Sorry, Sloth, I lied again. I said we’d get right into installing a plugin and put up a coming soon page but, before that, I think it might be a good idea to go through a WordPress admin tour. This tour will be a quick run-through of the WordPress dashboard and admin section — we’ll be coming back to these areas later.
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Dashboard? Asks sloth? Are we going for a ride?
Yep, sloth, a quick ride through WordPress for now.
I was helping with the website of a local meditation group and the leader, a retired psychologist then in his eighties, had an interesting perspective about terms used in WordPress:
“I don’t know about some of the words they use. ‘Dashboard!’ Dashboard! That’s what we called the panel on the old roadster. Zoom! Hehe. And what about ‘widget?‘ What’s a widget?‘”
But let’s zoom right ahead in the sleek roadster that is our WordPress Dashboard (yeah, right) and take a quick run through it.
What is the WordPress Dashboard?
Technically, the WordPress dashboard is the home page of the administration section of your WordPress site that presents blocks of information called “dashboard widgets” to give you a quick “at-a-glance” rundown of things on your site. But, for our purposes here, I’m going to be referring to the entire admin section of your website as the dashboard.
Let’s Log into WordPress
When you installed your WordPress website, at the very end it told your where you can log in:
Where, of course, you fill in your own domain and choose either https or https and www or non-www.
Your WordPress dashboard, when you’re logged in is at:
WordPress Admin Tour: Options
Let’s take a quick tour through the admin section of your WordPress website. We’ll be coming back to each of these items separately in future posts (but not necessarily in this order.)
On the WordPress dashboard, you’ll see a bunch of options to the left, click on one, and a submenu will open up. The photo above just shows the top-level item for each section.
- Home: Will take you to your WordPress dashboard home.
- Updates: Shows you if there are any updates to run. If there is an update for a theme or a plugin, you’ll have a notification bubble here.
- Posts: Here, you can access all of your posts and edit them, add a new one, and add new, or edit existing, categories, or tags.
- Media: Here, you can check out all of the images or other media in your library or add new ones.
- Pages: You can access and edit all of your existing pages here, or add a new one.
- Comments: You can view all of your comments here if you’ve allowed comments on your blog. You can also choose whether or not to approve or deny comments if you’ve enabled comment moderation. But note that this is NOT where you edit any of your settings for comments! You’ll find that in the Settings>Discussion menu.
- Appearance: Here’s where you control the design aspects of your website. The “Customize” menu you’ll find there will open up a bunch of choices for everything from fonts to colors. Some of the options you’ll find here will change with each theme. From the appearance area, you can also install new themes, install widgets, which are drop-and-drag…widgets…that go in your sidebar. It’s where you set up your menus that you can add to your topbar or footer. You’ll also find the option “Theme Editor” here. If you click on this, it will show all of your theme files and allow you to edit them. Be careful, if you don’t know what you’re doing, modifying these can break your site.
- Plugins: Add, install, or updates plugins, which are easily installed programs or bits of code that add various functions to your website.
- Users: Access your user account, and others’ as well if you’ve chosen to allow user registration on your site.
- Tools: If you’re moving posts to or from another blog, you can import/export theme here. With recent privacy laws, you’ll also find options to export or erase personal data. And WordPress now has a feature called “site health,” which can clue you into some things that may affect the performance and security of your website from PHP version to plugins that need to be updated.
- Settings: We’ll be going over this more in a different post, likely right after plugins. Zip wants to get right to the fun part — themes, graphics, fonts, and writing, but there are some essential things to cover first, and the settings menu is one of them. Here you’ll find settings for such vital matters as the URL and name of your website and time zone settings. You’ll also find options for whether or not you want a page or a list of posts as your homepage, how you want to configure your RSS feeds, whether or not you wish to allow people to comment or register on your site — small things like that!
WordPress Admin Tour: Dashboard Home
If you go to your WordPress dashboard, you’ll find a bunch of boxes pre-configured. The real name for these boxes is “dashboard widgets.” Right after Zip installed his blog, you can see:
- Site Health Status: Alerts us if we have any items that could be affecting the performance and security of our website, like plugins that need to be updated.
- At a Glance: Shows us How many posts, pages, and comments we have.
- Activity: Shows recently published posts and recent comments.
- Quick Draft: If you have a sudden insight, allows you to quickly add that critical insight as a draft post before you can forget it.
- WordPress Events or News: Shows you upcoming WordPress meetups and events that might interest you.
As you add plugins, you’ll note that some of them add their own widgets to the mix here.
You’ll also note a “Drag boxes here” area. If you don’t like the arrangements of boxes here, you can click and drag them to change their position.
What if you don’t want some of these widgets? Any of these widgets? Or what if you just knew there was a widget here once that you wanted, but now it has disappeared? Good news! Just go to the “Site Options” tab in the upper right part of your screen and click it.
In the photo above, Site Options is open, and you can see that you can select or de-select dashboard widgets to add or remove them from your dashboard. You can remove them all if you want a very clean Zen-like dashboard.
However, I like having some dashboard widgets, just not all of them. You’ll find which ones work for you as you go. My preference is to have ones that notify me about important things like search engine optimization, recent comments and activity, and such. I like the idea of quick drafts, but I find that I never actually use it.
The WordPress Logged-in Topbar
By default, WordPress will show a black topbar on the top of the page when you have logged in. You’ll see this bar both on the front and back of the site. Don’t worry; your regular site visitors do not see this.
You’ll find a few options here; you’ll find more when you’ve installed various plugins:
Far to the left, if you click the WordPress logo, it will take you to an “About” page with information about what’s new in the latest version of WordPress.
Next, up, you’ll note a house icon and the name of your website. This will take you to your homepage.
To the right of that, you’ll see a comment bubble with a number, notifying you of any new comments.
Next on the right, you’ll see “New.” Hovering over this opens a dropdown to allow you to add a new page, post, media item, or user. Some plugins that enable custom post types will also appear here. For example, I have an events calendar installed on one of my sites, and I can add an event from this menu.
In the photo, you might notice a “Purge SG Cache” option. If you host with Siteground, their optimization plugin comes pre-installed. I’d recommend you just leave it in place — it’s handy to configure your https:// options and PHP version right from the plugin and if you want to use something else for speed optimizations (another thing we’ll come to later), you can just switch those options off.
That was just a quick tour of the WordPress backend. We’ll be coming back to these items in future posts. Next up? A basic introduction to plugins and a look at installing a simple “Coming Soon” page plugin.
If you want to see the dashboard screen documentation at WordPress.org, you can find it here.
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