As WordPress has evolved from its humble beginnings as a blogging tool, into the multi-functional online publishing platform it is today, the admin interface has grown in complexity accordingly.
The WordPress development team have done a great job of continually refining the admin area, with regular updates to the look and feel of the interface, as well as ongoing simplification of the menu system. However despite this, the software still has the potential to be more than a little overwhelming to new and returning WordPress users.
So to help you feel more at ease when interacting with the WordPress admin area and taking control of your website, this guide will give you an overview of its different elements to enable you to get up and running as quickly as possible.
An Illustrated Introduction to the WP Admin Area
The admin area of WordPress is sometimes referred to the back end of your website and it’s where you can configure the settings of WordPress, install themes and plugins, publish content, and more.
What you will see when you login to your website’s admin area will vary depending on a number of factors. Your user role will play a large part in what elements are available to you, although if you are the owner of the website, you will likely be using the administrator role and have access to all of the capabilities of WordPress.
Any WordPress plugins or add-ons that are active on your website will also more than likely leave their mark on the admin area. This usually takes place in the form of additional top level menu items that are added to the left-hand sidebar menu, or new items that are added to the sub menus. Some themes can also modify the WordPress admin area in the same way, as well as adding custom controls or panels to the dashboard.
As each WordPress installation will grow and evolve in its own way, for the sake of clarity, this guide to the admin area of your website will be working from a fresh installation of WordPress.
The Admin Toolbar
The admin toolbar is a relatively new addition to WordPress, but it’s one that can make your life a lot easier. In case you hadn’t noticed it before, the admin toolbar is the floating bar at the top of the screen that is on display whenever you are logged into your website. For extra convenience, the toolbar is visible from both the front and back ends of your website whenever you are logged in.
The floating admin toolbar (outlined in red above) contains the following items:
As this toolbar is always on display while you are logged in, the dropdown menu makes it very easy to quickly jump to the new post page so you can quickly begin creating content without delay.
The WordPress Dashboard
The dashboard is the homepage of your website’s admin area and where you will typically be directed to after logging into your site.From the dashboard screen you can get a quick overview of your website, including the number of posts and pages published, recent activity on your site from logged in users, and some links to help you find the most used features of WordPress. You can also view the latest developments from the WordPress community through the WordPress News panel.
The dashboard area can also be customized. The Screen Options button allows you to control which panels or boxes are displayed. Many pages within the WordPress admin area include this screen options panel, allowing you to hide and show panels as necessary. If you can’t find a particular panel or box, remember to check the screen options settings to adjust what is and isn’t visible.
The panels or boxes on the dashboard, and other pages of the admin area can often be dragged and dropped into place. They can also be minimised or maximised by clicking on the appropriate icon. This gives you another option for controlling the appearance and layouts of the WordPress admin screens.
The Sidebar Menu
The sidebar menu contains links to all the features and settings pages of your WordPress website. The menu can be several levels deep, with fly-out menus used to display further items. As you add more functionality to your website, usually via plugins, themes, and custom developments, the menu will start to grow and grow, in both length and depth.
Some popular actions you can perform and features you can access from the sidebar menu include:
It’s worth remembering that the sidebar menu can be collapsed and expanded as needed. Collapsing the menu partially hides it, with just the menu icons on display. This can be handy when working on smaller screened devices, when screen real estate is at a premium. If you ever login to your WordPress admin area and can’t see the full menu, try clicking on the expand and collapse icon at the foot of the menu.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the WordPress admin area and logging into the back of your website won’t be such a daunting experience. Despite first impressions, WordPress can become very easy to use, especially when you consider all the features and power at your disposal, not to mention all the great third party plugins and themes available for the software.
If you have any questions about the WordPress admin area, please leave a comment below.