Navigating Your WordPress Dashboard

If you’re operating a small- to medium-sized business, odds are your website is powered by WordPress. Originally associated with blogging, WordPress has quickly become the go-to platform for open-source content management. WordPress is user-friendly, even for the not-so-tech-savvy user. However, if you place yourself in the not-so-tech-savvy category, it can be intimidating. When in doubt, it’s safe to call a developer, but we hope this post will empower you to learn more about the back end of your WordPress site and changes you can make on your own. In this post, we’ve summarized the basics of each section of your WordPress dashboard, but there is so much more to learn! We’ve also included some helpful links along the way if you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into any of these sections.


Posts are ideal for content that is timely, such as a blog post. As such, posts will show the publish date at the top of the post, which is standard on most blogs. Adding posts is easy: simply navigate to the “Posts” section of your dashboard and select “Add New.”

Creating Categories and Tags

Adding categories and tags to your posts helps organize the content for your users. Categories are more general, such as Travel, Music, or Food, whereas tags are more detailed, such as Paris, Classic Rock, or Tacos. To create categories for your posts, go to Posts>Categories. To add tags, go to Posts>Tags. Now, each time you create a new blog post, you will have the option to select any number of categories and tags depending on the content of your post.


The “Media” section of your dashboard is where you will upload…you guessed it…media to be used on your site. This includes images, documents, and audio and video files (if you purchase a premium plan through WordPress). The maximum file size for images is 1 GB, but remember, large image files will slow your site speed. If you’re interested in learning more about image file types and sizes, dive into this article on Foreground Web.


Pages are different from posts. Unlike posts, which are timely, pages are timeless. Pages are ideal for static areas of your site such as “About Us” or “Our Work.” To add pages, go to the “Pages” section of your dashboard and select “Add New.”


Comments are a little complex. Unless your site is a community-based blog, it’s likely you do not want to allow comments. However, should you allow users to comment on your posts, these comments will go to the “Comments” section of your dashboard for you to approve, reply to, or delete. A red notification bubble will appear on your dashboard whenever you have new comments to review.


This section is the most intimidating for everyday users, and for good reason. The “Appearance” section of your dashboard allows you to change the way your site looks. When you do this, you are actually editing the code of your site’s theme. Before making any changes, we recommend doing more research on this area. WordPress offers a great explanation of each piece of the “Appearance” section.

All that to say, if you have worked with a designer and a developer to create a custom site (i.e., you aren’t using an out-of-the-box theme), you should steer clear of this section and consult with your developer to make visual changes.

However, if you’re working with a standard WordPress theme or want to install a new theme, this is where you will go. To edit aspects of your current theme, including menus, colors, headers, and widgets, go to “Customize” within the “Appearance” section. As you make changes, a preview of your site is displayed so you can see how everything looks before making anything final.


Plugins are essentially add-ons that expand the functionality of your site. There are thousands of plugins to choose from. Some are free; some are not. Some are awesome; some are not. So, choose wisely. From integrating your Instagram feed to fun quizzes, there is a plugin for almost everything. You can search for plugins within the “Plugin” section of your dashboard by going to “Add New” and using the search bar on the top right. The “Installed Plugins” section is where you can see a list of all plugins that are currently on your site, update plugins as necessary, and delete plugins you no longer want.


The “Users” section of your dashboard is where you manage who has access to your site and at what level. The standard user roles are Super Admin, Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, and Subscriber. According to WordPress, each role has the following capabilities.

  • Super Admin – somebody with access to the site network administration features and all other features.
  • Administrator – somebody who has access to all the administration features within a single site.
  • Editor – somebody who can publish and manage posts, including the posts of other users.
  • Author – somebody who can publish and manage their own posts.
  • Contributor – somebody who can write and manage their own posts but cannot publish them.
  • Subscriber – somebody who can only manage their profile.

If you have multiple people within your company or organization who need access to your site, consider what role they will play and how much access you want them to have. Should users leave your company, always be sure to remove them so that they no longer have access to your site.


Similar to the “Appearance” section, the features of this section are best left to a professional. The “Tools” section includes features like importing and exporting content (including posts, comments, pages, users, categories, and tags), exporting user data, and deleting user data.


The “Settings” section of your site is essentially where you set the default preferences for your site. There are quite a few settings within your settings, so we’ll touch on the basics.

“General Settings” houses your site’s title and location, the default settings for new users, your site language and time zone, and your date and time format preferences.

The “Writing” section is all about posts: the default category for your posts, the default post format, and how to set up posting via email.

The “Reading” section allows you to define how your posts appear. You can determine whether you want your homepage to be a static page or your latest posts. As a side note, unless your site is solely a blog, you probably want a static page. But if not, you can indicate how many posts will show at a time and choose to show the full text or just a summary.

The “Discussion” section is for all of your comment settings. This includes default settings for allowing comments, approving comments, and moderating comments.

The “Media” section allows you to set default image sizes for WordPress’s image size categories—Thumbnail size, Medium size, and Large size.

The “Permalinks” section lets you choose a custom URL structure for your posts. Read more about permalinks and why they’re important for blogging.

And lastly, “Privacy.” If you already have a privacy policy on your website, you can select that page from a dropdown list. If you do not have a privacy policy and you need one, you can create it in this section. While we are not fit to offer any legal advice, if you are collecting any personal data from your site visitors, you likely need a privacy policy. Here’s a great article about why you may need one and where to start.

That’s all, folks! If you have a custom site, your dashboard probably features additional areas. If you have questions about how any of those work, contact your web developer for a tutorial. Understanding the basics is the best place to start. There are lots of great resources available on the World Wide Web, so #neverstoplearning.


Administration Screens. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://codex.wordpress.org/Administration_Screens

Agrawal, H. (2018, June 25). Explained: Difference Between Posts & Pages In WordPress. Retrieved from https://www.shoutmeloud.com/wordpress-pages-vs-posts.html

Appearance Menu Screen. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://codex.wordpress.org/Appearance_Menus_Screen

Balkhi, S. (2018, April 05). Categories vs Tags – SEO Best Practices for Sorting your Content. Retrieved from https://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/categories-vs-tags-seo-best-practices-which-one-is-better/

Balkhi, S. (n.d.). What is a Comment? How to Manage Comments in WordPress. Retrieved from https://www.wpbeginner.com/glossary/comment/

Images. (2017, May 14). Retrieved from https://en.support.wordpress.com/images/

Osterberg, L. (2017, August 09). You Need a Privacy Policy in 2018: Here’s How to Start. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/you-need-a-privacy-policy

Roles and Capabilities. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://codex.wordpress.org/Roles_and_Capabilities

Settings General Screen. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://codex.wordpress.org/Settings_General_Screen

Shupe, R. (2017, November 27). Are you a WordPress beginner? Learn about WP plugins and how you can use plugins to add new features to your. Retrieved from https://reneeshupe.com/useful-guide-understanding-wordpress-plugins/

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