You’ve just installed WordPress… now what?
Although the WordPress dashboard may feel foreign at first, rest assured that with this tutorial and a bit of practice, you’ll be deftly navigating through its many features in no time at all.
Below, we’ll cover 10 of the top WordPress dashboard features you need to be familiar with as a new user. This list isn’t intended to be comprehensive—WordPress offers so much more than could ever be covered in a list of 10 entries—but it should give you a place to start. Once you begin to understand WordPress’s intuitive organization, you’ll find it much easier to explore the system’s other tools and features.
Your Dashboard Landing Page
Per the WordPress Codex, your WordPress dashboard will look something like this:
If you’re a new user, the “Welcome to WordPress” tool set will appear in the dashboard’s top position with helpful links to get you started. If you’ve already dismissed this panel and you’ve installed different plugins, you may see notifications from the plugins you’re using in the same space.
Besides this header section, you’ll notice that the WordPress dashboard includes:
- A left-hand navigation menu with links to submenus
- An “At a Glance” section containing stats on your WordPress site content and current version
- An “Activity” feed highlighting your most recent posts, comments and other activities
- A “Quick Draft” form where you can submit new post ideas quickly
- A “WordPress News” column containing updates from the WordPress team
Depending on the plugins you’ve installed, your dashboard landing page may contain plugin-specific updates or other customized sections. But now that you know the general layout of the WordPress dashboard, let’s hop into a few specific features to be aware of:
#1. The WordPress Upper Navigation Bar
Besides the left-hand navigation bar where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time within WordPress, you’ll see a black bar with white text running across the top of the screen when you’re logged into your admin section.
This bar contains plenty of helpful shortcuts, but one you’ll want to pay particular attention to is “Visit Site,” which you’ll access by hovering over your site’s name within this bar. Clicking the text will cause your site to open up in the same tab (right-click it to open in a new tab if you’d like to keep your dashboard open).
As you access your live site, you’ll see the black bar remains, giving you access to the same shortcuts and an easy path back to your WordPress dashboard if you opened your live site on top of it.
#2. The WordPress WYSIWYG Editor
Besides the dashboard, you’ll likely spend most of your time within WordPress editing either pages or posts. As a result, you’ll get to know the system’s WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) editor pretty well.
When you go to create a new page or post (or edit an existing content piece), you’ll see the following screen:
For the most part, editing in WordPress is pretty similar to editing in a document editor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. You’ll enter your text into the main window, just as you’d enter it into the body section of a blank text document. Then, you’ll use the editing buttons on top of this section to adjust the appearance of your web content.
A few notes on WordPress’s editing tools:
- Clicking on the “kitchen sink” button (denoted by the red arrow above) will open up a second row of editing tools for you to choose from
- Adding bullet lists, numbered lists, bold text, italicized text and section headings (via the Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc, tags) will make your finished text much more readable
- The “Add Media” button can be used to embed picture and video files from your Media Library (more on that in a bit) into your content
Spend some time playing around with different editing features. Remember, until you press “Publish” the content you create within the WYSIWYG editor won’t be visible to the public. You can preview the drafts you’ve created as if they were live as often as needed until you’re happy with their final appearance.
#3. The WordPress Code Editor
By default, WordPress displays the visual editor when you go to create or edit posts and pages. However, if you’re comfortable with basic coding, you can make modifications this way by clicking the “Text” button to reveal the code editor:
Most beginners won’t have a need for this feature. However, it can be helpful if you:
- Are a more advanced user who’s comfortable making code-based changes
- Feel something isn’t being coded correctly in the visual editor and plan to use the code editor to manually diagnose the issue
- Want to learn basic HTML code by seeing how the pages you create in the visual editor are rendered in text
#4. The Media Library
Your Media Library hosts all the visual files used to build your WordPress site, such as your images and videos.
The Media Library can be accessed from the left-hand navigation bar or called from within many of WordPress’s different editing features. Once you’re inside, you can grab the individual URL for each visual asset if you’ll need to manually code it into your site (for example, in a text widget within your site’s sidebar). You can even handle basic asset editing needs within the Media Library.
#5. Zen Mode
WordPress, as you’ve probably noticed, has a lot going on. To minimize distractions and create a more focused writing experience, click the four-way arrow button indicated below to enter WordPress’s zen mode:
#6. Quick Edits
On occasion, you may find yourself needing to make several quick changes to your WordPress posts or pages. Depending on the type of edits that need to occur, you may be able to handle this using WordPress’s quick edits feature, rather than opening each post or page manually.
To access the quick edits option, hover your cursor over the title of the post or page you want to change from the summary screen:
This will cause the quick edits option to appear. When clicked, this will allow you to edit the following fields:
- Password or Private post box
- Allow Comments
- Allow Pings
- Make this post sticky
You’ll still need to open each post or page individually to change its content, though making quick edits to these fields using this menu will still save you time.
#7. Post Scheduling
One of the WordPress features active bloggers like most is the ability to preload posts and schedule them to go live at specified times. Post scheduling can also be useful if you work with a team in which multiple members will need to access and review a new piece of content before it’s taken live.
To access post scheduling, click the “Edit” link next to “Publish Immediately” in the “Publish” sidebar panel. Use the date tabs that appear to select your preferred publishing date and time, then click “Ok.” The blue “Publish” button will become “Schedule,” and you’ll be able to see your scheduled updates on the post summary page.
#8. Revision History
Made a mistake that wound up published to your live WordPress website? Never fear! Revision history is here to save the day. Opening the revision history (listed in the “Publish” sidebar panel) will reveal a comparison slider that will let you review past versions and select one to restore.
#9. The Visual Composer
If you purchase a professional WordPress theme or downloaded a free theme to use on your website, you may find that the default editing options pictured above have been replaced with Visual Composer, a popular plugin that uses a row and column, element-based visual editing interface.
Using Visual Composer makes it easy to create complex, professional-looking WordPress sites, but it can take some getting used to for new users. Spending some time with the program’s knowledgebase can help get you up to speed.
Finally, new users should know that, by default, WordPress creates URLs for posts and pages using the asset’s unique ID number. This results in URLs like the “Default” shown below:
These default URLs are unhelpful from both a user experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO) perspective. Instead, most users will want to use the “Permalinks Settings” screen (found within the “Settings” menu) to select another option, such as post name, which will result in more readable, keyword-rich URLs.
Again, this list isn’t all-inclusive. WordPress is a richly-featured platform that’s easy to learn, but requires time to master. Start here, but always be on the lookout for additional features, tools, tips and tricks that’ll make your WordPress experience more efficient.
What’s your favorite WordPress feature? Leave us a note below with your vote.