An Overview of the WordPress Dashboard

Last updated: November 9, 2020
You are here:
Estimated reading time: 8 min

In this article I will give you a small tour of the WordPress dashboard so that you can get a grasp of where to start adding content and building your website.

You can watch the video to see the overview or read on for the text version which has a few more details.
Learning WordPress: an overview of the WordPress dashboard

Login to your WordPress dashboard

In order to access your WordPress dashboard you need to first log in. Your specific URL(link) will be something like http://www.yoursite.com/wp-login.php or http://www.yoursite.com/wp-admin. Both of those will work and take you to the log in form.

Login to the WordPress dashboard

Once you are logged in you will see a lot of information. The most important is front and center where it says “Next Steps”. This will show you several actions you can take to start adding content to your WordPress site. Also important is at the left side you can see the dashboard menu which we will go through one option at a time.

Notice at the bottom right you can see what version of WordPress you are currently running.

Welcome to the WordPress dashboard

The help section on the top of the page

Let’s start at the top of the page on the right top corner you see two tabs “Help” and “Screen Options”. The “Help” tab will walk you through each section of the page, defining what it is and what to expect from it. Take a minute to go through these if you have the time. At the right side there are also some links that will take you to the wordpress.org site for help.

The help tab guides you around the dashboard

The Screen Options tab

The “Screen Options” tab shows you a list of the boxes that are displayed in the dashboard. If you uncheck them they will be removed from the dashboard. This will help you clean up if you find this screen too busy for your taste. I would leave the “Welcome” area because it has some useful shortcuts.

The “Screen Options” tab

The dashboard menu

The dashboard menu is the control center of WordPress. You will find all the actions to do with WordPress there and some plugins and themes will add options to this menu as well.

Before moving down to each option in the menu, at the top of the page we see a tiny WordPress logo. Clicking on it will take us to the summary of the current version of WordPress that is installed. If you hover over it a menu shows several links that will take you to the wordpress.org site for further information. Next to that logo is a little house with your site’s title next to it. If you hover over the house you will see a link that says “Visit Site” which will take you to the front facing part of WordPress.

The first option of the dashboard is a link to the dashboard itself. Many times you will be doing other activities in the back end of WordPress and to get back to the main page you will click on this link. An important option is the “Updates” link. This will light up with numbers if there are updates to be installed (either from WordPress itself or plugins or themes that need to be updated).

The WordPress dashboard’s menu

Post and pages and the difference between them

One of the most used options in the dashboard menu are the “Posts” and “Pages”. Posts will be items for your blog and pages will be content pages such as an “About” page or a “Contact” page. Posts also have categories and tags which help you organize your blog and make it easier to search content.

The Posts

The posts option

The posts screen lets you manage your posts. At the beginning its simple and uncluttered but as you start adding content to your blog you will start needing the aid of the filters at the top of the posts list. That’s why it is important that you categorize the posts properly.

If you hover over a title in the posts list you can see what actions you can take. Edit will take you to the editing page, Quick Edit will let you edit some of the posts properties right there in this same screen (The name, the slug – the url the post has been given, the categories, the date and also the state of the post – published, draft, pending), Trash will delete the post (but not entirely) and View lets you open the post for viewing.

The posts screen

From the “Categories” option you can add new categories or manage the ones you have already created. You can give the category a custom slug name (for example if you category is “Web Tools” your slug would be automatically “web-tools” but maybe for SEO reasons you might want to call it “wordpress-web-tools” instead). And you can also have some categories be child to others.

Add or manage categories screen

From the “Tags” option you can add a new tag or manage the existing ones. Same as with categories you can edit the slug to your liking. Only one level to the tags though, no parent-child relationships allowed.

Add or manage tags screen

The Pages

Pages option on dashboard menu

The pages screen is similar to the posts screen in that in order to take an action you hover over the title of the page to get the options (Edit, Quick Edit, Trash, View).

The pages screen

Media and Comments

The Media option is where you will find your “Media Library”, a repository of all the files you upload to your WordPress site. They can be images, videos or PDF files. Some file extensions are not allowed so that harmful scripts can’t be uploaded to WordPress.

The Media library

The media library allows you to edit your image files (cropping, resizing, flipping, etc).

The Media Library screen

The Comments

From the comments screen you can manage the comments submitted to posts on your site. From this screen you can approve, unapprove, mark as spam or move to trash.

The Comments screen

The Appearance Section

The “Appearance” section is one of the most often used in WordPress because it gives you access to the themes, the widgets and the menus, which you will tinker with constantly while building your site.

The Appearance option

Themes section

The “Themes” page shows you what themes are installed in WordPress. You can add new ones from this screen or delete the ones you don’t use anymore.

Themes page

The WordPress Customizer

The “Customize” area of the Appearance option takes you to the WordPress Customizer, which is an interactive area where you can configure several aspects of how your site looks. Many theme developers add options in the Customizer that manage different settings of their Themes.

The WordPress Customizer

The Widgets

The Widgets area contains “widgets”, which are snippets of code that have certain functions. You don’t get to see this code only take advantage of its benefits. These widgets will go in sections of the theme that have been programmed by the theme developer to accept them. In the Twenty Twenty theme we can see there are two widget areas: Footer #1 and Footer #2, and you can add different widgets to them.

The Widgets

The Menus area

Here you can create and manage menus for your site. When you first install WordPress there are no menus created.

The menus area

The Theme Editor

Caution! The theme editor lets you edit your theme files. If you are a beginner don’t go in this area and even if you are advanced, its best to make copies of your files and have a child theme installed before even attempting to edit your theme files. The Theme Editor might not work in some hosts where the permissions don’t allow for you to edit files this way.

Theme Editor area, beware!

Plugins and Users

Plugins

Plugins area

The plugins page will house every plugin you install in your site. Normally there are two plugins in this page “Akismet” (for spam management) and “Hello Dolly” (A plugin created by Matt Mullenweg creator of WordPress). I’m using Local to host my WordPress site locally in my computer and it doesn’t install these two plugins.

Plugins page

Users

From the users area you can manage all users even administrators. You can edit the names that are published in WordPress and change profile colors and even generate a new password.

Users area

Hover over the username to view the actions you can take.

Users page

Users Profile area

Tools

The tools section is the home of a few useful utilities like importers/exporters for your content, site health reports and personal data management.

Tools section

With the import tools you can move the posts you have published on other platforms to your new WordPress site. The list includes Blogger, LiveJournal, Movable Type, TypePad and Tumblr. You can also import your data from another WordPress site.

Import tools for WordPress

The export tool allows you to save the content from your WordPress site to save it as a back up or to import it into a new WordPress site. You have the option to export all the content or export it in parts (useful if you have a lot of images for example).

WordPress Export tool

The “Site Health” tool checks your site and gives you recommendations on how to improve the performance and security.

Site health monitor

The Export and Erase Personal Data options help you be compliant with GDPR laws by allowing you to give users their data if requested or erase said data from your site.

Personal data Management

The Settings Section

The settings section

The general settings page allows you to change the basic information of your site such as the site title, the tagline, the admin email, the site language and the timezone of your site. If you make any changes you will need to save by clicking the “Save” button at the end of the page.

General Settings page

The Writing Settings page allows you to change information like the default post category/format, allows you to set up an email where you can send your posts to be published automatically. WordPress recommends this email be secret as anything sent to it will be published. The update services seems to be a little bit outdated ( there’s a warning if you go to the link they provide) so use with caution. In that link there is a list of services you can put on this box for updates but I don’t even know if they are still online or not.

Writing settings page

The “Reading Settings” page allows you to choose what you want the homepage of your site to show, be it blog posts or a static page. You can also set the amount of posts to show in the blog page and in the rss feed.

There is an option to “Discourage search engines from indexing the site”, which is good to check while you are building your site but be sure to remember to uncheck it when you launch your site.

Reading Settings page

The “Discussion Settings” allows you to manage the comments that are left on the posts on the site. You can add restrictions to posting such as “Users must be registered and logged in to comment” and “A comment is held for moderation” so that you can control what is posted on your site.

Discussion settings page

The “Media Settings” page allows you to change the default sizes for images.

Media Settings page

Sometimes you will get “Page not found” messages when you install plugins or if you are doing some custom development. Saving the permalinks helps WordPress “find” these lost links. The default settings for permalinks used to be “Day and name” but now it is “Post name” which is much better for SEO purposes.

Permalink Settings page

The “Privacy Settings” page allows you to set up a specific page as your “Privacy Policy”. WordPress now comes out of the box with a draft of a privacy policy in its pages section all ready for you to use.

Privacy Policy page

And that’s it! Hopefully you now grasp a bit of what is where in the WordPress dashboard and not get too disoriented if you get lost (always click on Dashboard to come back to the main page!).

Thank you for reading.

Was this article helpful?
Dislike 0 1 of 1 found this article helpful.