But for many small business owners and entrepreneurs, it’s not like they can just give up, turn around, and walk away from their website if they feel overwhelmed. They need to learn how to manage the WordPress dashboard so they can keep a current web presence for their business.
Making simple edits and maintaining a WordPress site isn’t as hard as it might seem. You just need to know what features matter to you and which features you can ignore.
Before you get started: a mini disclaimer
These tips are only relevant if you are working on a WordPress platform that is hosted outside of WordPress.com. The dashboard for sites hosted on WordPress.com looks different.
This information is primarily for people who had their website developed by someone else and are simply maintaining the site. If you are someone who is planning on designing and developing your own site from scratch, you will need many of these features.
Welcome to the WordPress Dashboard
The first time you log into your WordPress Dashboard, it will look something like this:
To the left, you will see a menu of items. These are the basic options that will be included in almost all WordPress dashboards.
Other options might appear in the WordPress dashboard menu, depending on:
- the plugins that you add, activate, or deactivate.
- what theme you have activated.
- where you host your site (In this post, the screenshots are of a WordPress site hosted on GoDaddy cPanel Hosting. When you use Managed WordPress Hosting, you might have other options in your dashboard.)
If you have additional options in the menu, ask your developer what they are.
Then, specifically ask them if you will need to perform any activity within those features to keep the site up and running. If they say no, you can assume you can ignore those options as well.
Here’s what you can ignore
What is it: This is the area where you can directly upload and manage the media (files, images, etc.) uploaded to your site.
Why you can ignore it: If you want to add images to your site, you can do it directly from the blog or page post.
What is it: This is the area where you can add links to other websites. This feature was popular when blogrolls, a list of links to other related blogs or websites, were frequently used.
Why you can ignore it: Most sites don’t include blogrolls so you can stay out of this feature.
What is it: Under the appearance tab, you can manage the look of your site by updating and changing your theme, widgets, menus, backgrounds, and headers.
Why you can ignore it: If you hired someone to design your site, you don’t need to do anything in this area. Unless you know what you are doing, it’s a good idea to stay out of this area as you can easily break your site.
This is especially true for the “Editor” section. The editor section allows you to make changes to the code. One mistake here can create a huge headache. So, unless you are moderate to advanced WordPress user, stay out of the editor.
What is it: In this section, you can add new users and change permissions and settings for existing users.
Why you can ignore it: For most simple sites, it’s likely that only you and your developer will need accounts on the site so there is no reason to add additional users.
What is it: In this area, you can add and use advanced tools to manage your site and install content from another platform
Why you can ignore it: It’s advanced. It’s powerful. And it can break your site easily if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s no place for a newbie user.
What is it: This is where you can change a variety settings on your site from date formats to link structure to comment rules.
Why you can ignore it: Your web developer should have set up your site to match all of your requirements and meet WordPress best practices so there should be no reason to update the settings.
Here’s what you need to update
The green arrows show you the sections you will use for work related to regular site maintenance and adding fresh content.
Updates. Plugins, themes and WordPress will occasionally release updates to improve their performance and/or add new features. You can update from this section of the dashboard. You can do this yourself, but occasionally updates can break your site. So, make sure you have a plan with your developer to step in if that happens. It’s a good idea to set a plan for updating before you finalize your web development.
Posts. Section where you can edit and create new content for your blog.
Pages. Section where you can edit and create new content for the stand-alone pages on your site.
Comments. Section where you can manage comments on your site. You should regularly approve, respond to, and/or mark comments as spam as they come in.
Plugins. This is where you manage updates specifically for your plugins. You can ignore this, too, if you manage updates from the “Updates” section mentioned above.
When you first get started with WordPress, keep it simple. Don’t feel like you are lost in an M.C. Escher drawing. Stay on the path of what you know until you get comfortable with those initial features, then slowly branch out to explore the other options as you expand on your WordPress knowledge.
Soon, you’ll be navigating the WordPress dashboard like a pro and laughing about the time you thought the simple dashboard was complicated and overwhelming.