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 control area of your website is one of the most important areas of WordPress to master. In this tutorial you will learn how to use dashboard section of your WP web site.

You will also learn about some of the “hidden” features of the WordPress dashboard that will become more useful to you as your proficiency with WordPress increases.

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Please note: We are assuming that you or your business already has a self-hosted WordPress website installed on your domain and that you know how to log into your website.

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

If you’re not sure whether or not your website runs on WordPress, see this tutorial:

To learn more about why you should choose 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 Control Screen

Once you’ve logged into your blog via the login form, you will typically be presented with the WordPress Dashboard, which is the main admin area of your website.

Your WP Admin Area Explained

The Dashboard

Your WordPress dashboard is the place where all of your website’s administration is controlled from.

Your WordPress Site Dashboard is divided into a number of important areas that provide you with access to the following:

  • Useful data and information about what is taking place on your website. 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 updated 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.
  • Control and management of website settings and options.
  • Features that let you modify, update and enhance the design and functionality of your site, upgrade plugins and themes, including adding, editing and deleting content and content sections.

Understanding Your WordPress Control Area

The Dashboard “At A Glance” Information Panel

Complete the step-by-step tutorial below, then, to learn more about using your Dashboard and your site’s main administration features.

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

In version 3.8, WordPress introduced a modern design to its backend section …

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

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Even though the new design was mostly cosmetic and aimed at giving WordPress users and developers cleaner typography for clarity, ease of reading and a more aesthetic experience, 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 in need of being updated.

With the ability to create a customized look and feel of the dashboard, you can now expect to see new design changes to back-end features as WordPress releases new versions.

If any new versions of WordPress include new features or functionality, then you can be sure that we will post an update about what’s new here.

Warning

Important: If your site runs on an older version of WordPress 3.8, then you should upgrade to the latest version immediately, as newer versions of WordPress contain many bug and security fixes.

The Dashboard

WordPress Dashboard Announcements

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

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

 Your WordPress Dashboard - An Overview

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

To hide 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 screen …

Your WP Administration Panel Explained

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

Your WP Dashboard Explained

Feel free to explore the information displayed in the “welcome” message if you want to learn about new features and updates to the software.

To go back to your dashboard, just select “Dashboard” (or click on Dashboard > Home) on your admin menu …

An Overview Of The WP Dashboard

Or scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen and click on the link to dismiss the message and go back to your Dashboard …

 The WP Control Area - A Tutorial

WordPress Dashboard Screen Areas

The Dashboard gives someone with the role of an administrator access to all of the main features required to manage your WordPress site …

Your WP Admin Screen Explained

Your 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 updates, messages, warnings and notifications …

An Overview Of The WordPress Control Area

Different updates, notifications and warnings can appear on your header, depending on what admin section you are working on, what action has been completed, or which plugins you have installed on your site …

The WordPress Dashboard Explained

Screen Options Feature

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

The WordPress Control Section Explained

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 …

Your WordPress Control Section Explained

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 work area you want to hide or display …

An Overview Of The WordPress Administration Area

If you are in the Posts section, clicking on the Screen Options tab lets you specify completely different settings, like 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 website …

Understanding The WordPress Dashboard

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Tip: Some developers or web designers may choose to prevent certain elements from displaying on your dashboard because they may know from experience that their clients won’t be needing to access 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 feature or information block in your admin section 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!

Go here to learn more:

WordPress Online Help Documentation

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 header area …

Using Your WordPress Dashboard

Like the Screen Options tab, the Help tab also displays information that is relevant to the particular area that you are currently working in.

So, for example, if you are editing content in the Edit Post area of your blog admin, clicking on the Help tab will bring up help information and tutorials specifically related to editing posts …

An Overview Of Your WP Administration Area

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

WP Admin 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 administrative functions, features, information and “quick links” to other areas of your site …

Your WordPress Control Area Explained

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

An Overview Of The WP Admin Panel

For example, you can quickly see what needs to be updated on your site …

Your WP Dashboard Explained

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

Understanding The WordPress Administration Screen

The admin toolbar also lets you see how any changes you make to your posts, pages or settings will affect your site. Just hover your mouse over the website title displayed in the toolbar and click on Visit Site.

Tip: Open your site in a new window to continue working in the backend of your site …

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

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

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

The WP Dashboard Explained

As you begin adding new plugins to your site, you may see that new items have been added to your admin toolbar …

 Your WordPress Administration Section - A Tutorial

Important

Important: If you are logged in and cannot see the Toolbar when viewing your site, then make sure that you have enabled it on your ”Profile” section.

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

Here’s how to enable the toolbar …

The “Howdy, User” Section

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

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

Using Your WP Administration Panel

Enabling Your Admin Toolbar

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

Using Your WP Dashboard

Make sure that Show Toolbar when viewing site is enabled in the Toolbar subsection of your Profile screen …

The WP Control Area Explained

Remember to click the Update Profile button at the bottom of your page to update your settings …

Using The WordPress Dashboard

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

 The WordPress Dashboard - A Tutorial

WordPress Admin Area: Navigation Menu

On the far left-hand side of the Dashboard is the main navigation menu that contains links to all your administrative functions …

Your WP Admin Screen 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 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 control area features, you must be an administrator of the site. …

The WordPress Control Section Explained

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

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

 Your WP Administration Area - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

Irrespective 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 menu section …

 Your WordPress Administration Section - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

The WP Administration Section Explained

This is a useful feature to create 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 menu items, or hover over an icon to display its submenus …

Using The WP Admin Panel

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

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

To add sub-menus to the admin menu column while you’re working, click on a menu item …

The WP Admin Screen Explained

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

WordPress Admin Area: Main Working Area

The large section in the middle of your admin page is the 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, add images and media to your site, add, update and configure plugins and themes, change site settings, etc…

When you log into your admin area, the Dashboard will display a number of  panels with information about various activities happening on your site, including news and notices from a range of different WordPress-related sources …

 Your WordPress Administration Area - A Tutorial

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 with your site, this section will start looking very busy …

Using Your WordPress Control Screen

Fortunately, you can customize your admin area by hiding, minimizing and reorganizing the layout and display of your your information elements.

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

WordPress Administration Area: Footer

The footer area is found at the bottom of your WordPress Dashboard area and displays links to WordPress as well as your current WordPress version …

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

Congratulations! Now you know how to use your WordPress dashboard and administration features.

The WordPress 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.