A Guide To The WordPress Admin Dashboard

If you are new to WordPress, you may initially feel overwhelmed by the many different options you are presented with and you may feel a little lost by not knowing exactly what they are or what they do. This guide aims to help with this by explaining how the WordPress backend works and clarifies the purpose of each available option.

While WordPress offers powerful customisation, its core interface is intuitive and easy to grasp. The default installation displays nine main sections neatly arranged in a vertical menu on the left-hand side of the screen. Familiarising yourself with these areas is the key to mastering WordPress.

WordPress Options:

  • Dashboard – Provides an overview displaying recent activity and key site metrics.
  • Posts – Create and manage blog posts, the main content unit within WordPress.
  • Media – Upload and manage all media files like images and documents.
  • Pages – Build and edit static pages.
  • Comments – Review, edit, approve, and respond to user-submitted comments.
  • Appearance – Customise visual design themes and presentation.
  • Plugins – Extend functionality by installing plugins.
  • Users – Add, remove or edit site users and authors.
  • Tools – Perform various maintenance tasks and imports.
  • Settings – Configure general site settings and options.

The Dashboard

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Let’s begin with the WordPress dashboard, this is the first screen you will see when you log in to the backend of your WordPress website. The main dashboard page in WordPress serves as the centralised control centre for your website. At the top, your site’s title and tagline [1] are prominently displayed, often serving as a direct link back to the homepage (left) and your username and account details (right), as well as a log out button.

The Welcome box [2] greets you with introductory information and directs you to essential tasks such as customising your site or creating a new post. The “At a Glance” [3] section offers a quick snapshot of your site’s status, including the number of published posts, pages, comments and the current WordPress version. The “Activity” [4] section keeps you informed about the latest on your site, featuring recently published posts and comments. For rapid idea capture, the “Quick Draft” [5] provides a simple text editor. Additionally, the “WordPress News” [6] section keeps you updated with the latest developments from the official WordPress blog. 

To tailor the dashboard to your preferences, the “Screen Options” [7] tab at the top right corner allows you to add or remove widgets, shaping the dashboard to suit your workflow.

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Overall, the WordPress admin dashboard provides an efficient and user-friendly interface, allowing you to manage your site’s various elements seamlessly from a single page.

Left Side Navigation Menu

Now let’s explore the left-hand navigation options, starting with Dashboard.

The Dashboard link takes you back to the main dashboard page we just talked out above. Under the Dashboard menu, you have Home – which is also a link returning you to the central dashboard. Below this is an Updates link. The Updates page summarises any available updates for the WordPress Core, themes, and plugins that you have installed. When updates are available, the link typically displays a small notification circle indicating the number of updates ready for installation.

Staying up-to-date is important, so periodically checking the updates page lets you maintain a secure, fully-featured WordPress site.


The “Posts” menu in WordPress is a central hub for managing and creating blog posts on your website. Here’s a breakdown of the main items within the “Posts” menu:

All Posts: This section displays a list of all the posts on your WordPress site. You can view, edit, or delete existing posts from here. You can use the filter options at the top to sort posts based on categories, tags, and dates.

Add New: Clicking on “Add New” takes you to the post editor, where you can create a new blog post. In the post editor, you can add a title, write the content of your post using the visual or text editor, assign categories and tags, set a featured image, and more.

You can save your post as a draft, preview it, or publish it immediately or at a scheduled date and time.

Categories: This section allows you to manage and create categories for your blog posts. Categories are used to organise your content into different topics or sections.

When you create a new post or edit an existing one, you can assign it to one or more categories to help visitors navigate your content more easily.

Tags: Similar to categories, tags are used to further classify and organise your content. Tags are more specific and can be used to highlight key topics or themes within a post.

You can add tags to your posts while creating or editing them. Tags make it easier for users to find related content on your site.


The “Pages” menu in WordPress is a central hub for managing and creating static pages on your website. Here’s a breakdown of the main items within the “Pages” menu:

All Pages: Similar to “All Posts,” the “All Pages” section displays a list of all the pages on your WordPress site. You can view, edit, or delete existing pages from here.

The list provides information such as the page title, author, date of last modification, and page attributes.

Add New: Clicking on “Add New” takes you to the page editor, where you can create a new static page. The page editor is similar to the post editor but may have fewer options depending on your theme and plugins. You can add a title, write content, insert media, and choose a page template if your theme supports it.

Pages are typically used for content that doesn’t change frequently, such as an “About Us” page or a “Contact” page.

Posts vs Pages

In WordPress, posts and pages serve distinct purposes. Posts are typically used for dynamic, time-sensitive content such as blog entries and news updates, organised chronologically with categories and tags, and often encourage user engagement through comments.

Pages are designed for static, permanent content like the About Us or Contact pages. They are hierarchical and organised in the site’s main navigation, offering a structured presentation of information. Unlike posts, pages do not follow a chronological order.


WordPress Media Menu Option

The “Media” menu is for managing and organising all the media assets associated with your WordPress website. It streamlines the process of adding and handling images, videos, and other files, making it easier to integrate multimedia elements into your content.

Media Library: The “Library” is a centralised repository that stores all the media files such as images, audio files, videos, and documents that you’ve uploaded to your WordPress site.

In the library, you can view a grid or list of your media files, filter them based on type, and perform bulk actions like deleting or editing metadata.

Clicking on a specific media file allows you to see details like file type, dimensions, and attachment details.

Add New Media File: The “Add New Media File” option in the “Media” menu allows you to upload new media files to your site.

You can either drag and drop files into the designated area or click to browse and select files from your computer.

WordPress automatically generates different sizes of images (thumbnails, medium, large) to be used in various contexts on your site.

Media Files in Posts/Pages

When creating or editing a post or page, you can easily insert media from your library into the content. You can choose the display settings for images, such as alignment and size, directly from the post or page editor.


WordPress Comments Menu Option

The “Comments” menu is a tool for managing user engagement on your WordPress site. It helps you maintain a healthy discussion environment, prevent spam, and ensure that your audience’s contributions are appropriately moderated and displayed on your posts and pages.

Comments: The “Comments” menu in WordPress allows you to manage and moderate comments on your site.

In the “Comments” section, you can view a list of all comments left on your posts and pages. Each comment displays information such as the commenter’s name, email, the content of the comment, and the post/page to which it is associated.

You can perform actions like approving, marking as spam, editing, or deleting comments directly from this interface.

As a site owner, you can reply to comments directly from the “Comments” section, promoting engagement and interaction with your audience.

Comment Moderation

Comment moderation is a feature to control the quality of discussions on your site. Unapproved comments won’t be visible to the public until you manually approve them.

Comments marked as spam are filtered out to maintain a clean and secure environment. WordPress has built-in spam filters, and you can also use third-party plugins to enhance spam protection.

The “Comments” menu is closely tied to the Discussion settings in WordPress. In the admin dashboard, under Settings > Discussion, you can configure settings such as comment moderation, default comment settings for new articles, and whether comments require manual approval.


WordPress Appearance Menu Option

As the name suggests, the “Appearance” section allows you to change the visual aspects of your WordPress site. From choosing and customising themes to making code-level edits via the “Editor,” it offers a range of tools for tailoring your site’s look and functionality.

Themes: The “Themes” section in the “Appearance” menu is where you can manage and customise the overall look and feel of your WordPress site.

You can browse and activate different themes, which are pre-designed templates that control the layout and design of your site.

WordPress comes with a default theme, but you can install and activate other themes to change the appearance of your site. Themes often include customisation options for colours, fonts, and layout.

Theme File Editor: The “Editor” option under the “Appearance” menu provides a way to directly edit the code of your theme files.

Users with the necessary permissions can modify theme files, including style sheets (CSS), template files, and functions.php. This allows for advanced customisation, but caution is advised as incorrect changes can break the site.

It’s recommended to use a child theme or a site-specific plugin for customisations to avoid losing changes during theme updates.

Customize: While the “Editor” allows for code-level customization, the “Theme Customizer” (accessible under “Appearance” > “Customize”) is a more user-friendly interface for making visual adjustments to your theme.

The “Theme Customizer” lets you preview changes in real-time before applying them, making it easier to customize colours, fonts, header and footer settings, and more.

Widgets and Menus: The “Appearance” menu also includes options for managing widgets and menus.

Widgets allow you to add and arrange various elements in your theme’s widgetized areas, like sidebars.

Menus lets you create and customise navigation menus for your site.


The “Plugins” menu allows you to manage plugins which extend the functionality and features of WordPress. This section allows you to install new plugins and for advanced users, it also allows editing plugin code through the “Plugin Editor”.

Installed Plugins: The “Installed Plugins” section in the “Plugins” menu provides an overview of all the plugins currently active on your WordPress site.

From here, you can activate, deactivate, or delete plugins. You can also check for plugin updates and access settings specific to each installed plugin.

Add New Plugin: The “Add New Plugin” option in the “Plugins” menu allows you to search for and install new plugins directly from the WordPress Plugin Directory.

You can search for plugins by keyword, browse popular plugins, and filter by featured, popular, recommended, and favourite plugins.

Once you find a plugin you want, you can install it with just a few clicks.

Plugin Editor: The “Plugin Editor” is a feature under the “Plugins” menu that allows you to edit the code of active plugins.

It provides direct access to the PHP files of plugins, enabling advanced users to make customisations.

As with the theme editor, it’s crucial to exercise caution when using the Plugin Editor to avoid breaking functionality. Consider creating a backup or using a site-specific plugin for code modifications.

Plugin Settings

Each installed plugin may have its own settings page, accessible either from the “Installed Plugins” section or a dedicated menu item.

Plugin settings allow you to configure how the plugin functions on your site. Settings can vary widely depending on the plugin’s purpose, such as SEO optimization, security, contact forms, and more.


WordPress User Menu Option

The “Users” menu is for managing the individuals who interact with your WordPress site, including site administrators. From this section, you can create new user accounts and edit user profiles. You can also assign users specific roles which is a tool to control access limitations.

All Users: The “All Users” section under the “Users” menu provides a list of all registered users on your WordPress site.

From here, you can see user details such as username, name, email, and role. You can also edit user information, change roles, and perform actions like deleting users.

Add New: The “Add New” option in the “Users” menu allows you to create a new user account for your WordPress site.

When adding a new user, you will be asked to provide information such as username, email, and password. You can also assign a role to the user, determining their level of access and permissions on the site.

Profile: The “Profile” section is where individual users can edit and manage their own profile settings.

Users can update personal information, change passwords, set display name preferences, and configure notification settings.

Additionally, users with the necessary permissions can choose their visual editor preference and update other account-related details.

User Roles

WordPress includes predefined user roles such as Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, and Subscriber, each with different capabilities.

User roles dictate what actions users can perform on the site. For example, administrators have full control, while contributors can write and edit their own posts but cannot publish them.

User Permissions

User permissions are associated with roles and determine the actions a user can perform. For instance, an administrator can manage all aspects of the site, while a subscriber has limited access.

User roles and permissions are crucial for controlling access and maintaining security on your WordPress site.


WordPress Tools Menu Option

The “Tools” menu in WordPress offers utilities to manage your site, from content migration and backups to monitoring site health and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations. Each tool serves a specific purpose, contributing to the overall functionality and maintenance of your WordPress site.

Available Tools: The “Available Tools” section in the “Tools” menu typically contains any tools or features provided by plugins or themes that extend the functionality of your WordPress site.

These tools may vary based on the plugins and themes you have installed.

Import: The “Import” tool in the “Tools” menu allows you to import content from other content management systems (CMS) or platforms into your WordPress site.

WordPress provides importers for various platforms, including Blogger, Tumblr, and others. It facilitates the migration of content seamlessly.

Export: The “Export” tool allows you to create a backup of your WordPress content in a standardised XML format.

You can choose to export all content or select specific content types, such as posts, pages, or media. This export file can be used to migrate content to another WordPress site.

Site Health: The “Site Health” tool provides an overview of your site’s performance, security, and WordPress environment.

It includes information about critical issues, recommended improvements, and gives insights into your server configuration and WordPress setup.

The Site Health tool is helpful for diagnosing potential issues and ensuring your site is running optimally.

Export Personal Data: The “Export Personal Data” tool helps you comply with data protection regulations, such as GDPR.

Users can request and download a file containing their personal data stored on the site. Site administrators can use this tool to generate and send these data export files to users upon request.

Erase Personal Data: The “Erase Personal Data” tool allows you to delete personal data associated with a specific user upon their request.

This tool helps site administrators comply with privacy regulations by providing a way to erase an individual’s personal data from the site.


Each section under the “Settings” menu plays a crucial role in configuring the fundamental aspects of your WordPress website, from basic information to content presentation, discussion settings, media handling, URL structure, and privacy compliance.

General: The “General” settings allow you to configure basic site information, including the site title, tagline, and URL.

You can also set the time zone, date format, and time format for your site. Additionally, you can specify how you want the week to start.

Writing: The “Writing” settings let you configure default settings for creating and editing posts.

You can set the default category and post format, enable or disable specific writing features, and configure the post via email option if your site supports it.

Reading: The “Reading” settings control how your site’s content is displayed.

You can choose whether your homepage displays a static page or your latest posts. Additionally, you can set the number of blog posts to display on the main blog page and in syndication feeds.

Discussion: The “Discussion” settings allow you to configure options related to comments and discussions on your site.

You can control settings such as whether comments need to be manually approved, whether comment threading is enabled, and the default settings for articles and media.

Media: The “Media” settings control the sizes of images that are uploaded to your site.

You can define the dimensions for thumbnail, medium, and large-sized images. WordPress automatically generates these sizes when you upload media to your site.

Permalinks: The “Permalinks” settings enable you to customise the structure of your site’s URLs.

You can choose from common permalink structures or create a custom structure. Permalinks are crucial for search engine optimization and the overall usability of your site.

Privacy: The “Privacy” settings allow you to configure the privacy policy page for your site.

You can designate a specific page as your privacy policy page, and WordPress will generate a link to it in your site’s footer. This is often used to comply with privacy regulations.

And there you have it! Hopefully, this guide has provided you with some of the answers you’ve been looking for regarding the WordPress dashboard and that it has also offered you valuable insights into its various options.

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