WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world. It’s incredibly versatile meaning you can easily create almost any kind of website in a matter of minutes.
If you don’t have a website, I suggest you read my guide on how to start a blog using WordPress. It explains how to get a domain name, web hosting and install WordPress. You don’t need any technical knowledge whatsoever!
In this guide, I am going to teach you all the ins and outs of WordPress admin area. This guide is aimed at absolute beginners with a self-hosted WordPress installation.
Let’s get started.
To access the admin area of WordPress go to www.domain.com/wp-admin. Upon successful log in you’ll be greeted by the dashboard.
The dashboard is essentially your command center with various information about your website. The “At a Glance” tab provides a sneak peek of how big your website is based on number of pages and posts.
The “Activity” tab shows your recently published posts and new comments. You can quickly save an idea for a new article by using the “Quick Draft” tab. The post will be then saved as a draft and you’ll be able to see it under Posts > Drafts.
Certain plugins can display additional information in the dashboard. For example, there’s a Google Analytics plugin for WordPress which displays different metrics about users so you don’t have to visit Google Analytics.
You can edit what appears on the dashboard by accessing the “Screen Options” menu in the top right corner of the screen. This is applicable to any menu, not just the dashboard.
On your left you’ve got the administration menu. This is where you can do all the amazing things WordPress allows you to do with only a few simple clicks of a mouse.
Now let’s go over each section and get you familiar with how everything in WordPress works.
Posts will be your primary menu as it’s the one used to create, manage and organize all of your content. The menu has four sub-menus:
- All Posts – shows all posts present on your website both published and in draft mode.
- Add New – takes you straight to the WordPress editor for writing a new post.
- Categories – category manager which allows you to add, delete, or edit categories for organization purposes.
- Tags – similar to category manager but lets you organize content using tags.
Also, take notice of “Screen Options” menu in the top right corner. You can select how many posts per page appear and whether they appear with an excerpt, or not.
Media contains all files used for content creation on your website. These files can include images, audio files, videos and various documents. WordPress supports a wide range of file types and formats out of the box.
You can select images individually or in bulk to edit and add information such as title, captions, alternative text, or description. Most of these fields are not necessary to fill out.
However, the title and alternative text should always be filled as it helps search engines understand what the image is about.
Most importantly, it helps people with visual impairment understand what’s displayed on the image since a screen reader will read out the alternative text out loud.
You can find out more about these web elements in the Techniques and Failures for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.
Pages are similar to the “Posts” section. However, it has a different purpose. Pages should be used exclusively for creating static pages which are rarely updated.
Good examples of such static pages are a contact page, an about me page, terms of service, privacy, or any other page that is not part of your website’s primary content.
The main difference between the two is posts are displayed in chronological order on the main page of your website while pages are not. Pages also don’t appear in feeds (e.g. RSS, or Atom) and cannot be associated with categories.
All content you want your visitors and search engines to engage with should be written as a post.
Comments section is pretty self-explanatory. It contains all the comments which are posted on your posts and pages (if enabled).
When you have moderation enabled all new comments are sent to the pending tab where you can go over each one of them to either deny or approve.
Anti-spam plugins such as Akismet automatically put blatant spam into the spam tab.
Appearance menu is responsible… well, for the appearance of your website. This is where you can install new themes from the official WordPress theme gallery, or third-party developers.
Here you can change the layout and appearance of a theme using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. Which means you don’t need to have any knowledge of HTML, PHP or CSS to make simple edits. Good for beginners because you can’t really break your website using this editor.
Widgets allow you to add content, or features to your website’s sidebar. For example, want to show your social media profiles? Add a widget and you can add as many social profiles you like. Want to show your Instagram feed? There’s a widget for that too.
Here you have the ability to add and edit menus for your website. Many WordPress themes have support for multiple menus in different locations.
For example, this website has two menus, one in the header section and one in the footer. They have completely different links thanks to the “Menus” customization available in WordPress.
Theme Editor allows you to edit code of your theme. If you have no clue what you’re doing, I strongly advise you don’t touch the theme editor at all. One single line of code can break the whole website.
Plugins allow you to add and extend functionality of WordPress. Essentially, they add a few lines of code to your website without the need of programming it yourself. It’s like apps but for WordPress.
The plugin editor allows you to edit code of individual plugins similar to the theme editor. I recommend you don’t touch it as well since breaking the website completely is a matter of a few misplaced commas.
Users allow you to add new users and assign them specific roles such as author, contributor, editor and so on. This allows multiple people to write content for your website without having administrator privileges.
Only the administrator has access to WordPress settings, all other roles can only manage posts.
You can also edit user individual settings such as user biography, profile picture, admin theme etc. All you have to do is hover over the user you want to manage and click “Edit“.
Tools allow you to import and export all of your content to other blogging platforms. There are also options to both erase and export personal data from current WordPress installations.
Another useful tool here is “Site Health” where you can see certain issues with the performance of your website.
While this particular tool is not that helpful for beginners it’s definitely something to check out if you’re an advanced WordPress user who would like to further optimize their website for speed and usability.
This menu is responsible for the most basic configuration of your WordPress website.
Here you can change website name and tagline if you haven’t done so during WordPress installation.
You can choose an appropriate time zone, time and date format to use. This is useful if you’re looking to schedule posts to go live in your local time.
Also, WordPress is available in many languages so if you’re more comfortable using your native language you can select a different language here.
Here you can set up your default post format, default category, and configure settings related to posting via email.
The way posting via email works is you send an email containing your post to a specific email address and WordPress will automatically publish that post.
This section allows you to display a list of your latest posts on your homepage, or a static page which you can create in the “Pages” menu. You can also choose how many posts appear on the homepage.
It’s recommended to show no more than 6 posts to improve loading times of your homepage.
Lastly, you can disallow search engines from indexing your website until you are ready to lunch. This option is unchecked by default.
This is where you have the option to make sure all the discussion which occurs on your website is civil. Generally, the default values are fine and you don’t need to worry about any of these settings.
These settings affect the way images are managed and organized in the Media Library. Default values are suitable for the majority of WordPress users.
Permalinks settings are probably the most important settings in this category. This setting is responsible for how URLs are generated and display. This is useful for search engine visibility and user experience.
The best setting in most cases is the Post name setting. It eliminates categories and date from the URL which moves post name (which usually includes keywords) closer to the root domain. This is generally considered better for ranking higher in search engines.
You’ve reached the end of my WordPress 101 tutorial. Hopefully, you have a decent idea of how to use WordPress now. As you may have noticed I haven’t covered how to actually write a post because that’s going to be a separate tutorial.
All in all, WordPress is not a difficult CMS (content management system) to learn. The out of the box settings are more than suitable for beginners.
As long as you don’t edit any code using the built-in theme, or plugin editor you should be fine and ready to start publishing amazing content.