The WordPress Dashboard

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

Learn To Use WP

In this step-by-step tutorial, you will learn how to use the WP admin area and master using the WP dashboard, the WP admin menu and the main administrative modules of your website or blog.

You will also discover some of the “hidden” features of the WordPress control area that will become more useful to you as you become more skilled at using WordPress.


Note: In this tutorial, we are assuming that you or your business already has a self-hosted WordPress site installed on your domain and that you know how to log into your site.

If you need help logging into WordPress, see this tutorial: How Do I Log Into WordPress?

If you’re not sure whether or not your website was built using WordPress, see this tutorial: How Can I Check If My Web Site Was Built Using WordPress?

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


Your WP Control Page

Once you are logged into your blog via the login form, you should be presented with the WordPress Dashboard, which is the admin section of your site.

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

Your WordPress Site Dashboard

Your WP Dashboard is the place where all of your website’s administration is controlled from.

The Dashboard is divided into several sections that provide you with immediate access to tools and features such as:

  • Important data and information about what is taking place on your site. It also allows you to see “at-a-glance” metrics and information about the most recent activity that has taken place on your site, system updates and notifications, and to be kept up-to-date on the latest news from the WordPress community and various WordPress-related resources, such as messages, notification and announcements from WordPress product vendors of plugins and themes that you have installed on your site.
  • Management and control of your website’s settings and options.
  • Features that allow you to modify, expand and enhance the design and functionality of your website, upgrade plugins and themes, including adding, editing and deleting content and content sections.

 The WP Admin Section - A Tutorial

The Dashboard “At A Glance” Information Box

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

Understanding Your WordPress Dashboard

In version 3.8, WordPress introduced a complete redesign of its administration area …

Understanding Your WP Dashboard


Although the new design was mostly cosmetic and and intended to give WordPress site administrators and developers cleaner typography for a more optimized mobile and desktop viewing experience and more options on customizing the look and feel of the backend area, this has 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 outdated.

With the ability to create a customized look and feel of the dashboard, you can now expect to see other improvements to backend features as WordPress releases new versions.

If new versions of WordPress include changes to any of the functional aspects or features of the software, then rest assured that we will post an update about it here.


Important: If your website 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 of WordPress is released.


Your Dashboard

Dashboard Announcements

Depending on whether you or someone else manages your site, you may or may not see the messages below.

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

How To Use Your WP Dashboard

If you are a new user and want to spend a few minutes learning more about WordPress, you can click on the “Get Started” or “Next Step” links.

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

Your WordPress Administration Area Explained

Note: You will also see “Welcome to WordPress” notices in your dashboard whenever your site gets updated to a new version of WordPress …

Understanding The WP Control Page

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, just select “Dashboard” (or click on Dashboard > Home) in your menu section …

An Overview Of The WordPress Dashboard

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

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

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 WordPress Dashboard Explained

Your WP Dashboard is divided into different areas

The main screen of your Dashboard is divided into a number of different areas:

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

WP Dashboard Area: Header Section

Header Area

The header section displays system updates, warnings and notifications …

Your WP Dashboard Explained

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

How To Navigate Inside The WordPress Dashboard

Screen Options Tab

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

How To Use The WP Control Area

It displays different options and features on your screen, depending on which area of the admin backend you are currently viewing …

An Overview Of Your WP Dashboard

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

Understanding Your WordPress Dashboard

If you are in the Posts section of your site management area, clicking on the Screen Options tab gives you entirely different settings, such as showing or hiding information in the listings section (e.g. tags, comments, etc…), specifying the number of posts to display on your Posts table, and other configurable options depending on the plugins you have installed on your site …

How To Navigate Inside The WP Admin Panel


Tip: Some web developers or web designers may choose to hide elements from displaying in your dashboard because they may assume that most users won’t be using these features, or simply to give sections of your site a less “cluttered” look, or to prevent accidental errors from happening.

If you are looking for a specific function or element in your backend 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 were searching for!

Online Help Area

You can view the official WordPress documentation and community support forums by clicking on the Help tab located on the top right-hand corner of the screen …

How To Navigate Inside The WP Dashboard

Like the Screen Options tab, the Help tab also displays information that is relevant to the specific section that you are working on.

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 and tutorials specifically related to editing posts …

Your WP Control Area Explained


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

WordPress Admin Area: Toolbar

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

 Your WP Dashboard - An Overview

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

The WP Control Panel Explained

For example, the “updates” icon on the toolbar lets you see if the WordPress software or any plugins or themes need updating …

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

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

Your WordPress Administration Area Explained

You can also see how your site looks as you are making changes.

Tip: Open your ”front end” in a new window to continue working on your site …

How To Use Your WP Control Screen

As long as you remain logged into your admin area, the toolbar will continue displaying 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 content without having to log back in …

The WP Control Area Explained

Depending on which section of the admin area you are working on and what plugins you have installed on your site, you may also see additional information displayed on the WordPress toolbar …

How To Use The WP Administration Area


Important: If you log in and the Toolbar is not showing when viewing your site, then make sure that the Toolbar has been enabled on your site.

Your WordPress Administration Section Explained

Here’s how to do this …

The “Howdy, User” Feature

At the far right in your administration area is the “Howdy, User” section with your Gravatar image.

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

 Your WP Control Area - A Tutorial

How To Enable Your Admin Toolbar When Viewing Your Site

Click on the “Howdy, Your UserName” tab and choose Edit My Profile

Your WordPress Control Screen Explained

Check that Show Toolbar when viewing site is enabled inside the Toolbar subsection of your Profile area …

Using The WordPress Administration Screen

Remember to click the Update Profile button before leaving to save your changes …

Using Your WP Dashboard

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

How To Navigate Inside The WordPress Dashboard

WordPress Administration Area: Navigation Menu

On the left-hand side of the Dashboard is the main navigation menu linking to all the management functions that you can control on your website …

An Overview Of Your WP Administration Section

The WordPress Admin Menu


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

In order to access all of the WP dashboard features, you must be an administrator of the site. …

How To Use Your WP Control Screen

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

Users assigned roles other than that of an administrator (e.g. “Subscriber”, ”Editor”, etc.) have access to fewer menu options inside the dashboard …

 Your WP Admin Section - A Tutorial

Different Roles Get Access To Different Capabilities And Options Inside The WordPress Dashboard

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

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

How To Use The WordPress Control Panel

And your menu will shrink into a narrow strip with only a list of icons showing …

The WP Dashboard Explained

Use this function if you need 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 the bottom icon to expand all items, or hover over an icon to display its submenus …

 Your WordPress Dashboard - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

The WordPress Control Screen Explained

To insert sub-menus into the navigation menu bar while you’re working, click on a menu item …

The WP Dashboard Explained


We plan to provide helpful tutorials about using menu features and functions in future blog posts.

WP Administration Section: Main Working Area

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

When you log into your admin area, the Dashboard displays a number of  blocks with information about various activities happening on your site, including news and announcements from several WordPress-related sources …

Your WP Control Screen Explained

As you get busier and start adding more content and functionality (e.g. adding e-commerce or a support helpdesk, etc.) and more visitors begin to interact online with your site, this section can start looking very busy …

How To Navigate Around Your WP Administration Area

Fortunately, you can “tidy up” the WordPress dashboard 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: How To Customize Your WP Dashboard

WordPress Administration Area: Footer

The footer area is found at the bottom of your WP Administration screen and displays links to WordPress as well as your site’s current WordPress version …

Understanding Your WP Administration Screen

As you can see, having an understanding of your WordPress admin area is absolutely essential to the success of your web presence.


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