WordPress Beginners Tutorial – The WordPress Dashboard Explained

WordPress For Beginners

The WP administration screen of your website or blog is one of the most important areas of WordPress to master. In this step-by-step tutorial you are going to learn your way around admin section of your WP site.

You will also discover some of the “hidden” features of the WordPress administration section that will become more useful to you as you become more skilled at using WordPress.


Please note: We assume that you already have a WordPress website installed on your domain and that you know how to log into your site.

If you need help logging into WordPress, see this tutorial: How Do I Log Into WordPress

If you don’t know whether or not your website runs on WordPress, see this tutorial: How To Tell If A Website Is A WordPress Site

If you want to learn more about why you should choose WordPress and the advantages of using the WordPress Content Management System to power your website or blog, Subscribe to receive updates.


Your WP Admin Screen

After you’ve logged into your WordPress site via the login page, you should be taken to your Dashboard, which is your site’s admin section.

The WP Dashboard Explained

The WordPress Dashboard

The WP dashboard is where all of your site’s admin is performed.

Your Dashboard is divided into several useful areas that provide you with access to things such as:

  • Important data and information about the activities taking place on your site. It also lets you see “at-a-glance” metrics and information about the most recent activity that has taken place on your site, system updates and notifications, and to be kept updated on the latest news from the WordPress community and various WordPress-related resources, such as notifications and announcements from WordPress product vendors of plugins and themes that you have installed on your site.
  • Control and management of your website’s settings and options.
  • Features that let you change, update and enhance the design and functionality of your website, upgrade plugins and themes, including adding, changing and deleting your content and content sections.

An Overview Of The WordPress Dashboard

The Dashboard “At A Glance” Section

Complete the step-by-step tutorial below, then, to learn more about your Dashboard and your site’s main admin features.

The WP Administration Area – A Tutorial

In version 3.8, WordPress introduced a complete redesign of the backend section …

Your WordPress Control Area Explained


Although this new design was mostly cosmetic and introduced for the purpose of giving WordPress site administrators and developers cleaner typography for a better and more optimized mobile and desktop viewing experience and more choices on styling the look and feel of the backend screens, it also affected much of the existing information about WordPress around the web, including thousands of tutorials and articles about WordPress online, in print and on video that are now in need of being updated.

With the ability to create an individual look and feel of the WP admin area, you can now expect to see other design changes to backend features whenever WordPress releases new versions.

If any new versions of WordPress include new software features or functionality, then you can be sure that we will post an update about what’s new here.


Important: If your site runs on an older version of WordPress 3.8, then make sure you upgrade to the latest version immediately, as many bug and security fixes are made whenever a new version of WordPress is released.


Your WordPress Dashboard

WordPress Dashboard Announcements

Depending on whether you or someone else manages your site, you may or may not see the messages below.

The first time you log into a new site that has been built using WordPress, you may see a “Welcome to WordPress” message displayed inside the Dashboard …

 The WordPress Dashboard - A Tutorial

If you are new to WordPress and want to spend a few minutes learning more about WordPress, you can click on the links in the “Get Started” or “Next Step” sections.

To dismiss the “Welcome” message or prevent it from showing again inside your admin area the next time you log in, click on the Dismiss link near the top right-hand corner of the screen …

Understanding The WP Control Area

Note: You will also see “Welcome to WordPress” announcements in your dashboard whenever your site gets updated to the latest version of WordPress …

The WP Control Panel Explained

Once again, feel free to explore the information displayed in the “welcome” message if you want to know more about new features and updates to the software.

To return to your dashboard, you can select “Dashboard” (or click on Dashboard > Home) on the admin menu section …

Your WP Administration Section Explained

Or scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and click on the link to dismiss the message and return to your main Dashboard …

The WordPress Administration Screen Explained

Dashboard Screen Sections

The Dashboard gives someone with the role of an administrator access to all of the main features and controls required to manage your site …

The WordPress Administration Panel Explained

The Dashboard is divided into different areas

The main screen of your Dashboard is divided into the following areas:

  • Header And Toolbar Section (1)
  • Main Navigation Menu (2)
  • Work Area (3)
  • Footer Section (4)

WP Administration Area: Header Section

Header Area

The header area displays system updates, warnings and notifications …

The WordPress Admin Section Explained

Different updates, warnings and notifications can appear in the header section, depending on what area you are working on, what action has been completed, or which plugins you have installed on your site …

An Overview Of The WP Dashboard

Screen Options Tab

The Screen Options tab is found in the top-right corner of your WP administration screen, in the header area …

How To Use The WordPress Control Area

Clicking on this tab displays different options and features on your screen, depending on which area of the admin backend you are currently viewing …

The WordPress Dashboard Explained

For example, if you are in the main Dashboard, clicking on the Screen Options tab lets you specify options like which panels of your Dashboard work area you want to view or keep hidden …

The WordPress Control Area Explained

If you are in the Posts section, clicking on the Screen Options tab lets you configure entirely different options, like showing or hiding information in the listings section (e.g. tags, comments, etc…), specifying the number of posts to display on your Posts table, and other configurable options depending on the plugins you have installed on your website …

The WordPress Dashboard Explained


Tip: Some developers or web designers may choose to hide certain elements from displaying on your dashboard because they may know from experience that their clients probably won’t be needing to access these features, or simply to give parts of your site a less “cluttered” look, or to prevent accidental errors from happening.

If you are looking for a specific feature or element in your control panel and can’t find it, or don’t know where to look for it, just try clicking on the Screen Options tab … you may just find what you were looking for!

Online Help Section

You can access the official WordPress documentation and user help forums by clicking on the Help tab located on the top right-hand corner of the screen …

 Your WordPress Control Screen - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

Like the Screen Options tab, the Help tab also displays context-specific information.

For example, if you are editing content in the Edit Post area, clicking on the Help tab will bring up help information and tutorials relevant to editing posts …

Using The WordPress Administration Page


Tip: To learn more about any feature or function of WordPress when logged into the admin area, just click on the Help tab.

WP Administration Area: Toolbar

The Toolbar displays at the very top of your Dashboard screen and provides you and your logged in site users with access to various administration functions, features, information and “quick links” to other areas of your site …

 The WP Administration Section - An Overview

Most Toolbar items can flyout to display additional information when you hover your mouse over the icons …

How To Use Your WordPress Dashboard

For example, you can quickly see what needs to be updated on your site …

 Your WordPress Admin Screen - An Overview

You can also view how many comments are awaiting moderation, create new pages or posts, add new media or links into your content, add new users to your site and a whole lot more …

How To Navigate Inside Your WP Admin Screen

The admin toolbar also allows you to view how any updates you make to your posts, pages or settings will affect what visitors see on your site. Just hover your mouse over the website title displayed in the toolbar and click on Visit Site.

Tip: Open your site in a new web browser window to keep working on your site …

 Your WordPress Administration Section - An Overview

As long as you remain logged into your admin area, the toolbar will continue to display on your browser while you’re viewing the “front end” of your site.

This is great, because it allows you to easily get back into your control panel and continue working on your pages without having to log back in …

 Your WordPress Control Screen - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

As you begin adding new functionality to your site, you may see that new items will be added to your toolbar …

 The WordPress Administration Area - A Step-By-Step Tutorial


Important: If you log in and cannot view the Toolbar when viewing your site, then make sure that the Toolbar is set to display on your “Profile” area.

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

Here’s how to enable the toolbar …

The “Howdy, User” Area

On the far right-hand side in your administration area is the “Howdy, User” section with an image of your Gravatar.

If you hover your mouse over this panel it displays your name and username, with links pointing to your “Profile Screen” and a “Log Out” link …

 The WordPress Dashboard - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

How To Enable Your Admin Toolbar When Viewing Your Site

Click on the “Howdy, Your UserName” tab at the very top right hand corner of your dashboard and choose Edit My Profile

Your WordPress Control Panel Explained

Make sure that Show Toolbar when viewing site is enabled inside the Toolbar information area of your Profile screen …

 The WP Dashboard - An Overview

Don’t forget to click the Update Profile button at the bottom of your screen to update your settings …

 Your WordPress Control Screen - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

Now, you should be able to see the WordPress Toolbar displayed at the top of your screen when you visit your site …

How To Navigate Around The WordPress Dashboard

WordPress Administration Area: Navigation Menu

On the left-hand side of the admin screen is the main navigation menu that contains links to all your administrative functions …

Using Your WP Administration Panel

The WordPress Admin Menu


Keep in mind that what users see inside the Dashboard area when logged in depends on their role and capabilities and how the site administrator has configured settings and options for different features.

In order to access all of the WP admin area functions, you must be an administrator of the site. …

Your WordPress Control Panel Explained

User Roles give users different capabilities and can limit access to site management features

Users with roles other than that of an administrator (e.g. “Contributor”, “Editor”, etc.) get access to fewer menu options inside the dashboard …

An Overview Of Your WordPress Administration Panel

Different Roles Get Assigned Different Capabilities And Options Inside The WP Dashboard

Regardless of the role assigned to a user, some admin menu features like “Collapse menu” remain accessible to all.

Click the Collapse menu button at the bottom of the menu bar …

Your WP Admin Screen Explained

And the menu collapse into a narrow column with only a set of icons showing …

 Your WP Dashboard - An Overview

Use this feature if you need more space in your admin working area.

If you are working with the collapsed menu and are not sure what the icons mean, just click on the bottom icon to expand all items, or hover over the icon to display its submenus …

The WP Dashboard Explained

If you hover your mouse over a menu item, a sub-menu will fly out …

Using The WordPress Control Page

To add submenus to the admin menu column while you’re working, click on a menu item …

How To Use Your WP Administration Page


We plan to provide helpful tutorials about using menu features and functions in future blog posts.

WordPress Admin Section: Working Area

The large section in the middle of your admin screen is your work area. This is where you will get access to most of your site’s information, do most of your admin work, create, modify and delete pages, posts and content within these, upload images and media to your site, add, update and configure plugins and themes, make changes to site settings, etc…

When you log into your site, the Dashboard displays a number of panels with information about various activities happening on your site, plus updates and content feeds from several WordPress-related sources …

How To Navigate Inside Your WP Control Screen

As your site grows with content and functionality (e.g. adding e-commerce or a support helpdesk, etc.) and more users begin to interact online with your site, this section can start looking very busy …

 The WordPress Dashboard - An Overview

Fortunately, you can customize the WordPress dashboard by hiding, minimizing and rearranging the layout and display of your your information sections.

For a quick and easy tutorial on ways to customize your WordPress Dashboard, go here: Customizing Your WordPress Dashboard

WordPress Administration Area: Footer

The footer area is found at the bottom of your WordPress Dashboard screen and displays links to WordPress as well as your current WordPress software version …

The WordPress Control Section Explained

Congratulations! Now you know how to navigate around your WordPress dashboard and administration features.

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Disclaimer: This site is not associated with WordPress or any of the WordPress products written about on this site. We may derive a financial benefit from sales of products advertised, reviewed or linked to from this site. The product images used in this review have been sourced from the plugin’s own website.

Originally posted 2015-06-02 15:36:49.