Tutorial: Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

Category: | Reading Time: 11 minutes

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

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

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Note: This tutorial assumes that you already have installed a WordPress site on your domain and that you know how to log into your website or blog.

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

If you’re not sure whether or not your website is built using WordPress, see this tutorial: Was My Website Built Using WordPress? How To Tell

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Your WordPress Dashboard

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

 The WP Admin Screen - A Tutorial

The Dashboard

Your WordPress administration section is where all of your site’s administration is controlled from.

Your Dashboard is divided into several areas that provide you with access to tools and features such as:

  • Useful data and information about what is taking place on your site. It also provides you with “at-a-glance” metrics and reports about recent activity taking place on your site, system updates and notifications, and to be kept 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.
  • Management and control of all website settings and options.
  • Features that let you modify, expand, update and enhance the design and functionality of your site, upgrade plugins and themes, and add, modify and delete content or content sections.

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

The Dashboard “At A Glance” Section

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

Your WP Dashboard Explained

In version 3.8, WordPress introduced new design changes to its backend section …

Your WP Control Panel Explained

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Even though this new design was mostly cosmetic and aimed at giving WordPress users and developers cleaner typography for a better optimized mobile and desktop viewing experience 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 your dashboard, you can now expect to see other design changes to back-end features when WordPress releases new versions.

If any new versions of WordPress include changes to any of the functional aspects or features of the software, then rest assured that we will keep you informed about what’s new here.

Important

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

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Your WordPress Dashboard

WordPress Dashboard Messages

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

The WP Control Section Explained

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

To dismiss the “Welcome” message or prevent it from showing again inside your admin area the next time you log in, click on the Dismiss link near the top right-hand corner of the page …

How To Use Your WordPress Admin Panel

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

 Your WP Control Panel - An Overview

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 the dashboard, just select “Dashboard” (or click on Dashboard > Home) on the admin menu section …

The WordPress Control Panel Explained

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

 Your WordPress Dashboard - An Overview

WordPress Dashboard Screen Areas

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

Your WordPress Control Area Explained

Your WordPress Dashboard is divided into different areas

Your main Dashboard screen is divided into the following sections:

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

WordPress Dashboard Area: Header Section

Header Section

The header section displays system updates, messages, warnings and notifications …

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

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 …

 The WordPress Administration Screen - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

Screen Options Feature

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

The WordPress Dashboard Explained

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

Your WP Control Section Explained

For example, if you are in the main Dashboard, clicking on the Screen Options tab allows you to configure options like which panels of your Dashboard screen you want to hide or display …

The WP Control Screen Explained

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

An Overview Of Your WP Dashboard

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Tip: Some web developers or designers may choose to hide elements from displaying in your admin area because they may know from experience that most users won’t be using 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 particular functionality or information block in your control panel and can’t 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 Section

You can access the official WordPress documentation and user help forum sections by clicking on the Help tab located on the top right-hand corner of your header area …

Your 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 area, clicking on the Help tab will bring up help information and tutorials relevant to editing posts …

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

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Tip: To learn more about a particular area of WordPress while logged into the administration area, click on the Help tab.

WP Admin Area: Toolbar

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

Your WordPress Control Section Explained

Most Toolbar items can expand to display additional information by hovering your mouse over the icons …

 The WordPress Administration Screen - An Overview

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

Understanding The WordPress Control Panel

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

How To Use The WP Control Area

You can also view what effect any changes you make to your pages or content will have on your site as seen by your site visitors.

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

The WordPress Administration Screen Explained

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 lets you easily get back into your dashboard and continue working on your site without having to log back in …

Your WP Dashboard Explained

As you begin adding new plugins to your site, you may notice that additional items display on your admin toolbar …

 Your WordPress Administration Area - A Tutorial

Warning

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

How To Use Your WordPress Dashboard

Here’s how to enable the toolbar …

The “Howdy, User” Section

At the far right-hand side in your admin area is the “Howdy, User” section with an image of your Gravatar.

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

 The WordPress Dashboard - A Tutorial

Enabling Your Admin Toolbar

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

How To Use The WP Administration Page

Make sure the “Show Toolbar when viewing site box is ticked inside the Toolbar section of your Profile page …

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

Remember to click the Update Profile button at the bottom of your screen to save your changes …

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

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

Your WP Admin Screen Explained

WordPress Admin Area: Navigation Menu

On the left side of the Dashboard is the main navigation menu that contains links to all the administrative functions that you can perform on your website …

How To Use The WP Dashboard

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 assigned to them 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. …

An Overview Of Your WordPress Dashboard

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

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

 Your WordPress Dashboard - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

Irrespective 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 WP Admin Screen - An Overview

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

 The WordPress Admin Area - An Overview

This is a useful feature 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 the bottom icon to expand all items, or hover over an icon to display its submenus …

Your WP Dashboard Explained

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

The WordPress Control Screen Explained

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

 Your WordPress Control Screen - A Tutorial

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

WordPress Admin Area: Working Area

The large area in the middle of your admin screen is your main work area. This is where you will get access to most of your site’s information, do most of your admin work, create, modify and delete pages, posts and content related to these, upload images and media to your site, add, update and configure plugins and themes, change your site options, etc…

When you log into your site, your Dashboard displays a number of panels with information about various activities taking place on your site, including updates and notices from several sources …

Your WP Administration Section Explained

As you get busier and start adding more 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 …

 Your WP Dashboard - An Overview

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

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

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

Using Your WordPress Administration Screen

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

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