Choosing WordPress as the content management system for your website is a great choice. It's super powerful and has an excellent admin area that will allow you to control everything about your website.
It can be a bit daunting at first – there are lots of options, menus and sub menus. But once you have the lay of the land and break it down into sections, it's not so scary after all.
I'll show you the admin dashboard for the site you're on right now, what each section does and why it's there.
Just a note – some plugins create their own sidebar menu, so don't expect my WordPress admin dashboard to be identical to yours (or anyone else's).
This is the admin home page and is shown on the screen shot above. Here, you can add, remove and organize the different panels you see – like the “Welcome to WordPress” panel, “At A Glance” and “Quick Draft”.
WordPress calls these panels “boxes”, but you get the idea. They are little overview boxes of information about your WordPress website that you can quickly understand.
You can set this up however you like and can make navigating the admin area quicker through shortcuts.
This is the theme that's installed on this website. Some themes use the customizer to configure settings, other themes – like ReHub – use both the customizer and a whole section on the admin dashboard.
It varies from theme to theme.
This menu item is where your day-to-day posts will be managed. You won't create your basic pages here – like contact us or about us. This is where you'd write the majority of your content around whatever niche you're focusing on.
The article you are reading right now is a post.
Posts with images are much more favored than ones that are solid text. Breaking your text up with high quality, relevant images will boost your readership and make what you are writing about more pleasing to read.
This menu item is where all of the media (photos, videos and audio) is organized. If you add a photo to a post, it will automatically be displayed in the “media” menu item.
As long as your image names are actually about what the image shows, you can use the search bar to quickly find an image to insert in your content. If your images have file names like 93284930_393.jpg, you're going to have to deal with that later when you want to use the image again and can't find it.
You'll just be scrolling through all the media until you recognize it.
Name your media with proper names and the media section on the admin dashboard will be a powerful tool.
WordPress has some basic image editing features like cropping, rotating and flipping. You can find them if you open any image and click the “edit image” button that's directly under the image its self like this:
Pages is where you'll create things like the contact me page and the about page. Here, you'll have important pages about your website/blog. Pages aren't news, random ideas or fun things you have found and want to share. They are timeless and are always relevant.
Example pages you might create on your own website:
- Contact Me
- About Me
- Affiliate Disclaimer
Your new WordPress install is setup to manage comments from readers that might have left you some feedback when you publish a post.
There's an entire page dedicated to setting up the comments system to your preferences. It has some settings turn on by default – the ones you'll probably use – but you can go in and tweak them whenever you choose. If you're wondering where the settings are – it's at a different section – it's under settings -> discussion.
The settings allow you to tweak things like requiring users to register before commenting, defining ‘blacklist' words that you want to automatically sensor, how many comments should be on one page and more. WordPress is awesome.
Another quick thing about comments, you can use a plugin so that you can have people comment on your blog with their facebook account automatically. They won't have to register on your site just to post comments. Check out the “Lazy Facebook Comments” plugin for this.
I added this plugin because I needed a neat way of displaying tables in the content that I write. Tables haven't been navigable on mobile devices for some years and only recently have a few good solutions come out that make viewing a table on your cell phone use-able….and valuable.
TablePress is one plugin that does mobile viewing well. If you want to check out an example, see this post. Here's how it looks on cell phones:
To see the rest of the table you just have to swipe left or right with your finger. Easy and straightforward.
Google loves tables (and lists) so if you can include them in your posts, you'll be doing yourself a favor. Google is able to pick out sections of a web page and display them right on the results page, tables make it easier for Google to do that.
#8 Content Aware
I love this plugin. It's smart.
With content aware, you can change the sidebar depending on certain rules.
To give you an example, I want a different sidebar displayed on category pages than I would on single blog post pages. You can create unlimited sidebars and create very specific rules depending on what you want to achieve.
To show you with the category and single post example above, I want category pages (the page where you see all posts listed of a specific category) to show a grid of the latest posts and an email opt in box.
But I want single blog post pages to have a latest post image grid and a sticky table of contents that follows the website visitor down the page to help in navigating through the post.
There was enough features on the free version of this plugin that I didn't need to upgrade, but you'll get even more options if you decide to buy the ‘pro' version like scheduling side bars to appear at a certain time.
Now you might wonder – how come this post…the one that I'm reading right now doesn't have a sidebar? Well, that's because the theme I chose has multiple post templates and ways to configure each template with or without a sidebar. I chose no sidebar on this post because the admin dashboard screen shot was huge and I wanted you to see the options and numbers easily.
#9 WP Forms
Honestly I don't know why WordPress doesn't have a contact form built into it's core functionality. I don't know of a website online that doesn't have a way to get in touch with them via a form.
I chose to use WP Forms for a simple contact form. It's easy to understand and free. The setup is easy and choosing the ‘simple contact form' option installs a perfectly usable form via shortcode. I've also added in Google's ReCaptcha spam system so there's protection from bots and will help to make sure I only receive messages from humans.
This only really scratches the surface with WP Forms, you can create quite elaborate forms with various elements like drop downs, checkboxes, fields for submitting content and more.
Elementor is called a visual page builder. If you've made a few posts on your site using the classic WordPress text editor, it's not that fancy but is still the preferred choice by millions of people.
WordPress does have a sort of visual page builder (called Gutenberg) but it's not on the same level as Elementor.
Elementor is packed with different widgets – or blocks – that can help you build awesome looking web pages on any device.
I don't use Elementor on regular blog posts – like the one you're reading now – but I did use it for creating the homepage and contact page.
This menu item is created when Elementor is installed. Here, you can create sections and then use shortcode to insert that section elsewhere on your site.
What I use sections for is to build the header for Madsub's categories. I design the header, save the template, copy the shortcode and insert it on the categories configuration page.
This is a huge section and is responsible for:
- Your website theme
- Other miscellaneous appearance options
Your website theme is how your website looks and is designed. Theme's don't change your admin dashboard appearance, they are just for the “public” side of your site.
Your menus can all be configured with this menu item. You can have several menus appearing on your site – your main menu (usually near your logo in your header), your top bar menu and a menu specifically for mobile devices.
Widgets are small blocks that can display all sorts of information, from email sign-up forms to capture email addresses, a table of contents for the post displayed on screen…even weather information or Pins from your Pinterest feed.
Like the main admin dashboard sidebar menu, the appearance menu can also have extra options to configure certain plugin's. An example of this happens when you install a lightbox plugin to display images full screen. Extra options are available to configure the lightbox in the appearance menu.
Plugins are awesome. Plugins add extra features and functions to your website.
They might add a spam comment protection system, Elementor (#10) is installed as a plugin, TablePress (#7) is installed as a plugin. You can get plugins to secure your WordPress admin dashboard by changing the default admin address – yoursite.com/wp-admin.
WordPress has a few plugins pre-activated when you install WordPress on your webhosting account, but there are hundreds of plugins available. Some amazing. Some trash. Have a browse around the WordPress repository here for mostly free plugins and on CodeCanyon here for premium, paid plugins.
Here you can add, setup and remove users from your WordPress website. By default, you'll have administrator privileges, meaning you have complete unrestricted access to every option.
You're able to add users who can login to the admin dashboard, but only create content. The won't be able to see other content or any of the other options.
You can also create an extra admin account for any support technicians that might need access to your WordPress dashboard, without having to give them your own personal admin password.
Here you can do a few things. You're able to export all your content to a downloadable file to import it on another WordPress install.
This isn't the same as backing up…
You're able to import WordPress content and assign it to an author, check your site health automatically, export and erase personal data so that you're GDPR compliant and other utility tools like backing up your widget positions and creating redirects.
More settings! This is the main settings for your core WordPress install. It's where you can define the website title, website address, admin email for important notifications like updates, comments and more.
You can setup how your permalinks look, the structure they should follow, what should be displayed when visitors come to your main domain homepage (a page or list of posts?), registration, discussion, media settings and so on.
This section should get your attention as there are a lot of settings here that will have a fundamental effect on your website.
This menu item is created by the SEO plugin Yoast. SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization and this will let you configure how search engines will interpret your site and how they record it into their databases. You can setup the structure of page titles by creating a template using variable snippets. E.g. Term Title | Page | Separator | Site Title
#18 Theme Options
This is just another link to the theme's options page like #2 Rehub. I can guess that the authors of the theme wanted to make a more obvious link to the theme's options page.
This is a brief rundown of the various options in WordPress' Admin Dashboard. Your admin dashboard might have different options than the ones I showed you here, but it's expected as you might use different plugins and themes than me.