Getting Started: An Overview of the WordPress Admin

So, you’ve just installed WordPress and signed in to your new WordPress via “yourwebsite.com/wp-admin”. Now what? If you’re unfamiliar with WordPress, your first encounter with the admin section can seem intimidating, but we assure you, with a little exploration and experimentation you will get the hang of it in no time. This post can be your guide.

The Dashboard

The backend of your brand new WordPress website will look like this:

wp admin overview dashboard 1

The home page of your admin is called just that, Home, and it is located as a submenu under Dashboard on your admin’s main sidebar menu. You’ll notice right away that there is a welcome box with lots of helpful links and action steps to get you started. Feel free to poke around any of these and refer back to this post if you happen to get stuck somewhere. The easiest way to learn (and retain the information) is to experiment and figure things out. On the other hand, if you like having the full “bird’s eye-view” first, then read on.

wp admin overview dashboard-2

In the image above you will notice that I’ve selected the “Screen Options” drop-down tab. This allows me to choose which dashboard widgets I’d like to display and which to hide. I’ve chosen to hide Welcome, Quick Draft, and WordPress News. As I install WordPress themes and/or plugins, more options are likely to appear in the screen options. This is why I like to keep the widgets I choose to remain seen to a minimum, avoiding screen clutter.

wp admin overview updates

The next and final submenu you will find under Dashboard is called Updates. This is where you will be able to update WordPress core files (new versions of WordPress), themes, and plugins. It is always a good idea to run updates as they are released. However, it’s important to always back up your website completely first. To learn more about why that is important and how to do it, check out our tutorial on backing up WordPress.

Posts

There are four submenus under Posts. The first, which is also your post archive, is called All Posts. This is where you are able to see, sort, search, and take bulk actions on all of your blog’s posts.

wp admin overview posts all

If you would like to create a new blog post, simply click the Add New submenu or the Add New button at the top of All Posts. This will take you to the post editor, seen below.

wp admin overview posts add new

This is where the magic happens, you might say. For anyone primarily blogging that is. And thankfully, it’s all relatively simple to navigate and use. There is a title space for your post’s headline, an editor that–if you’re familiar with basic visual editors, like you might find in your email or in a word processor–should be self explanatory. It’s the boxes on the right-hand side that really need explaining.

Starting at the top and working down we have the publishing controls, post format, categories, tags, and featured image. Publish is where you are able to save your post as a draft (or other status), preview what it will look like once published, edit post visibility, choose to schedule your post for a later date, and of course actually publish to your live blog.

Post format is where you are able to choose between eight different types of blog post–depending on what your theme supports (as in, has a stylesheet to display). Unless you want your blog post to be just one item, the standard post will most likely suite all of your needs as you can combine all of the other post elements within a single standard post.

Categories, which we’ll get into in more detail in just a moment, can be chosen and/or created in the category section of the post editor. Ideally you will have already narrowed your blog down into between 5-10 categories before adding a lot of blog posts. In that case you will simply check of the appropriate box and head on down to the tags section.

Tags is where, you guessed it, you can add tags to your blog posts. Tags, as a general rule, should be used sparsely and specifically. Try not to bombard your posts with a massive wall of post tags since they are primarily used as a means of filtering down to just the most relevant content on your site–as opposed to helping your content become discovered on a large social network; like facebook, twitter, or instagram.

Finally, we come to the featured image. If supported by your theme the featured image will be displayed in two places: at the top of your post and as a preview on your blog and/or posts archive page(s). To add a new image simply click on the “set featured image” link and select your preferred image from the media library or upload it from your computer.

Speaking of adding media, let’s take a look at how you can add images, video, audio and more into your blog posts from the Add Media button located above the main text editor box.

wp admin overview posts add new media

As you can see from the image above, when the Add Media button is clicked you are brought to a screen with a few (but powerful) options. To insert media into a blog post all you need to do is set your cursor within the editor at the location you’d like your media to appear, click the Add Media button and then use one of the pictured methods for selecting said media. You can upload it from your computer, use media you’ve already uploaded to the WordPress Media Library (which we will explore together below), or you can insert media via URL.

wp admin overview posts categories

Now let’s get back to categories, which is the next submenu under Posts. As I mentioned above, you will most likely want to limit yourself to a handful of categories. Ideally, a blog consists of just one or a few closely related topics. The idea should then be to create a hierarchy of information, where each subset gets more and more specific, so that it is easy for your blog visitors to find exactly what they are looking for.

For instance, if you were running a blog about working on cars your over-all blog topic would be auto mechanics. After that you might have categories that broke down into the various sections of auto mechanics: engine, transmission, carburetor, etc. After that, tags are meant to be even more specific while post titles (the most specific) are meant to be unique. In this way visitors to your blog will be able to navigate from broad blog topic, all the way down to the exact information they are looking for by using the categories and tags you provide.

wp admin overview posts tags

That wraps up the basics of creating blog posts, now it’s time to talk about media.

Media

When you click on Media in the sidebar menu the first submenu it brings you to is Library. This page, sort of like your All Posts submenu, is where all of the media you’ve uploaded to your WordPress website will be archived.

wp admin overview posts tags

On this page you can change from gallery to list display, sort by media type, search by keyword and execute bulk actions. If you click on an item you are brought to a details page with edit options.

wp admin overview media library details

If you click on the “Edit Image” button, you will be able to make some minor edits right within the WordPress backend.

wp admin overview media library edits

While basic, these simple editing tools can help you to fit your images to the dimensions of your blog posts so that each post appears uniform, creating a more enjoyable reading experience.

wp admin overview posts add new media

And finally, if you’d like to add new media to your library all you have to do is click on the “Add New” button in the media library or click on the Add New submenu. In either case you will be brought to the screen shown above where you can drag files from your computer or select them using the finder button.

Pages

In WordPress, pages are very similar to posts. The All Pages and Add New submenus under the primary Pages menu option are almost exactly like those of the Post menu above it. Obviously, a page is not displayed on the front end of your website as a blog post, but on the backend there are few practical differences.

wp admin overview pages add new

With the pages archive being so similar to the posts archive, I have instead limited this section to just the new page editor–as seen above. The main difference here being the lack of format, category, and tag boxes. And the addition of the Page Attributes box. This box provides you with the option of choosing a parent page, the page template (if your theme provides any other than its standard) and page order. All of which you can leave on their default setting.

Comments

The Comments section has no submenus. It’s simply an archive of all the comments left on all your blog posts (and pages, if that feature is activated). This archive, like the other archives, allows for quick searching, sorting, and bulk actions. As well as individual comment management; from marking a comment as unapproved, to responding to it, marking it as spam, and more.

wp admin overview comments

Appearance

The appearance section of your admin’s sidebar menu is one you will visit often (at least during initial setup) as it is where all of your primary customization features are located. This of course includes your WordPress theme.

wp admin overview appearance themes

Every new install of WordPress comes pre-loaded with several free WordPress themes. To activate a theme, all you have to do is hover over the theme you want and click “Activate”. To view more details about a given theme, just click the theme’s thumbnail image. You can even see what each one will look like before activating by viewing the theme demo. Once you’ve made your choice it’s time for further customization, which is our next submenu.

Note: adding new themes, such as the one you might have purchased here at WPHub.com, is its own tutorial. To learn how to do that check out our post How to Install and Configure a WordPress Theme.

wp admin overview appearance customize

Clicking on the Customize submenu will take you to a unique visual editor with customization controls on the left-hand side and a large preview window on the right. This is extremely useful for previewing potential changes to your theme/site design before making those changes live. Depending on the theme that you have installed, the customization options on the left-hand side are likely to change.

wp admin overview appearance widgets

The next submenu under Appearance is called Widgets. Widgets add content and features/functionality to your sidebars or other widgetized areas. The Widgets submenu is where you are able to drag and drop various widgets into the different widgetized areas of your website. Or, if you do not want a widget to appear where you’ve either placed it in the past or it happens to be by default, you can can simply drag it back into the available widgets section.

wp overview appearance menu

Most themes support one or two menus: a primary menu and a secondary menu. Together, these menus are what make up your site’s navigation. To create and manage these (and possibly many more) you’ll want to go to the Menus submenu option under Appearance. In this section you will be able to create and organize menus within a drag and drop environment.

wp admin overview appearance header

Many, but not all WordPress themes will take advantage of the Header subsection under Appearance. This is where you will be able to make some very basic changes to your header (such as color and whether or not to show the header text) as well as the option of uploading an image header.

wp admin overview appearance background

Similarly, the Background subsection of the Appearance menu will not be utilized by every theme. In those cases that it is not, as with the header, those options are typically folded into a “theme options” panel that is unique to that particular theme. That said though, for all themes that do take advantage of the built-in background options, you are able to select an image (often a repeating pattern) and/or change the color code.

wp admin overview appearance editor

And finally, we have the editor. This is a section users are often discouraged from using by theme creators. Mostly because any changes you make to files in this editor will be overwritten when you run the next theme update. It is recommended that instead you use a child theme for custom edits that would require you use this Editor. If you are not sure how to create a child theme, check out our tutorial.

Plugins

Plugins are php scripts that extend and expand the functionality of a WordPress website. To learn how to install and configure a plugin, check out our tutorial on that topic. To check out which plugins your fresh install comes with (and the location all future installed plugins will appear) navigate to the primary Plugins menu option; it will default to the submenu Installed Plugins.

wp admin overview plugins installed

On this page you are able to activate, edit, or delete individual plugins as well as take bulk actions on all of your plugins. To add a new plugin, click the Add New button this page or navigate to the next submenu Add New.

wp admin overview pages add new

As of WordPress 4.0 the Add New submenu section is completely re-worked to make finding and installing the very best free WordPress plugins from the official WordPress Directory easier than ever. On this page you can find plugins by Featured, Popular, Favorites, Tag Cloud and of course keyword search. As mentioned above, learning how to properly install and configure these plugins is covered in another tutorial.

wp admin overview plugins editor

Again, the plugin file editor is often discouraged unless you consider yourself proficient in php and at least an intermediate WordPress user (if not developer). With that being the case, this section is easy enough to understand for those with the know-how to use it. Everyone else is probably best off using their plugins as they are or hiring professional help to make alterations.

Users

The Users section is, as the name would suggest, where you manage all things associated with site users. The default submenu is All Users.

wp admin overview users all

Just like the archives we have seen previously, the All Users archive is a single screen where you can search for all the different users/user type associated with your website. From this page you are able to quickly and easily find and edit any user.

wp admin overview users add new

To add a new user simply click on the Add New submenu option or the “Add New” button on the All Users page. The process is simple and straightforward. Simply fill in the required data fields, select your prefered settings, and click “Add New User”.

wp admin overview users profile

Once a user signs in they are able to go to the Your Profile link and fill in the fields you see in the image above to complete their profile.

Tools

WordPress does not come with an over abundance of built of tools (that’s what plugins are for) but those that it does come with are housed under Tools. When you click on this primary sidebar menu option, it defaults to Available Tools.

wp admin overview tools available

There are only two tools under Available Tools: Press This and Categories/Tags Converter. The first is what’s known as a bookmarklet. You can drag Press This into your browser’s bookmark bar and use it to blog to your self-hosted WordPress blog from any page you might happen to be viewing. The Categories and Tags Converter is meant to make it easy for you to convert your categories to tags or vice versa.

wp admin overview tools import

The next option under the Tools menu is Import. Every source shown on this page is a potential source for blog posts. Simply click the appropriate link and follow the step by step instructions.

wp admin overview tools export

And finally we have the Export option under the Tools menu. This submenu section is dedicated to helping you create an exportable file comprised of your posts, pages, comments, custom fields, terms, navigation menus and custom posts.

Settings

The Settings menu option is actually one of the most essential sections of your WordPress admin; especially for the initial setup period. Once these items are configured once, there are few occasions in which you will have to revisit them. That said, and while there are many things here that can be left on default, getting the few vital settings right the first time is pretty important.

wp admin overview settings general

In the General section almost everything can be left on default. You’ll probably want to delete or change the tagline. You can leave the URL as is. Your email address will be the same one you signed up with. And all other settings can be left alone unless for reasons of you own, you would prefer to change them. From a best practices perspective, they’re fine.

wp admin overview settings writing

The writing section is the same. Literally everything here can be left on the default settings.

wp admin overview settings reading

Here is where things begin to get important. If you would rather have a static home page instead of showing your most recent blog posts on the home page, this is the place to make that happen. First you’ll need to navigate back up to Pages and create two pages: Home and Blog. Once those pages are published you’ll want to come back to Reading and change your Front page display settings. Select Static Page and make Home your front page and Blog your posts page. Everything else can stay on default unless you prefer otherwise. Be sure to click “Save Changes”.

wp admin overview settings discussion

Pretty much everything in Discussion can stay as is. On this page there isn’t anything that you have to change, but if you prefer something different then by all means change things up.

wp admin overview settings media

You may or may not want to change the media dimensions based on what displays best for the theme you’ve chosen. This will be on a case by case basis though.

wp admin overview settings permalink

Finally we come to one of the most important settings there is: Permalink settings. This is the one case in which you overwhelmingly DO NOT want to keep the default setting. When it comes to publishing your pages and posts and getting the most out of your SEO efforts (that’s search engine optimization for the uninitiated) you’ll want to make sure you choose a permalink option that at least includes the name of your post/page. Our recommendation would be that you choose the post name option. It’s simple and puts the focus on the keywords associated with your post (as long as you’ve included them in your title or made a point to edit your permalink on the post editor page).

And that, is the WordPress admin!

In Conclusion

As I mentioned at the top of this post, new users are often intimidated by the WordPress admin and it can take a while for that feeling to wear off. However, once you take the time to walk yourself through each section you realize that it’s not that any one aspect of the site is too difficult to grasp but that it’s just a matter of becoming familiar with each section/setting and how they affect everything else that takes time. Having done that in this one post though, you are well on your way to mastering WordPress.

Next, we’d recommend learning how to install and configure new themes and plugins. Or perhaps you’d like to get right down to blogging. In that case, we’ve got some fantastic posts on how to approach and master content strategy/publishing in a way that is sure to grow your readership as quickly as possible.

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