Many first-time bloggers and other website owners don’t come from a web or software development background. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them! There’s nothing wrong with not understanding coding languages or being able to build a website from scratch, but starting your WordPress site can be intimidating – especially when you don’t know much about using what’s known as the “back end” (the part where all the web design happens).
In this post, we’ll walk you through each of the ten parts of the WordPress back end and explain what each part is for and how to use it. We’ll have you using WordPress like a pro in no time!
The dashboard is essentially your home page, or welcome center, which you will see every time you log in. From here, you can view basic stats for your site, draft a new post, see reminders of what you’ve published recently and check out what’s new with WordPress. Each section of your dashboard can be moved around so that the stuff you want to be greeted with is front and center.
If you click on Updates, you’ll be taken to a new screen that will show you whether your current version of WordPress, your themes and your plugins are up to date. Making sure that everything is up to date is important – if things aren’t updated, they won’t run well or have the latest security or bug fixes, so it’s a good idea to periodically check for updates.
Next in the menu is the Posts section. This section is where you’ll likely spend the majority of your time once your site is up and running – particularly if you write a lot.
The All Posts page shows you, in table format, every post that you’ve drafted or published. This is your base for post management. To write a new post, click Add New; to edit or delete an existing post, or to publish a draft, click on its respective title in the table or simply hover over the title and click one of the options that pops up:
You may also see menu options for Categories and Tags. These are the pages where you manage the tags and categories assigned to each of your posts; they also show up as widgets on the add and edit post pages.
Next is the Media section. This is where all your images, files and other uploaded items are housed.
To upload items to your library, click Add New. In the screen that pops up you can either drag and drop something into the space, or click to browse for files.
If you’re writing or editing a post and you want to add an image, simply click on the Add Media button above your text editor and select an image from your library, or upload a new one.
This next section is where you add and manage the pages for your site. Pages are not the same thing as posts – a page on WordPress is, for example, your home page or about page; it’s an overview or a quick hit of information, or some kind of gallery. Posts, on the other hand, are your blog or news articles. One of the widgets on your Add/Edit Post page is the Page Attributes; this enables you to nest the page under another one rather than it being a main page. It’s also where you select a template for your page if you want a particular one.
The comments section is, as you might have guessed, the place where you moderate the comments on your posts and pages. Hovering over a comment displays a set of actions you can take with regard to that particular comment, such as editing or deleting it.
The next section you’ll see in your Admin menu is the Appearance section, which is all about how your site looks on the front end. Here’s where you select and customize your theme, including widgets and menus. Clicking on Themes shows you the themes you have installed in WordPress; if you want to install a new one, click Add New. You can find some nice free themes in the WordPress theme directory, but we also have a bunch of free WordPress themes and pretty much the best WordPress theme ever, Total, all right here at WPExplorer.
The Customize, Header and Background sections redirect you to the built-in customizer. This is where you can choose background and header images (if you want them) or change your color scheme. From here you can also customize other pieces that appear on your front end. Clicking the X in the upper left corner brings you back to Admin.
Free themes will have basic styling options in the customizer. If you decide to upgrade to a premium theme like Total, you’ll find much more to customize your website with! Just some of the options for Total are shown below, but you can pretty much change anything and everything (fonts, colors, headers, menus & mobile menus, backgrounds, custom footer, callouts, social links and tons more). And depending on which plugins you have enabled on your website, you might see options for those in the customizer as well.
Back under the Appearance menu, clicking on Widgets or Menus will take you to their respective management pages. The menu page is where you create and organize menus for your site. Building menus is simple – just check the pages, posts or taxonomy links you want to include, click the “Add to Menu” button, and then drag & drop to rearrange your menu links. When you’ve gotten things organized, select a menu location and save your menu.
And on the widget page you can add new widgets as well as activate and reorder them – it’s as simple as dragging and dropping the widgets you want to use into you various widget ready locations (usually sidebars and footers).
Finally, the Editor page is where you can play around with the coding for your themes. It’s best to leave this area alone – messing with your code could lead to a broken website. Besides, any changes you might want to make should be done through a child theme so you can continue updating the theme on your website without losing any of your changes.
But, if you’re using a premium theme the author might have a built-in panel for CSS. In Total we’ve made this easy for you by adding a section for custom CSS in our Theme Panel, just enable the options if you’d like to add a few tweaks without compromising the core theme.
As with the Appearance section, the parts of the Plugins section show you plugins you have installed and the WordPress plugin directory. The Editor part is just like the theme editor – it’s where you can edit the code for the plugins you have installed. It’s not recommended to change any code while the plugins are active.
This section is where you manage all the users who have logins for your site. If you’re the only one with access, you’ll be the only one listed. If you allow multiple people to have access, they will be listed here along with their role and number of posts written. Why might you have more than one user? Let’s say you have a small business and, though you manage the site, one or two of your employees are in charge of the company blog or the online store. In this case, granting multiple users access to your website could be beneficial.
The Your Profile section is where you manage all the information about yourself, as well as how you want the back end set up. You can choose a custom color scheme for when you log into WordPress, reset your password, and if you have a plugin like Fancier Author Box installed you can add your author bio & social links here as well.
The Tools section contains – what else? – tools that make life a little easier when you set up your site. Ones that may be particularly helpful for you are the Import and Export tools. If you are bringing content over from another site, you’ll probably need to use the Import tool.
To prepare content for moving to another site, use Export.
At last we come to the Settings element. This part of WordPress Admin is where you manage everything about your site that is not covered in another area: title and tagline, date and time format, language, options for comments, how many posts are visible on a page, etc. When you first set up your site, go through all the settings – and don’t forget to go through the subsections too! You’ll want to set your homepage under Reading, and choose an option for your url structure under Permalinks. It can be helpful to revisit the settings every so often as your site grows and as you gain a larger following.
Bonus: Theme Panel
We mentioned before that many premium themes come with extra features not found in free themes, and another one of those features is a Theme Panel. In Total for example, there are tons of extra features to help you create and mange your website like options to enable/disable features throughout the theme (which can really help to cleanup & speedup your website), options for custom CSS & JS, custom footer builder, and more! When you install a theme, just look at your dashboard to see if there’s a Theme Panel option and have a look to see what features are included.
By this point, you should have a better understanding of the different parts of WordPress Admin and what they do. Soon enough you’ll be managing your back end like a pro! What parts of WP Admin most confused you when you first started? Any tips and tricks to share? Let us know in the comments!