This post is about the WordPress dashboard on a self-hosted site, the dashboard on WordPress.com hosted sites is slightly different.
The WordPress dashboard is what you see when you login. It gives you a quick overview of what’s happening on your site with links through to the various sections you use most.
It looks something like this (click the image for a better view). The admin area is responsive, so if you’re using a device other than a laptop, yours might look slightly different but it still contains the same widgets.
To the left of the screen is the main navigation menu, which is collapsible – just click on the Collapse Menu link at the bottom.
Over in the main part of the screen you’ll find a set of widgets giving you quick access to certain parts of your site and containing useful information. Use the Screen Options tab in the top right hand corner to enable or disable these widgets.
Let’s move onto the widgets.
Welcome to WordPress
It’s natural for folk to personalise their site when they set it up (here’s 15 more ideas you might consider), so WordPress plonks a great big blue box encouraging you to Customize Your Site right in front of your eyes.
The alternative option, just below it, is to change your theme completely.
If you’re happy with the current default theme, clicking the blue button takes you to a screen where you can make changes. These are the options for the 2017 theme:
Clicking the change your theme completely link takes you to a much more exciting place – I suspect this link gets way more clicks than the big blue one; the install a new theme area.
The next column in the top widget encourages you to start working on your blog.
The third column gets more technical sounding, and might be a little off-putting at first.
Explanation – You place widgets in the sidebar and footer areas. They typically contain your latest posts, category archives, a search box, tag cloud, advertising, social media links. The number of widgets, and their locations, depends upon the theme you use.
You’ll need a menu so people can navigate your site. And you’ll need some content to place in the menu, so don’t worry about this one if you’re just getting started. Come back to it once you setup a few pages or written a few blog posts.
At a Glance
The next widget we’re looking at is At a Glance. It’s located on the left of the screen, underneath the Welcome to WordPress widget.
It gives you an overview of your site and tells you:
- The number of published posts
- The number of published pages
- The version of WordPress you’re running
- The name of the theme you’re using
- If you’ve stopped search engines indexing your site, you’ll see a notification
Here’s how it looks on a new installation.
And here’s how it looks on a site with more content, more activity and some history.
As you can see, this one contains more information, including the number of approved comments, the sterling work done by Akismet and the number of comments currently in the spam queue. By the way, the comments on this site automatically close after 7 days.
Underneath the At a Glance widget, you’ll find Activity.
This one contains information about activity on your latest posts as well as snippets from the latest comments.
Here’s how it looks when you first install WordPress.
And how it looks when you’ve published a few posts and your readers have left a few comments.
From here, you can click on any of the links within the widget to work on the post or manage comments.
The next widget is Quick Draft. It’s a handy little tool for quickly composing a post idea or even a full post, if you like.
Give your post a title and write in the box underneath. It expands as you write. You could paste content into this area too. You can’t upload images this way though, you’ll have to do that through the media section or when you’re writing your post in the full editor.
WordPress assigns the post to your default category.
Here’s what Quick Draft widget looks like when there’s a few posts in draft mode.
Clicking the link takes you to the post. Clicking the View all links takes you to all your drafts.
The final widget pushes posts and articles from WordPress.org, Matt Mullenweg’s blog and authoritative sites like Post Status and WPTavern.
After you’ve added a few plugins you might start noticing the dashboard becoming a little more cluttered. I know of a few plugins that add a widget to the dashboard, but there’s probably loads more. Here’s a couple of examples: Pretty Link Lite and WordFence.
Customizing the Dashboard
Let’s take a quick look at customizing the dashboard to make if fit in with the way you work.
1. Disable the widgets you don’t want to see – earlier on I mentioned the Screen Options tab. Use it to disable the widgets you don’t want to see, including any that appear after installing a plugin. If you later change your mind, just click on the Screen Options tab and tick the box to enable the widget you want to see.
2. Drag and drop the widgets around the screen – the size of the WordPress dashboard relates directly to the size of your screen. For example, I see four columns on my large monitor.
If you see the same, you can pick up a widget and drag it across to one of the blank placeholders. If you don’t see the extra placeholders it means your screen isn’t wide enough to accommodate them. Never fear, you can change the order of the widgets by dragging them around the screen.
3. Minimize a widget – you might want to keep a widget active, but make it smaller. Simple. Click on the arrow in the top right hand corner to minimize it. Click the arrow again to reverse the action.
Thanks for making it this far! I hope this tutorial helps you make sense of the WordPress Dashboard.
It’s a really useful part of the admin area, giving you quick access to many of the important parts of your site.
It also gives you quick access to some plugins too. And while some of them might seem invasive, others are actually very useful, and placing a widget on the dashboard makes a lot of sense.
I’d love to know how you use the WordPress Dashboard – what are your favourite/essential widgets?
As always, if you have any questions or something to add to this post, please feel free to use the comments area.