Learning how to use a new WordPress blog is a lot like learning how to drive a car. There are so many different features. And each one has its own important role.
In the last post, I walked you through the front-end elements of a WordPress blog. In other words, what a blog visitor sees when they visit a blog. Or, using our driving analogy – it’s kind of like learning about what all the different road signs mean.
Today, it’s time to get behind the “wheel” of your new WordPress blog and learn where everything is, and what it’s for.
So…What’s with the driving analogy?
My daughter recently turned 16 which is legal driving age here in Canada 😳 So I’ve got all things “driving” on my mind. 😂
Not to mention, it’s actually a pretty apt analogy. When you’re first learning to drive there’s a lot to know.
When you’re first getting started blogging, there’s ALSO a lot to know.
Anyways… continuing on with our analogy…
If you’ve never driven a car before, or if you’ve just bought a brand new car, it’s not like you can hop in and start driving. First, you have to familiarize yourself with the car. You have to figure out where everything is and how it works.
That’s what this post is all about. I am going to give you a tour of the WordPress dashboard – which is the back end of a WordPress blog. In other words, the part of the blog that only you will see when you are logged in.
The Correct Terminology
A lot of people refer to the back-end of a blog as the “WordPress dashboard.”
Technically, that’s incorrect.
The actual name of the back end of a blog is the administrative area. Or the admin area.
When you first log into the admin area, your home screen is what’s actually called the “dashboard.” So for simplicity, that’s the term people use.
The reason I called the admin area the “dashboard” in my post title, is because that’s what’s familiar to most bloggers. Plus it flows off the tongue a little easier than “WordPress Admin Area.”
So for the purposes of this post, you’ll hear me use the terms “WordPress dashboard” and “WordPress Admin Area,” interchangeably.
So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dive in.
I’ve put together both a video tour and a step-by-step photo tour. And let me tell you, there are a LOT of photos. I figured though that it will be a good reference if you want to come back and find something quickly.
Video Tour: An Overview Of The WordPress Dashboard
*Please refresh your page if you don’t see the video below*
Step-By-Step Photo Tour: An Overview Of The WordPress Dashboard
To get to your WordPress dashboard, you want to use your admin URL: https://yourdomain.com/wp-admin. In other words – whatever your domain is – with /wp-admin at the end of it. That will take you to the login area shown below.
From there, enter your admin username and password (which you set up when you installed WordPress on your blog host) and click on “Log In.”
You will then be re-directed to your “official” WordPress dashboard.
The WordPress Dashboard
The page shown below is your admin “home page.” And as you can see, it is officially called the “dashboard.”
It’s important to note that the WordPress dashboard that you are seeing here is one that has already been cleaned up.
And, I have not yet added any plugins to it. FYI: plugins are pieces of software that add extra features to your blog. I’ll talk more about them in a later post.
As you begin adding content to your blog and adding plugins, the exact appearance of the WordPress dashboard will change.
There are three main areas in your WordPress back end. At the top (in red), there is the WordPress Toolbar. Along the side (in blue), there is the admin navigation. The center area (in green) is called the admin screen. What you see displayed in the admin screen will change depending on which option you choose from the admin navigation.
The WordPress Toolbar
The WordPress Toolbar is at the very top of your admin area. As you can see, there are options on the left (1) and on the right (2).
Starting at the far left. If you hover over the WordPress icon, a dropdown menu will appear. All of the menu options will take you to different areas of the WordPress blog. This menu is really only necessary if you need WordPress-specific information. So I almost never click on those links.
Beside the WordPress icon, you’ll see a little house icon with the words “My Blog” beside it. The words “my blog” will change once you give your site a name.
So once I officially change the name of my blog, the blog’s name will show up in place of “my blog.” If you hover over the house icon, a dropdown menu will appear. If you click on “visit site” it will take you to the public side of your blog.
Beside the house icon, is a comments icon with a number beside it. This tells you how many comments you have “in moderation.” So comments that you need to look at and manually approve (something we’ll talk about in a later post).
To the right of the comments is a “+” icon with the word “New” beside it (see picture below). If you hover over it, a dropdown menu will appear. All of the options in the dropdown menu are a shortcut to adding new content to your blog.
If you click on “post” you will be redirected to the post editor screen where you would create a new post. The “media” link takes you to the media upload page. The “page” link takes you to the new page editor screen. And the “user” link takes you to the new user page (to add new users to your blog). We’ll be taking a look at each of these sections later on in the post.
At the far right of the toolbar, you will see links to your profile in your WordPress admin area. If you click on “Edit my profile” it will take you directly to your user information. If you click on “log out,” you will be logged out of your WordPress dashboard.
It’s super important to remember to log out every time you are finished working on your blog.
The last thing that’s important to know about the WordPress toolbar, is that when you are logged in to your blog, you will see the toolbar from the public side of your site. However, you will notice that some of the options will change.
The picture below is a screenshot of MY VIEW of the public site of my site while I’m logged in.
When you are looking at the WordPress toolbar from the front end of your blog – instead of the little house icon, you can see there is a speedometer icon with the blog name beside it (“My Blog”).
If you hover over it, you will see a different dropdown menu.
There are 4 different options to choose from. The first will take you to the WordPress dashboard. Each of the other options will take you to different admin screens within your WordPress admin area. I’ll be talking about each of these options later on in this post.
Next, you’ll see a little paintbrush icon with the word “customize” beside it.
If you click on the “customize” link, an entirely new menu will appear to the left of your blog (the public view). You’ll also notice little pencil icons appear on the public view of your blog.
This menu is the customization menu. It allows you to customize certain elements in the design of your blog.
The options that you will see in the customization menu depend on which theme you ultimately choose for your blog.
Now, I won’t be talking about the customization menu in this post. Rather I’m going to save it for the post where I will be showing you how to add a theme to your blog and customize it. Because as I mentioned, the available options will change.
Okay, so let’s go back to the admin area of your blog. To do this from the public side of your site hover over the speedometer icon and select “Dashboard.”
When you are on the WordPress dashboard, you’ll notice a sidebar to the left. This is called the admin navigation. Regardless of where you are in your WordPress admin area, both the WordPress toolbar AND the sidebar will remain constant.
However, when you select an option from either your WordPress toolbar OR the admin navigation, you will notice that your admin screen changes. Each option in the toolbar and admin navigation represent different “sections” within your WordPress back-end. Each of these sections has its own admin screen(s).
For example, in the picture below you can see that “Home” is selected (see sidebar). The dashboard – is the admin screen for your back end home page. This is the page from “WordPress Dashboard” gets its name.
So now, let’s take a look at the different options within the admin navigation.
Updates Admin Area
The second option on your admin navigation is the “Updates” section.
If you’ve ever used any kind of software before (including smartphone apps), then you’ll know that updates are always being released. The purpose of the updates is to fix bugs or to add new features.
A WordPress blog has several different software types. There is WordPress itself (your blogging software). There are themes (the “outfit” you choose for your blog). And there are plugins (which add extra features to your blog).
Whenever an update to any of these pieces of software is released, it will show up in the WordPress toolbar. The updates icon looks like a circular set of double arrows. The number beside it represents the number of updates there are.
Every single time you log into your blog you want to check to see if there are updates.
If you see that icon, click on it, and you’ll be taken to the updates screen. You can also click on “updates” in the admin navigation to get to the updates screen.
The updates screen will show you what needs to be updated. When everything is up-to-date the screen will look as follows:
In the picture above you can clearly see the three different update sections: WordPress, Plugins and Themes.
Now when there ARE updates, you’ll see them listed below the relevant section. For example, in the picture below you can see that this blog has 3 plugins that need to be updated.
To update them, I would click on the box beside “select all” (see #1), then click on “update plugins” (see #2).
Once your updates are complete, you will once again see this screen:
Posts Admin Area
The next section in the admin navigation is “Posts.” If you hover over the posts link, you’ll see a fly-out menu with four options.
The first option is “All Posts.” As you can see, once you select an option, the fly-out menu disappears. The menu options then appear in the admin navigation beneath the section you are in.
When your blog is brand new, and you’ve cleaned out the sample content, you won’t see anything on the Posts Admin Screen.
This will change once you begin creating content for your blog. The picture below is a screenshot of the back-end of this blog. You’ll notice that as you start creating posts, new folders will appear.
If you look at the selected area below you’ll see that there are 25 published posts, 4 posts that are in draft mode, and 1 post that is in the trash. You won’t always see these folders. For example, if you have no drafts or no posts in trash, you won’t see the drafts or the trash folders.
Add New Post
The next option in the Posts Admin Area is “Add New.” The screen that you see in the admin area is called the post editor screen. The post editor is divided into two sections. The editing screen (labeled post editor below) and the editing options (outlined in green).
The editing screen is where you add, style and edit content. The screen that you are seeing below is called the Gutenberg Editor. It’s a block editor, and it was released when WordPress was updated to version 5.0
The original post editor looked as shown in the picture below. If you’ve ever used any kind of word processing software, then that screen format will likely look familiar. The post editor format below is the Classic Editor.
At this point in time, every new WordPress blog will by default include the Gutenberg editor. There is however a plugin called “Classic Editor” which allows you to use the classic instead of the Gutenberg editor.
Next up is categories. WordPress categories are a way of grouping posts on your blog. It’s one of the ways that you can organize your content in WordPress.
For example, on Blog to Biz Strategies, my niche is blogging. That means that all the content I create is about blogging. However, I can group my content into various categories. Some category examples are how to start a blog, blogging faqs, make money blogging, blogging lifestyle etc.
On the category admin screen (shown below) you can add new categories (left side of the screen) and edit your categories (right side of the screen).
If you are interested, you can read more about categories in this post from FirstGuide.com.
Tags are another way of organizing your content within WordPress. They tend to be smaller in scope than a category. While a category is more like a broad topic, a tag would be kind of like a keyword. As with categories, the tags admin screen is divided into two sections. On the left you can add tags, on the right you can view and edit them.
I’ll be talking more about categories and tags in a later post.
Media Admin Area
Media is any image, audio, video or other files that you add to your blog. As a general rule, I would recommend that the only media that you add directly into the media area of your blog is pictures. The reason for this is that other file types can take up a lot of space and eat up a lot of bandwidth. And bandwidth plays a big role in how much you pay for hosting.
There are two options in the media admin area. The Library and “Add New.”
The media library shows you all the media that you have uploaded to your site. With a new site, your media library will be empty (see picture below).
Once you start adding media to your site, you will see it appear in your media library. The screenshot below is from my media library here. Each thumbnail represents an image I have uploaded.
Add New Media
To add new media, you can select the “add new” option from the media menu. To add an image you can click on “select files” from the admin screen. Or, you can simply drag an image from your computer into the dotted box (where it says drop files here).
You’ll rarely ever add files directly from the media admin area. More commonly, you’ll upload them from within the page or the post editor. Every once in a while, if I run into issues adding images in posts or pages, I’ll add them from the media admin area.
Pages Admin Area
The pages admin area is similar to the posts admin area. The posts admin area is where you add your regular content. So all the articles that you are creating for your blog.
The pages area is for adding in the more static content to your site. So the content that pretty much stays the same. Examples of pages on a blog are the home, recent posts, about, contact, and start here pages.
As you can see, there are two options within the pages admin area.
The first option is all pages. This gives you a view of all the pages you have on your blog. It looks virtually identical to the all posts area. Right now as you can see it is empty. And the only folder showing is “all.” As with the all posts screen, once you begin to create pages you will see a published, drafts and trash folder appear.
Add New Page
The add new page screen is also virtually identical to the add new post screen. The big difference you’ll notice once you start working in the pages area is that there are fewer options. For example, there are no categories or tags for pages.
Comments Admin Area
Every time someone leaves a comment on one of your blog posts (or pages), it will appear in the comments admin area.
Once you start getting comments it will look something like the image below. You can see the commenter’s name, website (if they entered it), and email address. You can also see when the comment was submitted and on which post.
You’ll notice that there are several different folders within the comments area. Whenever you respond to someone’s comment, it will show up under the “mine” folder.
If you have set up your blog so that comments have to be moderated, you will see them appear in the “pending” folder. Comments that have been approved are in the “approved” folder. Comments you delete end up in the “trash” folder until you permanently delete them.
Finally, there is the “spam” folder. It is inevitable that you will receive spammy comments. These are comments from people who use their comment to promote their stuff. Often, spam comments will contain tons of links.
To a certain degree, WordPress will filter out spam comments and put them in the spam folder for you to review. There is also an anti-spam plugin you can add, which we’ll talk about in a later post.
Appearance Admin Area
The appearance admin area contains various options that control how your blog looks to the outside world.
First up is themes. Themes are like outfits for your blog. By default, WordPress adds in a few themes when it’s first installed. Every year WordPress has a default theme named after the year it is released.
When you install WordPress it will usually include the three most recent themes. And the most recent theme is the one that will be active. When I am cleaning up my blog, I like to get rid of all but one theme. Right now, of the default themes, my current preference is Twenty Seventeen. So that’s the one I left active.
Once I’m ready to style my blog, I will add in the theme of my choice. However, I always keep the default theme for troubleshooting purposes.
In the image below you can see the theme I like to use (Astra), plus the Twenty Seventeen default theme.
Do you remember when I showed you the customize option in the WordPress Toolbar?
When you click on customize you will be taken to the customization menu on the public side of your site.
A widget is a small block that performs a certain function on your blog. Blog sidebars are typically made up of widgets. However, sidebars aren’t the only places that use widgets. Depending on the theme that you use for your blog, there may be other areas where you can add widgets – such as the header or footer.
Any area on a blog that allows widgets, are called widget-ready areas.
When you are on the widget screen, you will see a listing of the available widgets on the left. On the right, you will see the widget-ready areas on your blog displayed. Again, how many widget ready areas you see will depend on your theme.
Most blogs themes have standard widgets. These include search, categories, archives, text, images etc. You can also download plugins that allow you to add even more widgets to your blog.
To add a widget to a widget area on your blog, simply click and drag a widget from the left to the widget-ready area you want it displayed in.
I’ll talk more about widgets in a later post.
Menus is short for Navigation Menu. I talked about this in the last post. Essentially it’s a menu that contains links to various pages or sections of your blog. You can have various different menus on your blog. And the menus admin screen is where you create and edit these menus.
In the image above, underneath “menus” you’ll see a “header” option. This option is for styling the header of your blog. So if you click on it, it will take you to the public side of your site, to your header. Whether or not you see this option in your WordPress dashboard will depend on what theme you are using.
DO NOT TOUCH the theme editor! Yes, I meant to shout 😂.
The theme editor connects you directly to the code that makes up your theme. And whatever you do, you don’t want to muck around in there. One wrong move and you can break your entire site. In fact, if you click on the theme editor link, you’ll see a warning pop up.
Plugins Admin Area
The next section in your administrative menu is the Plugins admin area. Plugins are pieces of software that allow you to add additional features or functionality to your site.
By default, a new WordPress installation may have a few plugins installed. I always delete them when I am first starting out (ie. when I am DIYing my blog).
To see what plugins are installed on your blog, select “installed plugins.” Right now, because I am working with a fresh WordPress install that has been cleaned, there is nothing listed.
As you begin to add plugins to your blog, you’ll start to see that screen fill up like the picture you see below.
Add New Plugin
To add a new plugin to your site, select “add new.” From there you simply type in the name of the plugin you are looking for. Alternately you can type in some keywords. Note that all the plugins that you add via the “add plugins” admin screen are part of the free WordPress plugin repository. In some cases, you can upgrade to the premium version from within the free plugin itself.
For some premium plugins, you may have to purchase them directly from the software developer. In that case, rather than searching for the plugins, you have to download them from the company you bought them from. Once downloaded, you then manually upload them to your blog.
As with the theme editor (which we discussed above), the plugin editor takes you directly to the plugin code. And as with the theme editor, you don’t want to mess with it. So stay out of this area of your WordPress dashboard.
Users Admin Area
With a brand new WordPress installation, you will be the only user on your blog. And in most cases, it’s likely that you will always be the ONLY user.
Here you can see a screenshot of the “all users” area. I am the only one listed, and my “role” is as an administrator. I do recommend that you create a second administrator account from within your WordPress dashboard, for security. So just in case you ever accidentally lock yourself out, it will give you a way in.
Now you do have the option to add other users. What that means is that you are giving them access to the back end of your site. As you can see from the image below, you can assign users different roles.
The different user roles give the users different permissions. In other words, it defines what they are able to access within the WordPress dashboard.
The administrator (which is what you are) has access to everything. That can be super dangerous if the wrong person has administrator access. Because they can literally change anything and everything.
On my blog, the only people who have administrator access are myself (and I have two admin accounts), and my web host – Webs by Amy.
So when might you want to add other users? Well, if you have a blog where you have multiple people contributing posts to the blog. Then you could set them up as authors.
The roles most often used are either the administrator or the author roles.
To add a new user, select add user. You would then assign them a username, email, and password. You would also assign them a role (as discussed above).
The “your profile” section is where you go to edit your user information. It also gives you some customization options for the back end of your site. This is also where you would go to change your password if you needed to.
Tools Admin Area
The tools admin area is an area that you will likely rarely ever use.
The only options within tools that I will point out are the import and export options.
If you are transitioning to WordPress from another blogging platform, WordPress gives you the option to import your content.
The export screen allows you to export content from your WordPress blog. The only time I have ever used the export option is when I wanted to download contents from one blog in order to amalgamate it with another blog.
The last section in the Admin Navigation is the Settings section.
Settings Admin Area
You can think of the “settings” section as the central hub of your blog to configure the settings for different sections of a WordPress website. I won’t be going over them in this post because I’ll be covering them in detail in an upcoming post on how to configure your WordPress settings.
Whew! This post has been a real doozy! Over 50 images! Yikes!
But…there is a lot to know.
I realize we just skimmed over each section. However, the purpose of this post was to give you a general idea of all your different options in the WordPress dashboard. In future posts and video tutorials, we’ll be digging deeper into just about every section I covered in this post.
As always, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below. Then check back for my response. I usually respond to comments within 24-48 hours.