How to Customize Your WordPress Dashboard

The admin dashboard of your WordPress site is command central for all the tasks related to setting up and running your site. The default settings of your WordPress dashboard provide access to the tools and widgets you need for creating content, managing plugins, widgets, and more – but these default settings may not suit your workflow or the needs of your site. If that’s the case, you can customize your dashboard’s appearance, layout, and functions using dashboard setting options, installing admin theme and content management plugins, adding code to your theme’s functions.php file, or a combination of these methods to get the right dashboard setup for managing your WordPress site. Read on to learn about the different WordPress Dashboard customize settings available to you and your site.

Why Should You Customize Your WordPress Dashboard?

Every new WordPress installation comes with a generic login and dashboard setup designed to provide a staging area for setting up and running all aspects of the site. This default setup comes with a simple login screen that takes users to the wp-admin area of the install, which features a long left sidebar and a screen that displays preset WordPress dashboard widgets for notifications about things like recent activity on the site, WordPress news, a “Quick Draft” text editor, and an overview of the site’s content.

This WordPress dashboard design layout can take up considerable screen room and doesn’t necessarily offer any relevant tools for managing your site’s specific functions. As a result, you may want to clear some space and add more useful tools, or you might simply want to change the appearance of the login and dashboard screens.

Customizing the dashboard can also be useful if your site has multiple users, as in a membership site, social network, or a magazine with numerous contributors logging in to create a blog or post content. In that way, you can set up the relevant tools for each user role and streamline the process of logging in and creating content. WordPress makes it easy for any user to customize the look and functionality of the admin dashboard, even for site runners with no coding or web development experience at all.

Customize Your WordPress Dashboard with Screen Options

The easiest and most direct way to customize a WordPress admin area is through an often overlooked option built into the dashboard itself. The Screen Options button is located in the upper right corner of the default dashboard screen, and when you click the button it opens a display of all the default elements on the screen, with boxes checked to display them. To clear the screen of the elements you don’t want, simply uncheck the relevant boxes. Screen Options also allows you to change the dashboard’s layout from two columns to one and adjust features of the editor itself.

Changing Screen Options settings can clean up the site dashboard by getting rid of elements you don’t want and creating a more appealing layout for your page, but this method doesn’t make significant changes in the functionality and appearance of the dashboard itself. For larger changes, you may want to install a WordPress dashboard plugin or two.

Customize Your Dashboard with Plugins

Just as you can choose from the many free and premium WordPress themes to customize the “front end,” appearance of your site, a variety of dashboard plugins are also available for changing the look and functionality of the WordPress admin area of your website – even the bland and boring login screen.

Plugins, such as WP Admin UI Customize, allow users to customize settings and functions on the dashboard for multiple user roles, such as administrators, contributors, and subscribers. These kinds of plugins allow users to make changes to the wp-admin left sidebar space, create new menus, and change the elements and their positions in the floating admin bar that appears when users are logged in. Other plugins, such as Clean WP Dashboard, allowing users to manage the elements on the dashboard menu or hide them entirely.

Along with plugins designed to manage dashboard functions, users can also install admin theme plugins that simply make the admin interface more visually appealing. Like a global WordPress theme does for the entire website, theme plugins like the free Slate Admin Theme or Fancy Admin UI can change the colors, fonts, and layouts of the dashboard area without affecting its functions.

Customize Your Dashboard with Code

Tools such as the Screen Options button, along with the many dashboard management plugins available from WordPress itself and third-party developers, make it easy for users without coding experience to customize the appearance and functionality of the admin area. But for those with moderate coding and development experience, it’s possible to add a wide range of customizations by adding a few snippets of code to the site’s functions.php file.

Using code from the WP Codex, or code you write yourself, you can gain complete control over all functions and the appearance of your dashboard. Working with code in functions.php, users can create their own dashboard widgets to meet specific needs, disable default widgets without installing plugins, and designate certain widgets for specific users only. It’s also possible to make stylistic and layout changes by modifying existing code or adding new elements to functions.php in order to make the WordPress dashboard look and perform exactly as desired.

Depending on a user’s skill with coding and working with WordPress admin tools, it’s also possible to mix and match these options to create the best dashboard environment for a particular WordPress site.

For example, you might want to hide some of the default widgets using Screen Options and then install a theme plugin that makes the dashboard area more visually appealing. Like every other aspect of WordPress, the dashboard menu and other admin areas of any WordPress site can be customized to look and perform exactly as you want, using native WordPress tools available to both new users and experienced coders alike.
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