WordPress is very easy to learn and use. However, the dashboard can be quite confusing for beginners. There are a lot of links, features, and terminology you might not understand.
Maybe you’ve just started a blog and you have no idea how to use the platform. That’s why I’ve put together this beginner’s guide to the WordPress dashboard.
In this guide, I will talk you through every aspect of the platform. I will tell you what the admin dashboard looks like, what each component does, and I will also define some of the most used terms.
After you finish reading this guide, you’ll be able to navigate in the WP dashboard well.
DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you purchase through one of my links, I’ll receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
What is WordPress?
WordPress.org, also called the self-hosted WordPress, is a content management system (CMS). It’s where you manage the backend of your website, aka the functionality and the aesthetic side.
Anyone can create their own website with WordPress. Easy navigation and accessibility to anyone make WordPress the most popular CMS out there. According to Kinsta, 35% of all websites are built on WordPress.
Does WordPress cost money?
No, WordPress is free to use. However, to run your blog on WordPress, you’ll need a web host, and web hosting does cost money.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is what allows your blog to be viewed on the internet. It’s where all the information about your website is stored.
There are a lot of web hosting services to choose from. Blogology is run on SiteGround. I’ve been using SiteGround for over two years now and I’m happy with the service.
What do I like about SiteGround so much?
#1 Fast web hosting service
Loading speed is a very important aspect of running a website. Google’s research on the bounce rate shows that users are likely to bounce back if the website doesn’t load within 3 seconds. This, of course, affects your SEO.
#2 Excellent customer support service
Whenever I had a problem with the hosting, the customer service was able to help me with whatever I was struggling with. The customer support is available 24/7.
#3 Free SSL certificate for all domains
An SSL certificate is very important. It’s what allows your website to run on HTTPS instead of HTTP. What’s the difference? HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP. SSL helps to protect the information sent between the website and the user’s device that could be hacked by hackers.
SiteGround plans and pricing
With SiteGround, you can choose from three web hosting plans. The cheapest starts at $3.95 per month ($11.95 per month upon renewal).
Does WordPress require coding?
No, you don’t need to know how to code or program to create and run a WordPress website. It’s an advantage if you know how to code, but it’s not a necessity.
WordPress is very easy to use. If you do want to make changes to your blog, you can install corresponding plugins.
However, I suggest you do look into the basics of HTML, CSS, and PHP if you want to start a blog. It might come handy if at any point you want to make changes to the core of your website.
BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO THE WORDPRESS DASHBOARD
If you haven’t started using WordPress and just want to know what the dashboard looks like, I recommend you go to Jurassic Ninja and create a test site. It takes just one click.
You can do whatever you like with it, and you’re going to learn how to use WordPress better than with my guide alone.
How to Access the WordPress Dashboard
You can access your WordPress dashboard by adding “wp-admin” to the end of your URL.
It’s going to look somewhat like this:
You’ll see this window where you’ll simply type in your email and password you used when installing WordPress.
This is what the WordPress dashboard looks like when you first log in:
This is your admin area. The WordPress dashboard is the main admin screen. It consists of:
- Toolbar at the top of the page
- Left-hand navigation menu
- Summary screen
The appearance of your WordPress admin dashboard will change over time with different plugins you install. They can have their own area in the overview dashboard, and/or they can appear in the left sidebar.
1. SUMMARY SCREEN
The main portion of the WordPress dashboard takes up the summary screen. This is where you see the overview of your site.
In the summary screen, you’ll see information about different areas of your site. By default, you’ll see: At a Glance, Activity, Quick Draft, and WordPress Events and News.
At the top of the WordPress admin dashboard you’ll see the toolbar, also called the admin bar.
In the left corner, there is a WordPress icon. Here you’ll find information about the platform, support center, and a link to WordPress forums.
Next to the WordPress icon is a link to your site. Then you’ll see a link to your comments overview, and an “add new” icon, where you can add a new post, image, page, or a user.
In the top right corner is your username. Here you can edit your profile or log out.
Just below the toolbar, you’ll see screen options, where you can customize the areas you want to see in the overview screen.
Next to screen options is help, which will give you a basic overview of the platform.
3. LEFT-HAND NAVIGATION MENU
The sidebar navigation menu is where you’ll spend most of your time on the platform.
At the very top are Dashboard and Home. This is where you’ll see your summary screen.
Underneath it is the Updates submenu. This is where the plugins and themes that need to be updated will appear. You’ll know that something needs to be updated if there’s a number in a red circle next to it.
This is where you’ll see all the drafts, published blog posts, and all the content you’ve moved to trash.
3.2.1 ADD NEW
Here you can add a new post. There are two editors to choose from. By default, WordPress uses the block editor. It used to be the classic editor, which you can still use if you install the Classic Editor plugin.
The block editor looks like this:
In the block editor, you edit your content in blocks. You can have a block for different parts of your blog post. That can be a paragraph, image, table, etc. Basically anything.
If you don’t like the block editor, you can install the Classic Editor plugin and switch to it.
You’ll have to go to Settings > Writing > Allow Users to Switch Editors. Then you’ll be able to switch between those two from the editing window.
In the top bar of the block editor you can:
- Add a block
- Undo and Redo
- View the content structure where you can see the word count, number of headings, paragraphs, and blocks
- Block navigation where you can select a block to edit
- Tools where you can switch between selecting and editing a block
- Save draft
- Preview the blog post
- Publish where you can also select a date if you want to schedule your blog post
- Settings which allows you to hide the sidebar
- More tools & options allows you, among other things, to switch to a code editor
In the right sidebar, you can choose to edit the whole document or a single block.
In the Document part, you’ll be able to edit or add:
- Status and visibility
- Featured image (the image at the very top of your blog post)
- Discussion (the comments)
- Post Attributes where you can select different layouts of the blog post
In the Block part you can edit:
- Text Settings
- Color settings
- Advanced where you can add CSS
When you switch to the Classic Editor, the window will look like this:
The main exception here is that you don’t edit your posts in blocks but as a whole.
In the right sidebar you’ll see:
- Post Attributes
- Featured Image
Once you’ve finished your blog post, it will appear here:
When you hover with your cursor over the name, you can choose to:
- Quick edit
- View the blog post
Edit will take you back to the writing window.
The quick edit option allows you to edit basic information about the blog post, such as the name, slug, categories, or tags.
Trash, yes, you’ve guessed it, will trash the blog post.
View the blog post allows you to see what the blog post will look like when you publish it.
What are categories in WordPress?
Categories in WordPress are the main organizational method. You can group your content based on topics, and that way make it easier for your readers to find related content.
You can create new categories in this section. Just pick a name and decide whether your category is a sub-category.
Slug is the URL of the category.
Don’t skip the description part. Write between 150 and 300 words of a description for each category. Mention exactly what the category is about, mention some of the keywords from your blog posts, and you can link to your most important blog posts in the category.
IMPORTANT: The description has to be conversational. Not: keyword, keyword, keyword…
What are tags in WordPress?
Tags in WordPress are taxonomies that are usually focused on a specific topic.
As you can see, the tag interface looks pretty much identical to the category one. Once again, you can add and manage your tags here.
Depending on your theme, the tags you select for a specific blog post will automatically be displayed at the beginning or at the end of it.
Here all your images and videos will be stored.
You can add a new image simply by clicking Add New.
Don’t forget to fill in the alternative text and description fields. Ideally, even the name of the image should be descriptive of what is in the image.
What are pages in WordPress?
Pages are the static pieces of content of your blog.
This is where you can create and keep pages such as About, Contact, Home, all the legal pages, and any other pages you’ll create.
Creating new pages
You can create a new page by clicking on Add New. The interface there is pretty much identical to the blog post one, so I won’t go in-depth here.
This is where you’ll find everything that’s anyone ever commented on your blog. The approved comments, the pending comments, the spam, your own comments, and everything you’ve moved to trash.
In appearance, you’ll be managing the aesthetic side of your blog. Here you can select a theme and adjust it to your liking in the customize option.
Here you can find free WordPress themes. Go to Themes > Add New. You’ll see a wide variety of themes to choose from. You can customize your search by applying filters in the Feature filter.
Select the one you like, install it, and activate it. There are many websites that sell great themes, but if you’re just starting out, you’re good to go with a free theme.
In Customize, you can adjust the theme you’ve selected to your liking. The Customize bar for my theme looks like this:
Yours might look a little different depending on your theme.
NOTE: Don’t be surprised if your theme looks nothing like what it should when you install and activate it on your brand new blog. That’s because your website doesn’t have any content published, so it will look different from the demo version.
What are widgets in WordPress?
Widgets are components that add functionality to specific areas of your blog. That can be the sidebar, the footer, the homepage, and really anywhere on your blog as long as your theme allows it.
What are some examples of widgets?
- Author bio
- Recent posts or comments
- Most popular posts
Some plugins can come with widgets of their own.
How to add a widget to your blog?
Click on Widgets, select a widget of your choice in the Available Widgets section, drag and drop it to one of the areas on the right.
What are menus in WordPress?
Menus in WordPress are used to add navigation to your website.
Here on Blogology, there are three menus. There’s the top bar at the very top of the site with links to the most important pages on the blog. Those are home, about, contact, categories, and blog. That’s the main menu.
Then there’s the menu with other pages I consider the most important in terms of the blogging niche. Those are Start the blog, Write the blog, Grow the blog, Monetize the blog, and Tools. If you are on a mobile device, you can see those items in the drop-down menu underneath the Blogology logo.
If you scroll all the way down, you’ll see the footer menu. This is where the legal pages and the sitemap are located.
How to create a new menu?
Edit Menus > Create a New Menu. You pick a name and click on Save Menu. You can then add items of your choice from the selection on the left.
You’ll then have to go to Customize > Menus > Create a new menu. You’ll select the menu and the location where you want the menu to appear.
The background option will take you to the customize option, specifically to the background image settings. As you can probably tell, here’s where you can change the background of your blog.
3.6.6 THEME EDITOR
In Theme Editor you can edit the theme’s code. If you don’t know how to code, don’t change anything in this section. If you do want to make some major changes to your theme, such as changes to the code, you should first create a child theme.
What is a WordPress child theme?
A child theme is a sub-theme of a parent theme. It inherits its functionality, style, and features.
The theme you install is the parent theme. You shouldn’t make any changes to its code. Instead, create a child theme.
If you want to make trivial changes to your theme, such as changing the colors, adding items to menus, and so on, you don’t need a child theme.
If you want to create a child theme, check out this child theme tutorial by Kinsta.
What are plugins in WordPress?
Plugins are tools that add functionality to your site without coding. This doesn’t have to be a specific area. Some plugins can improve the overall performance of your blog.
You can use plugins to improve the security of your website, the loading speed, and a lot more.
If you’ve seen a component on another blog you’d like to add to your website, chances are that there’s a plugin for it.
NOTE: Too many plugins can slow down your website and that is a problem from the SEO perspective. Users and search engines don’t like slow loading websites.
How to add plugins?
Click on Plugins > Add New and type in the name of the plugin you want to install. Click Install and don’t forget to Activate.
You can deactivate or delete a plugin in the list of your installed plugins.
You can also upload a new plugin here.
In the plugin editor, you can edit the PHP file of a plugin of your choice. If you don’t know what you are doing here, don’t change anything here.
If you do want to make changes to the plugins’ codes, you should create a child theme.
If your blog has more than one author, here’s where you can edit their profiles. If you’re the only contributor to your blog, you’re unlikely to access this section often.
However, if there are more authors or you do guest posting, you’ll need to add user accounts. You can then edit them here.
In the tools section, you’ll find options for exporting and importing content, which you’d use if you were migrating sites.
Then you’ll find the options to export and erase personal data, and site health. In site health, you’ll find important information about the configuration of your website.
As you can probably tell, here you can manage the settings of your blog.
This is the general settings of your website and includes:
- Site language
This tab allows you to manage:
- Default category
- Default blog post format
- Editor settings
In the reading tab, you can configure a static homepage and other settings of the appearance of your blog posts.
The discussion settings let you configure comments.
Here you’ll be able to set the sizes of images uploaded to your WordPress site.
Here you can set the permalink structure. I highly recommend you choose the post name option.
NOTE: It’s important you set the permalink structure before you publish any content on your blog.
3.11 COLLAPSE MENU
The collapse menu lets you minimize the menu.
I hope this guide to the WordPress dashboard was helpful. WordPress is easy to learn, but the platform can seem overwhelming when you see it for the first time.
If you ever come across some issues with WordPress, I highly recommend WPBeginner. They are experts in anything WordPress-related, and you’ll be able to find a solution to pretty much any issue on their website.