If you have just created your first website with WordPress, congratulations! You will now be faced with the WordPress Dashboard for the first time, which might look a little confusing. There is a lot going on, but it’s not as scary as it seems!
This article will take you through each part of the WordPress Dashboard and give you a quick description of what each section is for. Note that this article is for complete beginners to WordPress, and so if you already have some decent experience with the Dashboard and other aspects of WordPress, this article might not be of much benefit to you! If you don’t have a WordPress site set up yet, you’re going to need some hosting. To find out more about the different hosting options out there, check out this article.
So, let’s start at the top – literally!
The Top Bar
This is where you will find the most basic components of the WordPress Dashboard, and there are only a few things here that I personally find useful. Your top bar will probably look slightly different to mine, as indicated in the image below, as you won’t have a few of the items I do. For a start, you can ignore the Yoast symbol, along with Autoptimize, Insights and UpdraftPlus*. These are specific plugins that I use, and although you may have them too, I won’t be talking about them in detail here.
Keep an eye out for future articles about these specific plugins!
Over at the left-hand side you have the WordPress logo. Clicking on this will allow you to access WordPress.org, where you can find out more about the platform. You can also access things like the documentation section (which has some useful info about all things WordPress), the support section and the feedback area.
Moving right we have the site title, which if you hover over it will give you the option to visit your site. This does exactly what it says on the tin, so nothing too complex here.
Next up is the comment section, which is a quick way to check out any comments on your posts. One more to the right is the Add New button. This is a shortcut to add new things to your site such as posts or pages, as well as media too.
To the right of the Add New button you will find some extra options if you have various plugins installed. Here you can see a few that I have installed on Sophical Content, and this will look different depending on the plugins you have installed. If you don’t have any yet, there won’t be anything else until you get over to the far-right hand corner.
This is where you will find your profile. This is something I rarely click on, but it is where you will be able to edit your profile and log out of your account. Editing your profile will give you options to edit the way your WordPress Dashboard looks with a selection of colour schemes, and you can also add links to your social media channels here too.
That’s it for the top bar, now let’s move over to the sidebar. This is the chunk of options you see on the left-hand side of your screen when you land on the WordPress Dashboard. This has a lot more going on than the top bar, and most of the options are very useful.
Below the Dashboard button at the top you have the Home and Updates section. This is where you can check if you need to update any themes or plugins, or WordPress itself. Below that you might have some other options available to you depending on your plugins, as you can see here, I have the insights option thanks to Monster Insights.
The next section is the place to go when you want to add a new post. Hovering over this option will allow you to go to a page that lists all of your posts on your site for quick editing, and it gives you the option to quickly add a new one too. There are Categories and Tags sections too, which will take you to pages where you can see lists of both of these and edit them accordingly.
Media & Posts
The Media section below this is handy for adding photos and videos to your site in bulk. As you create posts and pages you will be able to add media as you go. However, if you already know in advance which photos you want to use on your site, or if you just have a lot on hand that you want to be able to quickly choose from, you can click on the Add Media button.
This will take you to a drag and drop page, making it super easy to add media to your WordPress site. The other option will take you to your media library, which is handy when you want to delete lots of your media at one time, such as a collection of unused photos.
The Pages section is much like the Posts section. It allows you to quickly add a new page to your site or see all the pages you already have. This is where to go if you want to organise your pages, change their titles and other attributes or apply bulk actions. This could consist of deleting multiple pages at once or editing the attributes of several pages simultaneously.
The Comments button is much like the Comments button in the top bar. It will simply take you to a page showing all of the comments on your site.
The Most Useful Section of the WordPress Dashboard
Next, we have the Appearance section. This is perhaps the most useful section of the WordPress Dashboard, especially when you are just getting started. This is where you will be able to customise the way your WordPress site looks and behaves.
The first option you will see is Themes. This is where you can add new themes to your website. You can also customise themes here and do lots of other things to make your site truly unique.
Below that is the Customise button. This will take you to your site homepage with a sidebar on the left of the page. Here, you will find lots of different options, from setting logos and font sizes to organising the menus that display on the page. It’s a sort of global editor, which allows you to quickly make site-wide changes and see them applied as you do it. The Customizer is an important part of the WordPress platform, and so it really needs its own tutorial.
Look out for a customizer tutorial appearing soon right here on Sophical Content!
Widgets & Menus
Below the Customizer, but still in the Appearance submenu, you will find the Widgets and Menus buttons. These will take you to the relevant pages where you can create and edit the widgets and menus on your site. Widgets and menus can be displayed all over your site and are particularly useful for footers and headers. Sidebars can also be edited here too, and there are lots of different options that you can add such as videos and calendars and all sorts of other things too. These can also be customised further through various plugins.
You might also find some other options below that which will be relevant to your specific theme or plugins. This is becoming quite the trend in this article, and so it should be clear by now that the way your WordPress Dashboard looks and behaves is largely to do with the different themes and plugins that you decide to use.
Below the Appearance section is the Plugins menu. You have the option to see which plugins you have installed, but you can also add a new one or edit them too. The plugin and theme editing options within WordPress are really only for those with a bit of coding experience that know what they are doing. In other words; not me (yet)!
The Users button below that is a useful one for websites with more than one person working on it. For example, if you have different writers and editors, along with designers and administrators. This is where you can find the options to see who has been added, and you can add new users and once again see your own profile. This option takes you to the same place that the Edit Profile button did in the top bar.
Tools & Settings
Below that is the Tools submenu, giving you access to any available tools you have on your WordPress website. I never really use this section, but you will be able to import and export tools, and export or erase personal data too. One useful option here is the Site Health button. This will take you to a page with information about your website and some fundamental things that you are doing well or could improve on. These range from simple security fixes to more complex coding changes.
Finally, we have the Settings section. This is the last part of the menu for those on ‘vanilla’ WordPress, that is those without any extra plugins or themes. The Settings submenu has quite a lot of useful links, starting with the General Settings tab. This will allow you to change things like the time zone, language and title of your website.
Reading & Writing
Then there are the Reading and Writing sections. These will take you to areas where you can change some of the default options on the site. The Discussion tab will allow you to change settings relating to comments, while the Media tab will do the same for – you guessed it – the media you have on your site.
That’s it for all of the basic options in the WordPress Dashboard! But what about the ones I missed out, like Elementor, SEO and Iubenda*? These correspond to plugins I have installed, and will only appear on your Dashboard if you have them installed too.
Hovering over each of these reveals their own sets of options. These will allow you to change various aspects of your plugins and the settings that they come with. The number of things you can change will depend on the plugin.
The Middle of the WordPress Dashboard
The final aspect of the WordPress Dashboard to consider is the big space in the middle. This is where you have another element of customisation, and it will once again depend on what plugins and themes you have installed. I swear that is the last time I will say it!
For the sake of this article, I have minimised most of the options I have on my screen. But you can still see a few that are available, and these are also customisable at the top of the screen. For example, if you have the Monster Insights plugin installed but don’t want to see the report on the Dashboard you can hit Screen Options, and then uncheck the box next to it.
You can do this for any of the options that you have available, and if you wanted to have a completely clutter-free Dashboard you could simply disable them all. However, this is a handy place to display key information from any of your plugins. For example if you are running an ecommerce website, you could display your daily sales figures right there in the middle of the Dashboard.
That’s it for the WordPress Dashboard for beginners! There was a lot in there, but it really is just a comprehensive overview of what you will see when you first log in to WordPress. Feel free to use this post as a reference if you ever get stuck or don’t know where to find a specific option.
Keep an eye out on the blog for more overviews just like this one, as well as more in-depth tutorials right here on Sophical Content. To be kept up to date with new posts when they go live, be sure to join my email newsletter too!