Demystifying the WordPress admin area

WordPress has a lot of settings that you may be tempted to overlook. But the details are what will make you look like a pro among amateurs — and also make your site maintenance a lot easier in the long run. You spend a lot of time in the WordPress admin area, so let’s make sure you’re using it in a way that works best for you. I’ll walk you through the important sections in this WordPress admin tutorial video.

How to use WordPress Admin tutorial video

WordPress admin tutorial video

How to login to the WordPress admin area

Thanks to the two different types of WordPress — self-hosted and WordPress.com — logging into the WordPress admin area can be a point of confusion for many. With self-hosted WordPress, you can access your admin area at yourdomain.com/wp-admin. Your self-hosted WordPress login is NOT the same as WordPress.com. If you install Jetpack or Akismet from WordPress.com, you’ll need to sign up for a new account — your self-hosted login will not work.

How to customize your WordPress dashboard

The first thing you’ll see every time you login is your dashboard. Customize it to your needs, and you’ll have quick and easy access to the things you use the most.

Customize your #WordPress dashboard to your needs for quick & easy access to the things you use the mostClick To Tweet

In the upper right corner of nearly every screen in the WordPress admin area is a Screen Options tab. Expand that, and you’ll see a number of options for customizing your screen, including showing or hiding boxes. You can also click and drag boxes to rearrange them. Some plugins may add boxes to your Dashboard, like site analytics or SEO. I like the Activity box because it shows my latest posts and drafts and provides easy access to reply to comments.

On the posts, pages, and comments pages, there’s an additional option to set how many items show. This is particularly handy if you need to bulk edit a lot of posts at once, or you want to read more than 20 comments on a page.

Essential settings for your website

Under the General settings, be sure to update your tagline. It may not show up on your website, but it often shows up in search engines. It helps give visitors a better idea of what to expect from your website. Also, don’t miss the timezone. If your time zone is wrong, your posts won’t publish as scheduled!

Finally, be sure to update your permalinks. The best option is by post name — this keeps your links short and descriptive.

Update your media settings for same-width images

When it comes to blog graphics, the easiest way to look like a pro is to keep all of your images the same width — bonus points if it’s the same width as your content. WordPress will resize your images automatically based on your media settings. I use the medium size for blog-width images and the large size for full-width images.

The easiest way to look like a pro is to keep all of your images the same widthClick To Tweet

The values for the medium and large size images are the max allowed, so WordPress will always resize within those constraints. That means if you put 300 for your height, WordPress will shrink your image to whatever width necessary to maintain a height of 300. So if you put in 99999 for your height, it will always follow the width, as it’s unlikely you’d be uploading an image taller than that.

Personalize your user settings

Nearly all of my clients use the default color scheme for the admin area, because most people don’t look into their user settings. If you check out your profile under users, there are actually several color schemes to choose from. I personally prefer the light color scheme. I also use a different color scheme on my staging site so that I know which site I’m on.

Also, many people leave their display name as their username. Not only does this lack personality when you respond to comments, it’s also a security risk as it gives hackers one less thing to guess. Be sure to enter your first and last name in your profile, then choose a display name that isn’t your username. You can even create a custom nickname (like Lisa from Elembee) and choose that as your display name.

Add new users

Another important thing of note when it comes to user profiles is that you can add users to your site rather than sharing your personal login. If you have blog contributors, you can give them their own login, but limit their access so that they can’t publish posts without your approval. I also recommend creating a user when you hire a developer — just make sure to give them administrator access so they can do their job!

Want an at-a-glance reference for the WordPress settings you need for your site? Download my free checklist.

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P.S. Want more video tutorials on WordPress and coding? Check out Creative Code Club, where you can learn more at your own pace.

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Meet the author

Hello! I’m Lisa M. Butler, and I help people build better websites. As a WordPress developer, I’ve built more than 100 websites on WordPress. I help my clients take their websites to the next level and teach them how to take control of their online presence. Through my blog, weekly emails, and club, I share that same advice with online creative entrepreneurs and publishers just like you.