Making simple edits and maintaining a WordPress website isn’t as hard as it might seem. You just need to know what features matter to you and how to use them — and that’s why mastering your WordPress dashboard is so important.
New user’s guide to the WordPress dashboard
The rest of this guide will introduce elements of the WordPress dashboard and how to use them so you can confidently manage and update your new website. Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- What is the WordPress dashboard?
- WordPress Quick Start Wizard.
- Elements of the default WordPress dashboard.
- Customize your WordPress admin dashboard modules.
- How WordPress dashboard plugins impact your site.
- Elements of the WordPress dashboard menu.
- Use Screen Options and Help for more.
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
What is the WordPress dashboard?
A WordPress website has two views:
1. The front-end, user-facing view that displays your website. This is the site that people see when they type your URL into their browser.
2. The back-end, admin-facing view that displays your website’s WordPress dashboard. The back end is where you manage and make changes to your website.
You can navigate to the WordPress dashboard through a login page.The login page is usually located on yoursitename.com/wp-admin. But, many sites now use a different login URL string to prevent hacking attempts.
There are also other ways to access the login page or back end of your site. You can use:
- Your hosting provider. In your hosting account, there is often a link to get to the back end of your site.
- ManageWP. If you have multiple sites, you can add them to a ManageWP account so you can quickly access each dashboard with one login.
As for your username and password, the primary admin user account is set up during the site development process. Logins for other users can be added using the WordPress admin dashboard. (We’ll get into that later in this guide.) If you don’t have your login information, ask your developer or check your hosting account.
The WordPress Quick Start Wizard
GoDaddy Managed WordPress Hosting features an introductory Quick Start Wizard that helps new sites get off the ground. It includes basic tasks that get your site up and running.
- If your site isn’t set up, you will go through the Quick Start Wizard the first time you log in to your WordPress admin dashboard.
- If your site is already set up, you won’t go through this process, and you can skip this section of the guide and go right to the WordPress dashboard.
For new sites, you will see the Quick Start Wizard the first time you log in. You can click No thanks and skip the process, or click Start Wizard to begin setting up your site.
If you are starting from scratch on your new site, it’s recommended to go through the process.
It helps you fill in general details and create a basic layout that makes the WordPress web design and development process easier. You won’t be starting at a blank page the first time you see your site.
Plus, you can go back and change any of these settings so you aren’t locked in to any of these decisions.
Once you start the wizard, begin by entering information about your website.
Describe how you will use the site.
- Choose Website + Blog if you want your site to have a custom home page and other landing pages with the blog being a secondary element of the site.
- Choose Blog Only if the primary content of your site will be fresh blog posts. The site layout will feature your recent blog posts on the home page.
- Choose Online Store if you are going to sell products on your website. The site will include product pages, a shopping cart and eCommerce functionality.
This setting guides WordPress to match your site with a theme that is often used in your industry.
This will be the name of your website so it should be your business name or name of your blog. It appears at the top of your site as well as on search engine results pages and browser tabs.
This is the short description of your site. It will appear next to your site title on search engine results pages and in browser tabs. It may also appear next to the site title on your webpage. It should be about three to six words.
Next on the WordPress dashboard, enter all of the details of your contact information and social profiles. This information will be available to site visitors, so if you don’t want it to show, either skip this step or uncheck the box to display the information.
The Quick Start Wizard will add this information to relevant places on your site such as on your contact page and in the footer of the site.
WordPress provides a few free themes that you can use for your site. You can go back and change your WordPress theme at any time, so you are not locked into your choice.
Keep in mind that you can change images and colors, so select the layout that works best for your site. Once you select the theme, WordPress will walk you through a few tasks to customize it depending on the type of site you selected.
If you selected a Website + Blog, it will prompt you through three steps.
- Select a header image from WordPress’s library of graphics.
- Preview other themes.
- Click Select to choose the theme and finish the process.
Related: How to customize a WordPress theme
From here, WordPress will set up your new site with the details you entered. It will also create demo pages of content. You can now view your site from both the back end and front end of WordPress, and get started with further customization.
Elements of the default WordPress dashboard
When you log into the back end of WordPress, you arrive on the dashboard home page.
The dashboard home page is designed to help you quickly find the elements, tools, and information you need.
It includes a main section of quick-use modules and a menu along the left side of the page.
Let’s first look at what you can do with the main area modules.
At a Glance Module
The At a Glance module displays a quick rundown of your website. It shows how many pages, posts and comments are on your site, what theme you are using, and if you need to make updates.
The Activity module shows the recent activity on your WordPress website.
It includes recently published posts, pages and comments. It helps you keep an eye on the activity on your site and quickly review new content and engage with comments.
Quick Draft Module
The Quick Draft module allows you to start a blog post from the home page of your dashboard. This is a bare-bones editor, so it’s a great place to jot down new blog ideas and make notes to come back to.
WordPress Events and News Module
The WordPress Events and News module tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on with WordPress.
- It shows you notifications about important WordPress framework updates.
- It helps you find events that are happening in the WordPress community.
- It launches WordPress-specific sites for more information on Meetups, WordCamp conferences and WordPress news.
Customize your WordPress admin dashboard modules
Each of the modules mentioned above appear on your WordPress admin dashboard by default. But, you can remove, add and rearrange the modules as you see fit.
Hide or remove modules
You can hide or remove any module you don’t want to see. Easily hide the module by clicking the arrow in the top-right corner, or remove it entirely by selecting screen options at the top of the page and deselecting the module.
If you want to change the order of module based on importance to your website, moving modules around is simple. Simply drag and drop the module by clicking on the header bar of the box and dropping it where you want it.
By default, your WordPress dashboard usually features these four modules. But, you may see other modules depending on what theme and WordPress dashboard plugins are installed on your site.
You can add additional modules by clicking on Screen Options and selecting inactive modules or by installing plugins that add more modules to your home page.
How WordPress dashboard plugins impact your site
A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that can be installed on your site to add additional functionality, tools and features. There are thousands and thousands of plugins that can be added to a WordPress site.
When a plugin is installed and activated, it can change the way your WordPress dashboard and menus look.
WordPress dashboard plugins might add modules to your home page as well as add items to the main dashboard menu.
Later in this guide, we’ll talk more about adding, updating and using plugins. But for now, it’s worth noting that your WordPress dashboard and menu might look different from the examples because your site may use different WordPress plugins.
Elements of the WordPress dashboard menu
Along the side of your WordPress admin dashboard, you’ll find a menu that leads to pages where you can update and manage your site as well as add and change site content, layout and functionality.
As mentioned earlier, the menu items may change based on what plugins are installed on your site. The menu might also change based on:
- The theme you have activated
- Where you host your site (For example if you have a WordPress site hosted on GoDaddy cPanel Hosting, you may have different menu options than if you were using GoDaddy Managed WordPress Hosting.)
In this guide, we’ll cover the default menu items that are accessible on most WordPress dashboards.
If you have additional options in the menu, ask your developer what they are. Then, ask them if you need to perform any activity within those features to keep the site up and running.
Now, let’s start at the top of the menu.
WordPress Admin Dashboard
The dashboard section is where you will find top-level information to help you oversee and manage your WordPress website.
The Home menu item takes you to the dashboard home page that was described earlier. It is where you can find your home page modules.
Under the WordPress dashboard menu item, you’ll also find the Updates page. Your WordPress site requires regular updates to keep it safe and secure.
Updates are changes to the software that add new functionality, fix bugs, or add extra layers of security to your site.
The WordPress framework, WordPress themes and plugins all need updates at some point. It’s important to make the updates when they are available.
The Updates page is where you can go to see what updates in WordPress are needed and make the necessary updates.
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. Also, be sure to always back up your WordPress site before performing any updates.
The posts section is where you manage the blog posts on your site. Posts are slightly different than pages on your site. Posts are pages that appear in your blog roll, whereas pages are standalone landing pages that don’t appear on your blog.
The All Posts menu item takes you to a list of the blog posts on your site. It offers a top-level look at all of your posts, showing live posts as well as deleted posts, schedule posts and drafts.
From this page, you can:
- Navigate to the back end of individual blog posts (by clicking on the title or hovering and selecting Edit).
- Navigate to the front end of individual blog posts (by hovering and selecting View).
- Quickly edit the post’s title, slug, date, categories, tags, status and more (by hovering and selecting Quick Edit).
- Bulk select posts to perform actions like edit or move to the trash.
- Sort to find and show posts by date, category or keywords.
The Add New menu item takes you to the back-end view of a new blog post. This is where you write content for new blog posts on your site.
The Categories menu item takes you to a page that lists all of the categories available for blog posts tagging.
Categories are a form of classification for your blog posts.
You can assign one or more category to each blog post. Each category has a front-end page that curates blog posts assigned to that category.
On the Categories page, you can:
- Update and delete existing categories.
- Add new categories.
- See how many posts are assigned to each category.
Tags are similar to categories in that they are a form of classification for your blog posts. You can also assign one or more tags to each of your blog posts. The Tags page is where you manage all of your tags. It looks similar to the Category page and also allows you to:
- Update and delete existing tags.
- Add new tags.
- See how many posts are assigned to each tag.
This is the section of your site where you can directly manage the media (files, images, videos, PDFs, etc.) uploaded to your site.
The Library page shows all uploaded media. From this page, you can sort by media type, date and keyword, and click on individual media items to see their details.
The Add New menu item takes you to the Upload New Media page, where you can select files to add to your site. This is one way to add files to your site. (The other way to add images to your site is directly through the post or page editor.)
This section is 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. It is not as widely used today and you will likely not need to use this section.
Most WordPress sites include default links that are already added. In this section, you can update the default links, as well as add new links and link categories.
In WordPress, pages are very similar to posts. The difference is that pages stand-alone whereas posts are connected to the blog section of your site. The pages section is where you can edit and create new content for individual landing pages on your site.
The All Pages menu item leads to a list of pages on your site. It looks very similar to the All Posts page. From this page, you can:
- Navigate to the back end of individual pages (by clicking on the title or hovering and selecting edit).
- Navigate to the front end of pages (by hovering and selecting view).
- Quickly edit the page title, slug, date, status and more (by hovering and selecting quick edit).
- Bulk-select posts to perform actions like edit or move to the trash.
- Sort to find and show pages by date, category or keywords.
The Add New menu item leads to a page editor that also looks very similar to that post editor page. From there you can add new content and make changes to existing content.
The Comment page is where you can view and manage the comments on your site. You should regularly approve, respond to, and/or mark comments as spam as they come in.
On this page, you can:
- Approve comments (so they appear on the front-end view of your site).
- Disprove comments (so they don’t appear on the front end of your site).
- Reply to comments (your response shows on the front end of your site).
- Mark comments as spam (so they don’t show on the front end of your site and it alerts WordPress that the name and email might be associated with a spam account).
The comment section also includes Pings or Trackbacks which are links to your site from other sites.
The Appearance section is where you’ll find tools and settings that allow you to manage the look of your site.
If you hired someone to design your site, you probably don’t need or want to do anything in this area.
Making changes in this section will impact the front end of your site and can possibly break your site, so it should be reserved for more advanced users.
The Themes page lists all of the WordPress themes that are installed on your site. You can see the live Active theme on your site along with other themes that are installed but not currently being used.
This page also highlights themes that need to be updated. You can make updates directly from this page instead of navigating to the Updates page.
From the Theme pages, you can also select which theme you want to use. When you select to Activate the theme, it will update your site for that theme. So be sure you want to make the change to your entire site before you make that selection.
If you just want to see what a theme would look like on your site, you can select the Preview option. This shows you (and not your website visitors) what the site looks like with the new theme.
This is also where you can also add new themes. Use the button at the top of the page to upload new themes.
The Customize button takes you from the back end of your site to the front end of your site to make changes. It allows you to adjust settings and see how they look in real-time.
The items that appear on the customize menu will change depending on the theme and plugins you are using. View the changes on your site, and click Publish to make the changes to the live version of your site.
On the WordPress dashboard widgets are sections of your website that exist outside of the main body of your site. They are often used in sidebars and footers. The Widgets section of the WordPress dashboard allows you to control what content shows in the widget sections of your site.
On the left side of the page, you’ll find a list of available WordPress dashboard widgets that come with WordPress or are connected to your theme or plugins. You'll also see a list of inactive widgets. These are widgets that have been customized, but removed from active widget sections on your site.
On the right side of the page, you’ll see a list of available widget sections on your site. When the widget section is open, you can see the widgets used in that section.
- To add widgets, drag and drop them from the left side of the page into the widget section you’d like it to appear in and select the blue Save button.
- To remove and save widgets, drag and drop it into the Inactive Widget. This will save the settings of your widget in case you want to add it again later.
- To remove and delete widgets, select the delete button on the widget box.
On the front end of your website, you use WordPress menus to help users navigate your site. The menus sections is where you manage and update these menus.
The menus page is broken down into two sections: Edit Menus and Manage Locations.
In the Edit Menus section, you can create and edit menus. Once you select a menu to edit, you’ll see the links you can add to your menu on the left side of the page. On the right side of the page, you’ll see the menu and what is included on the menu. Drag and drop the menu items where you want them to appear on the menu. Click to open menu items to adjust its settings.
In the Manage Location section, you can choose where you want your menus to appear on the front end of your site. Depending on your site theme, you will see a variety of options for where you can use a menu on your site.
The Theme Editor page is where you can edit the files and code associated with your site’s themes.
If you are not a moderate to advanced WordPress user, you should stay out of the editor as one mistake here can create a huge headache.
Making just one small change to the code can break your site so users can no longer access the front end of your site.
As mentioned earlier, WordPress plugins are pieces of software installed on your site to add additional functionality, tools and features. The plugins section is where you manage your WordPress plugins.
The Installed Plugins menu item takes you to the page where you can view all of the plugins installed on your site. You can see which are active or inactive and also make updates.
The list highlights plugins that have a new version available, and you can click to update one or more plugin at the same time.
You can also find the settings page for each plugin from this page (if the plugin has one). Click on the settings link below the plugin to navigate to its settings page.
From the Add New page, you can search for and find new plugins to add. You can also upload plugins that you download from other places. Install WordPress plugins and activate them to add their functionality and features to your site.
If you install and activate a plugin and it causes errors on your site, you can use a tool like Plugin Detective to help you uncover which plugin might be causing the issue.
Similar to the Theme Editor page, the Plugin Editor page allows you to manipulate the code for each plugin. Unless you are an advanced WordPress user, you should avoid making changes here as it can cause major issues on your site if done improperly.
A user is an account that has access to the back end of your site and can make changes depending on their permissions. You can add new users and change permissions and settings for existing users in the User section of your site.
On the User page, you can see all of the user accounts on your site. You can view their username, name, email, role and number of posts (blog posts they are the author of) and make changes to each user by clicking to edit.
The Add New User page is where you create new accounts. You can create new users and assign them a role such as administrator, editor, author, contributor and subscriber.
Each WordPress user role comes with permissions on how the user can edit the site (such as an admin that can change anything to a subscriber that can’t edit anything).
If you choose to add users, make sure you know what they can do with their account and only give permission to people you know and trust.
Your Profile is the page that features all of the information from the WordPress Dashboard tied to the account that you logged in with. From here, you can update your contact information, password, bio and more.
In the Tools section of the WordPress dashboard, you can add and use advanced tools to manage your site and install content from another platform.
Your site can easily break if you play around in here so if you aren’t well-versed in WordPress, it’s best to leave this section alone too.
This is where you can change a variety of settings on your site from date formats to link structure to comment rules. If you’re up-to-date on best practices and WordPress requirements, then you probably won’t have to use this section.
Use Screen Options and Help for more
There are two other menu items that can help you while working with the WordPress dashboard.
In the top right corner of the WordPress dashboard, there are dropdowns for Screen Options and Help. Both of these options add more to your user experience and change depending on what page you are on.
The Screen Options allow you to adjust the view of the page and add or remove elements.
In this example from the posts page, you can see how the Screen Options allow you to add or remove information from the blog post list.
The Help dropdown opens to show helpful articles and advice on how to use the page you are on. So if you need additional help as you navigate WordPress, click here to find useful tutorials and notes.
Start getting the most out of your WordPress dashboard
There you have it. You have been through the most important pages of the WordPress admin dashboard so it should no longer look like a complex M.C. Escher drawing.
Use this as a starting point.
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 interface was complicated and overwhelming.
Plus, building your website with WordPress is easier than ever with GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress Hosting.
Use the one-click installation to get your website up and running with prebuilt themes and popular plugins — all in one neat package. Then, use this guide to take control and customize, manage, and use your WordPress site to grow your business.
This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by Shawn Pfunder.