If you are in front of a WordPress installation for the first time and you feel more lost than the protagonists of the TV series with the same name, don’t worry: we have the help you need. You’ve come to the right place. Let’s see what the WordPress Dashboard has in store for us right after the installation.
The WordPress Dashboard in Detail
The WordPress Dashboard is the first thing you’ll find when you log in into your installation. At first it’s overwhelming, but believe me when I tell you that everything will make sense after a while. Having tried other content management systems, I can confirm that WordPress is one of the easiest to manage so let’s go for it!
If you’re still not used to all the menus in WordPress, today we’re going to look at them in detail one by one. In the following sections we will review all the menus available in a newly installed WordPress to make it much easier for you to find what you need at any given time.
Attention: You may see fewer menus in your WordPress than those listed here. In that case the cause might be that either you’re not an Administrator or the person managing your installation has hidden certain menus so that you don’t see them and mess with them (and so you don’t break anything ?).
Another possibility is that you see more menus than those shown here. If so, it’s probably because you have a theme or active plugins that add additional menus. That’s outside the scope of this article, although I’m sure what you learn here will help you move around those with more confidence too.
The first menu we find is the one on the WordPress Dashboard itself. There you will see several boxes with content. These boxes are a quick summary of the rest of the website:
In the At a Glance box you will find the number of posts, pages, and comments in your WordPress, as well as the version number of your installation and the theme you are using. Also note the WordPress Events and News box, where you can find both the meetups and the WordCamps that will be held near you. If you have not been to any WordPress event before, what are you waiting for?
Within the Dashboard menu you will also find the Updates section. If a new version of your theme, your plugins, translations, or even WordPress itself has been released, you’ll find it all here. And you can update it right here. As you know, you should always have your website updated to avoid problems. There’s no excuse!
The contents that feed the blog in WordPress are called posts. In the Posts menu you will find the entire list of blog posts. This list can be filtered by status, date, and category. In addition, it’s possible to view only the posts of a certain author by clicking on the author’s name.
The categories and tags of WordPress posts have their own submenu within the Posts menu. If you go to these submenus you will find in a single view a list of categories or tags along with the possibility of creating new ones. If you don’t know what categories and tags are used for, don’t miss our post on this topic.
Also note that from the Add new submenu of the Posts menu you can go directly to create a new blog post.
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WordPress allows you to store images and other file types in the media library for later inclusion in content (posts or pages). To access this library (which is just a list of multimedia files), just go to the Media menu.
From there you can view all the files in your library, and by clicking on each of them you can see their details (size, full URL, file type, etc.).
On the other hand, if you want to upload a new file to the media library, just click on the Add New submenu (just like you did with the posts). Here you can drag and drop a file from your file system or open a dialog and select the file to upload from there. Very simple.
Note that there are several file types that WordPress will not let you upload to the media library by default unless you indicate otherwise. To see how you can do this, here is an article I wrote some time ago to expand the file types allowed by WordPress.
As you’ve already seen with the blog posts, the Pages menu in the WordPress Dashboard includes all the pages on your website. From here you can view them all and even go to edit them.
Among the options available, we can highlight the possibility of filtering the pages by date or status (published pages and draft pages), see the author of each page, or even search the pages by a keyword.
WordPress comments are the best way to get feedback from your visitors. From the Comments menu of the WordPress Dashboard you can manage the comments on your website:
This makes it easy to remove spam comments and reply to comments you receive. In this view you will see the entire list of comments, which you can filter by their status. Also, if you have comment moderation enabled, you will see the comments you have pending to be reviewed to decide if you will end up publishing them on your website or not. Everything from a single list. It’s as simple as that.
In the Appearance menu we have all the options to change the design of our WordPress website. The main menu shows us the themes we have installed in WordPress and the theme we have active. In the following screenshot you can see that there are 3 themes installed and that the active theme is Twenty Seventeen.
We can even install a new theme, either from the WordPress theme directory (by doing a search), or by uploading a
.zip file containing the theme itself.
The Customize submenu opens the WordPress customizer, which is the place where we can modify different aspects of the active theme, as well as others such as menus and widgets on our website (we will see this later). All these settings can be changed from this customizer and see the changes in real time. Once we have everything as we want it, we click on the Publish button and that’s it. The web will now reflect the changes we’ve made.
From the Widgets submenu we can also change the widgets that our website has. The active theme defines a series of sidebars or areas where you can include widgets. In those areas we can drag and drop the widgets we have available. You have much more information in this post from Ruth on managing WordPress widgets.
In WordPress we also have the possibility to add menus to our website. These menus are created from the Menus submenu (pretty obvious, right?). If you want to know all about the menus in WordPress, you have a post by Ruth detailing the entire management of WordPress navigation menus.
Finally, you have the option to edit the code of the themes you have installed. Go to the Editor submenu to find a code editor. On the right you will find the files of the active theme or the option to change the theme to be edited. This is often a very useful option for advanced developers who want to make changes quickly without requiring FTP access.
If you’re not sure what you’re doing, I recommend that you don’t touch the PHP code of your themes. Otherwise, if something goes wrong your website will go blank.
WordPress plugins are code packages that extend the functionality of WordPress by adding more features. In the Plugins menu you can see which ones you have downloaded in WordPress and which ones you have activated.
In this same menu you can also see those that need to be updated because a new version has been released. You can also update them right here without having to go to the Updates menu above.
To install a new plugin you can do it directly from your WordPress by clicking on the Add New submenu. This allows you to either search in the WordPress plugin directory or upload a
.zip file directly from your computer to your server.
WordPress is a multi-user content management system. This means that there can be several users registered in your WordPress and they can access the Dashboard (with certain limitations, depending on their role).
In the Users menu of WordPress you can see a list of the users you have registered in your installation. Each user has a username, an email address, and a role.
Click on Add new if you want to add a new user. Just fill in the fields to create the new user. Keep in mind that depending on the theme and plugins you have active the form may have more fields than the ones you see in the previous screenshot.
Finally, you can view your own user data by going to the Your Profile submenu. From here you can change the color scheme with which you see your WordPress, as well as modify your data and some specific settings. A very useful feature is the ability to select the language in which you want to view the WordPress Dashboard. Many times you find installations in languages that are foreign to you, so being able to switch to English is perfect.
The Tools menu of WordPress contains several useful functions for webmasters. The first thing you see when you enter is the possibility of using the tags and categories converter.
In the Import submenu you can find more utilities to import content to your WordPress website from other types of websites, such as Blogger, Tumblr, or even other WordPress websites. If you’re migrating to another hosting, you’ll probably have to end up using this.
In the same way that you can import your data from other websites, you can also export your content from the current WordPress installation. Go to the Export submenu and you can specify what you want to export.
You also have the option (very recent, by the way) to export your users’ data. This is extremely useful if one of your users asks you what information you have about him on your website. The European GDPR has led to all these changes.
Similarly, the Erase Personal Data submenu is used to erase the data you have about a particular user. As before, this is useful to comply with privacy laws.
Don’t worry about these last two options now. You will only have to use them in case you receive a request from any of your users.
And finally we come to the last WordPress menu, the Settings menu. And I warn you beforehand: be careful what you do here, because you can break your installation.
When you access this menu the first thing you will find are the general settings of your WordPress installation. Here you can change the title of your website, its description, and addresses. Be specially careful when changing the addresses: a mistake might prevent you from logging in and force you to fix it using the database itself.
You can also change the language and time zone of the site. The latter is important for scheduled content: if you want a post to be published at a specific time you need to use the proper time zone or the post might be published on an unexpected time.
In the Writing settings you can change the default category of your posts. In addition, you can configure your installation so that when you send an email to a specific email address, the content of the email becomes a new post on your blog.
In the Reading settings of WordPress you can indicate if the main page of your website is a specific page or the list with your last posts. You can also indicate how many posts you want to be displayed on the first page of your blog or in the RSS feed.
It’s important to note here that you have the option to dissuade search engines from indexing your website. If you check this option, Google (and other search engines) will not access your page until you uncheck that option. Obviously, you should only activate this if you are working on your website and it’s under construction; once it’s ready, I recommend you let search engines index it or you risk people not finding it at all…
You also have in the Discussion submenu a lot of adjustments to the comments of your website. Check them to see if you want to change anything, but the default settings are usually perfect for most people.
In the Media submenu you have the size settings of the images that conform your media library in WordPress. My recommendation is that you do not change them, as these sizes are defined by your active theme. Changing the sizes may cause the images to stop looking good.
You also have a section to modify the permalinks of your content. This is a setting you probably configured when installing WordPress and it’s important you stick to the selection you make, as they’re supposed to be “permanent”. Just decide the format you like the most (including the post name in the URL is the most SEO-friendly solution) and don’t change it ever again.
You’ve already seen that WordPress has a lot of configuration possibilities. But moving around its Dashboard is easier than it looks. Don’t be afraid and get familiar with its interface.
My advice, as always, is that if there’s something you don’t know what it’s for, don’t touch it. You can always set up a local WordPress installation to play with and if something broke, you’d be in a safe environment, away from your production website. And if you have any more questions, feel free to use the comments in this post or check out the WordPress support forum, where you’ll find lots of additional resources for newbies.
Featured image by Kristopher Allison on Unsplash.
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