The WordPress Dashboard: An Overview of How to Use It Effectively

Are you confused by the WordPress dashboard? This guide provides a quick intro so you can start using it with confidence in no time.

Marc Andre by Marc Andre | Last Updated: May 15, 2021

For new users, the WordPress dashboard is pretty intimidating. There are countless options, and many of the screens seem to look the same. You might feel like this is way more involved than you were expecting.

Thankfully, it’s not that complicated once you understand the different sections of the dashboard. In this article, we’ll take a detailed look, so you’ll understand exactly what you’re doing and where to go.

How to Login to the WordPress Admin Dashboard

By default, the login URL for your WordPress admin dashboard will be https://yoursite.com/wp-login.php.

Alternatively, you can go straight to https://yoursite.com/wp-admin to access the dashboard, and if you’re not already logged in, you’ll be redirected to the WordPress login screen.

WordPress Login Page

If you’ve installed WordPress in a directory like yoursite.com/blog, the login URL will be https://yoursite.com/blog/wp-login.php.

If you’ve forgotten your password, you can use the “Lost your password?” link below the login form to have a password reset link sent to you by email.

Overview of the WordPress Dashboard

The WordPress dashboard can be intimidating at first, but don’t worry; it’s not complicated. Once you’re logged in to the dashboard, you’ll see the main screen shown in the image below.

WordPress Dashboard

Let’s look at the different sections of this screen.

  1. Navigation Menu – On the left side of the screen, you’ll see the main menu. We’ll cover the menu in more detail in just a minute, but it’s essential to understand that the exact links and options included in the menu are influenced by the theme you’re using and the WordPress plugins installed. Many themes and plugins will include a control panel or options accessible from the menu, adding to the default menu shown above.
  2. Site HealthWordPress checks several details of your site and will report any issues. If the health is “good,” there’s nothing you need to do. However, you can click on the link to the Site Health screen for more details.
  3. Quick Draft – You can quickly save a blog post draft without going into the screen to create a new post.
  4. At a Glance – Here, you’ll see a few details like the number of posts and pages on your site, the version of WordPress, and the active theme.
  5. WordPress Events and News – Links to news like WordPress updates as well as some events are here. This is the only section of the screen that is not specific to your site.
  6. Activity – Highlights the recent activity, like published posts and new comments.

The Dashboard Menu

The navigation menu is key to the functionality of the WordPress admin area, and you’ll use the menu items to access different areas of the dashboard.

Themes and plugins may add some additional options to your menu, but we’ll cover the default menu items and explain when you’ll need to use them.

WordPress Dashboard Menu

Dashboard

The dashboard menu item or the “Home” link directly below will direct you to the main dashboard screen we just looked at above.

Updates

From the updates page, you’ll be able to see the version of WordPress that’s currently in use on your site. If any updates are available, you’ll be able to click a link to update WordPress automatically.

You can also see a list of any themes or plugins that need to be updated.

Posts

Click on the “posts” menu item to manage your blog posts, including creating new posts, editing existing posts or drafts, deleting posts, or viewing the posts by category or status (e.g., published, draft, scheduled, pending).

Further Reading:

Media

Your Media Library stores photos, graphics, or PDFs uploaded to any of your pages or posts. Clicking on the media link allows you to upload new files or manage the already uploaded files.

Pages

Pages are similar to posts, but they sit outside the flow of your blog posts. You’ll use pages for things like your About page, Contact page, Privacy Policy, etc.

Click the pages link to add a new page or manage the existing pages.

Comments

By default, visitors will be able to leave comments on your posts (you can disable this from the settings). From the comments menu item, you’ll be able to access all of the comments.

This includes already published comments, comments waiting for moderation or approval, and comments flagged as spam.

Tip: You can use the settings (Go to Settings > Discussion) to determine which comments are approved to the site automatically and which ones to hold for moderation.

Appearance

From the appearance section, you’ll be able to control which WordPress theme is active, create and manage custom navigation menus, manage widgets, and customize the look of your theme.

Widgets allow you to add content or elements to specific parts of your site based on the theme you’re using.

For example, you can add a search field or a list of categories to your sidebar. Of course, the exact customization options available will depend on the theme you’re using (we’ll go over the theme customizer later).

Plugins

Plugins add functionality to WordPress. There are plugins for just about anything, from adding social media buttons to your site to selling products with e-commerce.

From the plugins section of the dashboard, you can see the plugins currently installed or add new plugins.

Further Reading:

Users

If you’re managing the site yourself, you may have the only WordPress user account on the site.

However, if you have other contributors or editors, you can create and manage user accounts here, including assigning user roles or permissions.

User accounts can also be for developers working on your site or anyone that needs to log in.

Further Reading:

Tools

You can import content from the Tools section if you’re moving the site from another platform to WordPress, export data, remove personal data, and more.

In addition, some plugins will add other menu items to the tools menu.

Further Reading:

Settings

The settings area includes several pages of settings that are critical for your WordPress site.

For example, you’ll be able to set details like the site title, URL, timezone, control the number of posts displayed on your archive pages and in your RSS feed, manage many settings related to comments, set the permalink structure, and more.

In most cases, you can leave the general settings as is but scroll through all of the settings to see what you’d like to change. Plugins may also add more options that are accessible through the settings.

Collapse Menu

Clicking on the “collapse menu” will remove the words in the menu, leaving only small icons.

Using Lasso from the Dashboard

Lasso is an example of an affiliate marketing WordPress plugin that adds options to the menu.

Lasso

If Lasso is installed on your site, you’ll see a new menu option to access all Lasso settings. Just click into the Dashboard to access its functionality:

lasso dashboard

Further Reading:

Screen Options

At the top right, you’ll see “screen options.”

Screen Options

Click on it, and you’ll be able to customize the visible details of the dashboard. Untick the checkboxes to hide any of the sections or dashboard widgets you don’t want to see.

Screen Options

Admin Panel Color Schemes

WordPress also gives you the option to change the color scheme used in the dashboard. In addition, you can set a color scheme for each user.

This color scheme will only impact the admin dashboard and not the front end of the site used by visitors.

To set the color scheme, click on “Users” in the menu, then click on your user profile. You’ll see the option to select from nine different color schemes.

Color Options

WordPress Toolbar

The WordPress Toolbar (or admin bar) is a thin header bar that sticks to the top of the browser and is visible on both the frontend and backend of the site.

You’ll only see the toolbar if you’re logged in, so regular visitors who aren’t logged in to your site won’t see it.

WordPress Toolbar

The toolbar allows you to access certain areas of the dashboard quickly.

For example, if you’re looking at a page or post on the front end of your site, you’ll see a link that says “Edit Page” or “Edit Post,” which is often the fastest way to make changes to your content.

Sidenote: Some themes and plugins will add more options or functionality to the toolbar.

How to Create a Blog Post

One of the most common tasks you’ll be doing from the dashboard is writing new blog posts. When you’re ready to create your first post, there are a few ways to get to the “Add Post” screen.

Option 1: Use the Toolbar

As long as you’re logged in, you should see the toolbar whether you’re in the dashboard or on the front end of your WordPress website.

Hover over “New” and click on “Post” in the dropdown.

Add Post

Option 2: From the Menu

If you’re already in the WordPress dashboard, hover over “Posts” in the navigation menu and click on “Add New.”

Add Post

Either way, it leads to the “Add New Post” screen, where you’ll be able to create your post.

Add New Post

Add the title where it says “Add Title.” Then, you can either start typing below to enter the post body or use the “+” icon to add other types of blocks like images, videos, subheadings, and more.

In the right sidebar, you’ll see settings for the selected block and the post. When the post settings are selected, you’ll be able to set the category, permalink, add tags, add a featured image, and more.

Post Settings

Conveniently, WordPress will automatically save the post draft as you’re making changes. When you’re ready to publish the post, click on the blue “Publish” button.

How to Customize the Site’s Appearance

You can also customize the layout and design of your site from the WordPress dashboard.

The customization options available will vary significantly depending on the theme you’re using. Some themes offer minimal options, and other themes give you many possibilities for controlling the finer details of your site.

To access the customizer from the front end of your site, click on the “Customize” link in the toolbar.

Customizer

If you’re already in the dashboard, hover over “Appearance” and click on “Customize.”

Customize

Once the customizer is open, you’ll see a preview of your site with the options in the left sidebar.

The preview will display changes as you’re making them, but changes aren’t applied to the live site until you click on the “publish” button.

That means you’re free to experiment. You’ll see the changes, but visitors won’t see them until the changes are published.

Customizer

The customizer has different categories of settings like site identity, colors, menus, and more. The options you’ll see will vary depending on the theme you’re using.

Further Reading:

Conclusion

The WordPress dashboard can seem a little confusing when you first get started but don’t worry; the learning curve isn’t very steep. We’ve covered the most important and relevant details here, and once you start using it, you’ll get the hang of it very quickly.

Marc Andre
Marc Andre has been building blogs and online businesses since 2007. He’s built websites in several different industries including web design, photography, travel, and personal finance. His current project is a personal finance blog, Vital Dollar.

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