordPress administration area.

The WordPress Admin Dashboard

The WP administration section of your website or blog is one of the most important areas of WordPress to master. In this tutorial you are going to learn how to use the WordPress control area.

You will also discover some of the “hidden” features of the WP dashboard that will become more useful to you as you master using WordPress.

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Note: This tutorial assumes that you or your business already has installed a self-hosted WordPress site on your domain and that you know how to log into your site.

If you need help logging into WordPress, see this tutorial:

If you don’t know whether or not your website is powered by WordPress, see this tutorial:

To learn more about WordPress and the benefits of using the WordPress Content Management System to power your website or blog, see this section:

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Your WordPress Admin Screen

Once you’ve logged into your WordPress site via the login form, you will typically be presented with the WordPress Dashboard, which is your site’s admin section.

Understanding The WP Control Panel

The WordPress Dashboard

Your WP Dashboard is the place where all of your website’s administration tasks are performed.

The Dashboard is divided into a number of important areas that provide you with immediate access to the following:

  • Useful data and information about the activities taking place on your WordPress site. It also allows you to see “at-a-glance” metrics and information about recent activity that has taken place on your site, system updates and notifications, and keeps you up-to-date on the latest news from the WordPress community and various WordPress-related resources, such as notifications and announcements from WordPress product vendors of plugins and themes that you have installed on your site.
  • Management and control of your site’s settings and options.
  • Features that allow you to modify, expand and enhance the design and functionality of your site, upgrade plugins and themes, and add, edit and delete content and content sections.

How To Use Your WP Administration Screen

The Dashboard “At A Glance” Section

Let’s complete the step-by-step tutorial below, then, to learn more about your Dashboard and your site’s main admin sections.

Using The WordPress Control Area

In version 3.8, WordPress introduced a complete redesign of its Dashboard section …

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

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Even though this new design was mostly cosmetic and introduced for the purpose of giving WordPress site administrators and web developers cleaner typography for clarity, ease of reading and a more aesthetic experience, it also affected much of the existing WordPress documentation around the web, including thousands of tutorials and articles about WordPress online, in print and on video that are now in need of being updated.

With the ability to customize the look and feel of the WP dashboard, you can expect to see new design changes to backend features when WordPress releases new versions.

If any newer versions of WordPress include changes to any of the functional aspects or features of the software, then you can be sure that we will post an update about it on this site.

Warning

Important: If your site runs on an older version of WordPress 3.8, then make sure you upgrade to the latest version immediately, as many bug and security fixes are made whenever a new version is released.

The Dashboard

WordPress Dashboard Notifications

Depending on who manages your site, you may or may not see the messages below.

The first time you log into your WordPress site, you may see a “Welcome to WordPress” message displayed at the top of the Dashboard …

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

If you are new to using your website and want to spend a few minutes learning more about WordPress, just click on the links in the “Get Started” or “Next Step” sections.

To dismiss the “Welcome” message and prevent it from displaying again the next time you log in, click on the Dismiss link near the top right-hand corner of the page …

 The WP Dashboard - An Overview

Note: You will also see “Welcome to WordPress” announcements displayed whenever your site gets updated to the latest version of WordPress …

Your WP Administration Area Explained

Once again, feel free to read through the information displayed in the “welcome” message if you want to know more about new features and updates to the software.

To return to your dashboard, you can select “Dashboard” (or click on Dashboard > Home) in your admin menu …

Your WP Control Screen Explained

Or scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click on the link to dismiss the message and return to your main Dashboard …

The WP Control Area Explained

Dashboard Screen Areas

The Dashboard gives you access to all of the main controls and features that you will need to administrate the site …

 The WP Admin Screen - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

The Dashboard is divided into different areas

The main screen of your Dashboard is divided into the following sections:

  • Header And Toolbar Section (1)
  • Main Navigation Menu (2)
  • Work Area (3)
  • Footer Section (4)

WP Dashboard Area: Header Section

Header Section

The header section displays system updates, warnings and notifications …

Using The WP Dashboard

Different updates, messages, banner, announcements, notifications and warnings can display on your header, depending on what area you are working on, what action has been completed, or which plugins you have installed on your site …

Your WP Control Screen Explained

Screen Options Tab

The Screen Options tab is located in the top-right corner of your WP dashboard screen, in the header section …

 Your WordPress Dashboard - An Overview

Clicking on this tab displays different options and features on your screen, depending on which area of the admin backend you are currently working on …

Using Your WP Control Panel

For example, if you are in the main Dashboard, clicking on the Screen Options tab lets you specify options like which panels of your Dashboard screen you want to view or keep hidden …

The WP Admin Panel Explained

If you are in the Posts section of your admin area, clicking on the Screen Options tab allows you to specify totally different settings, such as showing or hiding information in the listings section (e.g. tags, comments, etc…), specifying the number of posts to display per page, and other configurable settings depending on the plugins you have installed on your website …

 Your WP Control Screen - A Tutorial

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Tip: Some web developers or web designers may choose to hide elements from displaying inside your admin area because they may know from experience that most users probably won’t be needing these features, or simply to give parts of your site a less “cluttered” look, or to prevent accidental errors from happening.

If you are looking for a specific functionality or information block in your dashboard and can’t seem to find it, or don’t know where to look for it, just try clicking on the Screen Options tab … you may just find what you are looking for!

Go here to learn more:

Online Help Documentation

You can view the official WordPress documentation and user help forums by clicking on the Help tab located on the top right-hand corner of the header area, next to “Screen Options” …

The WP Control Panel Explained

Like the Screen Options tab, the Help tab also displays context-specific information.

So, for example, if you are editing content in the Edit Post section of your site, clicking on the Help tab will bring up help information relevant to editing posts …

The WordPress Dashboard Explained

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Tip: To learn more about any feature of WordPress while logged into the WP administration area, just click on the Help tab.

WP Administration Area: Toolbar

The Admin Toolbar displays at the very top of your Admin screen and provides you and your logged in site users with access to various administration functions, features, information and “quick links” to other areas of your site …

 Your WP Dashboard - A Tutorial

Most Toolbar items can flyout to display additional information when you hover over the icons with your mouse …

 The WP Control Screen - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

For example, you can quickly see if the WordPress software or any plugins or themes need to be updated …

 Your WordPress Control Area - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

You can also view how many comments are currently awaiting moderation, create new posts and pages, insert new media or links into your content, add new users to your site and a whole lot more …

 Your WP Control Area - A Tutorial

You can also see your site the way your visitors will see it as you are making updates.

Tip: To continue working on your site and also view your home page, right-click on the Visit Site link and choose either “Open Link In New Tab”, or “Open Link In New Window” in your web browser to view your site in a separate window …

 Your WordPress Admin Area - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

As long as you remain logged into your admin area, the WordPress toolbar will continue to display on your screen while you’re viewing the “front end” of your site.

This is great, because it allows you to easily get back into your control panel and continue working on your site without having to log back in …

An Overview Of The WP Control Area

As you begin to add new functionality to your website, you may notice that additional items begin to display on your toolbar …

 Your WP Dashboard - An Overview

Warning

Important: If you log in and cannot view the Toolbar when viewing your site, then make sure that you have set to display it on your site.

How To Use Your WP Administration Area

The section below shows you how to do this …

The “Howdy, User” Area

On the far right at the top of your screen is the “Howdy, User” section with your Gravatar image.

Hover over this area with your mouse and it displays your name and username, with links pointing to your “Profile Screen” and a “Log Out” link …

 Your WordPress Control Area - A Tutorial

Enabling Your Admin Toolbar

Click on the “Howdy, Your UserName” tab at the very top right hand corner of your screen and select Edit My Profile

 Your WordPress Control Panel - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

Check that Show Toolbar when viewing site is enabled in the Toolbar section of your Profile page …

 Your WP Control Panel - A Tutorial

Don’t forget to click the Update Profile button at the bottom of your screen to save your changes …

How To Navigate Around The WP Administration Area

Now, you should be able to see the WordPress Toolbar displayed at the top of your screen when you visit your site …

Your WordPress Control Panel Explained

WordPress Admin Area: Navigation Menu

On the far left-hand side of the administration screen is the main navigation menu linking to all the administrative functions that you can control on your WordPress site …

The WordPress Control Panel Explained

Your WordPress Admin Menu

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Keep in mind that what users see inside the Dashboard area when logged in depends on their role and capabilities and how the site administrator has configured settings and options for different features.

In order to access all of the WordPress dashboard functions and capabilities, you must be an administrator of the site. …

Using The WordPress Control Panel

User Roles give users different capabilities and can limit access to site management features

Users assigned roles other than ”Administrator” (e.g. “Subscriber”, “Author”, etc.) have access to fewer menu options inside the dashboard …

 Your WP Administration Section - A Tutorial

Different Roles Get Assigned Different Capabilities And Options Inside The WordPress Dashboard

Regardless of the role assigned to a user, some admin menu items like “Collapse menu” remain accessible to all.

Click the Collapse menu button at the bottom of the menu bar …

Your WordPress Control Screen Explained

And the menu shrinks into a narrow band with only a set of icons displaying for all functions …

 The WordPress Admin Area - An Overview

This is a useful function if you want more space in your admin working area.

If you are working with the collapsed menu and are not sure what the icons mean, just click on the bottom icon to expand all menu items, or hover over the icon to display its submenus …

How To Navigate Inside The WP Admin Page

If you hover your mouse over a menu item, a sub-menu will fly out …

Your WP Dashboard Explained

To stick” submenus into the main menu bar while you’re working, click on a menu item …

The WordPress Admin Panel Explained

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We plan to provide helpful tutorials about each of the navigation menu items in future blog posts.

WP Administration Area: Main Working Area

The large section in the middle of your admin screen is your main working area. This is where you will get access to most of your site’s information, configure most of your settings, create, modify and delete pages, posts and content associated with these, upload images and media to your site, add, update and configure plugins and themes, make changes to site settings, and so on.

When you log into your admin area, your Dashboard will display a number of  blocks containing information about various activities taking place on your site, and updates and announcements from several WordPress-related sources …

 The WP Control Screen - An Overview

Occasionally, you may even find that new panels have been added to your WordPress dashboard.

For example, in version 4.8, WordPress added a new dashboard panel that displays nearby WordCamps and local WordPress Meetups in your area …

WordPress Events and News

(WordPress Events and News)

You can learn more about it here: WordPress 4.8

As your site grows with content and functionality (e.g. adding e-commerce or a support helpdesk, etc.) and more users begin to interact online with your website or blog, you will see your working area starting to look very busy …

 Your WordPress Control Area - An Overview

Fortunately, you can “tidy up” your work area by hiding, minimizing and rearranging the layout and display of your Admin panels.

For a quick and easy tutorial on ways to customize your WordPress Dashboard, go here:

WordPress Administration Area: Footer

The footer section is found at the bottom of your WP Dashboard area and displays links to WordPress and your current WordPress software version …

Your WP Control Area Explained

As you can see, having an understanding of your WordPress control area is essential to successfully managing your website.

The WordPress Admin Dashboard

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

Originally published as The WordPress Dashboard.