The WordPress admin panel – the platform’s back end control panel – is critical to performing all aspects of site upkeep. You’ll post new content, upload media, and apply WordPress updates from this control panel, so it’s important that you understand its ins and outs if you hope to manage your site effectively.
The admin panel can be a point of frustration for new WordPress users, but only because it can appear very large at first glance. The 80/20 principle applies here. Roughly 80% of the tasks you’ll perform as a WordPress user can be managed from 20% of the admin screens.
But before you begin managing your site from the WordPress back end, you’ll need to sign in. Feel free to skip ahead if you’ve already logged in and are ready to adjust settings or add content.
- Finding and Logging into the WordPress Control Panel
- Navigating the WordPress Admin Panel
- Important Tabs
- Additional WordPress Admin Panel Tabs
- Screen Options
- Perfecting Your WordPress Admin Panel Workflow
Finding and Logging into the WordPress Control Panel
Logging into the WordPress admin area requires a username and password. These values were set when your website was first launched, but you can recover them using instructions provided ahead.
Remember that the steps outlined here apply to the typical WordPress installation. Control panel layouts and admin URLs can be overridden, so request a guide from your developer if you suspect that your site has been customized in this way.
What is the WordPress admin URL?
Visit example.com/wp-admin to access your WordPress website’s back end. You’ll want to replace the example.com part with your own domain name.
If you’re already signed into WordPress, this URL might direct you to the Dashboard screen. Otherwise, you’ll be greeted with a login form. Go ahead and sign in if you have your credentials handy.
How do I recover my username and password for WordPress?
Don’t sweat it if you’ve misplaced your WordPress username or password. The login screen at example.com/wp-admin offers a “Lost your password?” link near the bottom. Go ahead and click it, and don’t forget to swap that example.com domain name out with your own.
You’ll notice that the lost password form accepts either a username or email address for password retrieval. This is perfect for users who have misplaced a username. As long as you remember your email address, you can recover your username and password at the same time.
Shortly after you fill out and submit the lost password form, you should receive an email containing your username and a password reset link. Copy your username and follow the email’s link to set a new (and secure) password. With your new credentials handy, return to the login screen and sign in.
Navigating the WordPress Admin Panel
The WordPress back end is made up of several screens, but they share many of the same menus and buttons. After signing in and landing on the Dashboard screen, direct your attention to the dark bar along the top of the page.
This horizontal bar is known as the WordPress admin bar. You’ll see it on every page of your website (including those on the front end) while you’re signed in.
The admin bar offers quick access to many of the most important parts of the WordPress admin area. The links it provides will differ from the front end to the back end of your website.
On the left-hand side of the bar, expect to find a menu for external WordPress resources followed by another menu that includes a link to the front end of your website. This “internal” menu offers links to the back end of your website and a few appearance tools when browsing from the front end.
Those menus are followed by links to updates (when updates are available) and visitor comments. Next in line is the new content menu. Reveal and follow any of its links to begin writing or uploading content of a specific type.
And finally, the account menu is positioned at the right-hand corner of the admin bar. Use the links inside to edit your profile or to sign out of WordPress.
The WordPress admin menu is the vertical menu located along the left-hand side of the admin area. It shares many of the same design qualities as the admin bar but is different in a couple of big ways.
While the horizontal admin bar offers links to only a handful of back end screens, the admin menu offers links to almost all of them. You can access nearly all areas of the WordPress admin panel with a single click of an admin menu item.
And unlike the admin bar, the admin menu is only visible from the website’s back end. If you’re browsing the front end of your website and need access to any of the admin menu’s items, you’ll need to return to the control panel for it.
Desktop vs. Mobile
If you’re noticing inconsistencies between what you’re actually seeing and what’s pictured or described here, your screen’s size may be the culprit. The admin bar and menu will shrink with the width of your browser window. As these elements shrink, labels are often hidden.
In some cases, admin menu and bar elements will be removed from smaller screens entirely. It’s usually the non-critical tools that are affected, such as the menu containing links to external WordPress resources.
And like most forms of mobile navigation, the admin menu is collapsed on smaller screens by default. Just tap the hamburger menu toggle (represented by three horizontal bars) near the top-left corner of any back end screen to reveal the full admin menu.
WordPress Admin Panel Tabs
Regardless of your screen’s size, the admin menu includes around ten top-level tabs by default. Some are vital to the administration of your website, while others are reserved for tasks that will be performed infrequently.
What follows is a brief overview of the WordPress admin menu’s tabs and the tools they link to. Check out our guide for a deeper dive into the WordPress control panel and the platform as a whole.
As mentioned earlier, the volume of control panel screens and tabs can be discouraging to users who are jumping into WordPress for the first time. In addition to the ten or more top-level tabs, the admin menu is made up of many dropdown menus that contain as many as eight additional links each.
Don’t let these tabs or menus frighten you or stop you from giving the WordPress platform a fair shot. You’ll spend your time interacting with only a small handful of the WordPress admin panel screens.
If you’ve just installed WordPress, the Settings tab deserves a quick look. Expand its dropdown menu and you’ll find that it includes several items. Click or tap on the “General” item to proceed to the General Settings screen.
The site title and tagline values you supply on this screen are very visible throughout the front end of your website. More importantly, search engines often display these values when offering links to your site’s pages in search results. Enter values that will appeal to your target audience and that accurately describe your website’s purpose.
Review and replace additional input values as you see fit, but pay close attention to the date format and time format selections before saving your changes. WordPress will display dates and times next to your website’s blog posts. Therefore, you should select formats that are easily recognized by those in your corner of the world.
After saving general settings, click or tap the “Reading” item in the admin menu’s Settings menu. From here, you can select a homepage for your website and dictate how many posts are visible from your blog’s archive pages. Ensure that the “Discourage search engines” checkbox is unchecked if you want visitors to find your site in search results.
Before turning your attention to the next admin menu tab, click or tap the “Discussion” item in the Settings menu. By default, comments are enabled on new WordPress websites. You can disable comments and set your own comment rules from this important Settings screen.
Next, turn your attention to the WordPress control panel’s Pages tab. The tab’s dropdown offers only two links.
Click or tap the dropdown’s “All Pages” item to browse all of your website’s existing pages. Hover over any of the pages listed for links that will allow you to view, edit, or delete a page. Since hovering is not an option on phones, those on smaller screens will see these links all the time.
When you’ve finished reviewing the Pages screen, click or tap the “Add New” item in the Pages dropdown. You will be sent to the Add New Page screen. From here, you can build a new page for your WordPress website.
The Add New Page screen offers a large editor that you can use to input content, but the editor provided to you depends on your WordPress version and any third-party plugins you’ve installed. WordPress 5.0 and later offers the powerful block editor. A complete walkthrough of any one editor is beyond the scope of this overview, but play around with the block editor for a while and you should find that the process of creating with it is fairly intuitive.
If you’ve worked with WordPress before, you likely know that most content you create is either of the “page” or “post” type. Pages contain information that doesn’t change often, while posts usually contain timely content that is most useful right after publication. For example, contact information might be added to a page, while news stories or company updates are usually published as posts.
Like pages, WordPress posts have their own admin menu tab and dropdown menu. The dropdown contains four items, but go ahead and start with the “All Posts” item. Sharp-eyed webmasters will quickly realize that the All Pages and All Posts screens are almost identical.
Click or tap the “Add New” item and you’ll find that the Add New Post screen looks a lot like the Add New Page screen as well. That’s because pages and posts share the same block editor in WordPress 5.0 and later.
Review the Posts dropdown after revealing it once more and you might spot a couple of the key differences between pages and posts: categories and tags. Unlike pages, WordPress posts can be categorized and tagged for easy filtering from the WordPress admin panel and front end.
Explore the Categories screen and Tags screen to familiarize yourself with the two taxonomies. Categories and tags can be created and assigned to posts from the Add New Post or Edit Post screen. However, if you need to edit or remove terms from either taxonomy, you’ll need to do so from the Categories or Tags screen.
Without a photo or two, long blocks of text can quickly become tough to digest. Expand the Media tab dropdown to reveal two more links: Library and Add New.
The Library item will direct you to the Media Library screen. It will list all of the media items you’ve uploaded to your website, including images, audio files, videos, documents, and more.
Click or tap any items in the Media Library for links and input elements specific to the file type. The “Alternate Text” image input is especially useful for search optimization, so consider reviewing this value for all of your site’s images. Links for Media Library items will allow you to quickly remove uploads or to edit additional upload details.
The second and final Media dropdown item will direct you to the Upload New Media screen. You can upload files here, but since you can upload files from the Media Library as well, this screen is of limited use. Likewise, media can be uploaded directly from the page and post editor.
Those who appreciate a unique site design will be interacting with the Appearance tab frequently. The tab’s dropdown offers five links by default: Themes, Customize, Widgets, Menus, and Theme Editor.
Forget about the Theme Editor item entirely for now. The Theme Editor screen allows you to edit theme files from the WordPress back end. But as the tool states in its own prompt, editing files in this manner is bad practice.
The Widgets menu item is useful if your theme offers any areas for widgets. When sidebars were far more popular, WordPress users would head to the Widgets screen to customize them, but cleaner website layouts without sidebars are more trendy at the moment. Still, if your chosen theme offers an area for header, footer, or even sidebar widgets, the Widgets screen is obviously worth a look.
Far more interesting is the Themes item in the Appearance dropdown. From here, you can browse your installed themes, activate a new theme, and search for new themes to install. Themes contain the bulk of your site’s markup and styles, therefore shaping your site design.
Click or tap the “Add New” button next to the Themes screen heading to browse popular themes or to search themes by keyword. You can preview themes or immediately install and activate them from this screen.
The themes available from the Add Themes screen are all offerings from the WordPress platform’s official repository. These themes are all free to install, but they make up a very small percentage of themes available to WordPress users.
To install a free or premium theme that you’ve received from a third party, click or tap the “Add New” button to the right of the current screen’s heading. You can select and upload your theme’s ZIP file from the field that was revealed.
After you’ve installed and activated your favorite theme, head to the Customize screen linked up from the Appearance dropdown. This screen offers a unique layout perfectly suited for the editing and previewing of theme changes.
The customization options available to you will depend entirely on the theme you’ve selected. Many theme authors will allow you to customize colors, fonts, images, and header and footer items from the Customize screen.
While you are free to edit navigation menus from the Customize screen, WordPress provides a completely separate screen for this as well. It’s linked up from the Menus item in the control panel’s Appearance dropdown and offers additional navigation menu options that are available from this screen exclusively.
Give the Divi theme a try if you’re unhappy with the limited customization options offered by the repository’s free themes. Divi is a premium theme bundled with layout packs that allow users to craft custom site designs from a drag-and-drop interface. More importantly, the theme’s built-in editor is considered one of the best.
Additional WordPress Admin Panel Tabs
By now, you’re hopefully somewhat familiar with many of the tools available from your WordPress admin panel. Most aspects of content creation and design customization are handled from the screens you’ve already visited, but four admin menu tabs remain.
The areas of your control panel that you’ll visit next aren’t particularly exciting, but you should know how to access them. You’ll use these tabs and screens to add new functionality to your website and to apply important updates as needed.
Expand the Plugins tab’s dropdown and you’ll notice that it’s structured a lot like the Appearance tab’s. Click or tap the “Installed Plugins” item to browse, activate, deactivate, or delete your existing plugins. The Add New item beneath it will direct you to the Add Plugins screen.
Like the Add Themes screen, the Add Plugins screen lists plugins from the official repository as well as filters for those listings. You can install and activate plugins that catch your eye from this screen.
Plugins add new functionality to your website, but they can also add overhead and increase site load times. Consider whether or not you really need a plugin’s functionality and carefully review user feedback before installing.
You’ll find an Add New button to the right of the Add Plugins screen heading. Click or tap it to upload a plugin that was provided to you by a third party.
The final Plugins dropdown item will direct you to the Plugin Editor screen. Editing plugin files from the back end is no better than editing theme files from it, so just avoid this screen altogether.
The Users tab and its dropdown items will come in handy if you plan to allow colleagues to log in and manage your site. You can browse existing users with the All Users link or add new ones with the Add New link.
Click or tap the “Your Profile” link if you intend to publish blog posts or already have. The display name you supply here will be visible to the public, so review and replace this value if needed.
You may never return to the screens linked from the Tools dropdown, but having a look at them won’t hurt. While the Available Tools item is useless, the Import and Export items can be helpful if you’re moving to WordPress or if you’re crazy enough to leave it.
The Site Health screen linked up from the Tools dropdown is fairly new to WordPress and is worth checking out. The screen’s Status tab will offer recommendations for improving your website’s security and performance. Switch to the Info tab to review and copy technical information that can be used to troubleshoot site issues.
You can quickly copy text from the Info tab, but be mindful of where you paste it or to whom you send it. Some of the server information could be considered sensitive and potentially dangerous in the hands of an untrusted party.
The Export and Erase Personal Data links were added to the Tools dropdown when GDPR went into effect. Use these links to honor personal data requests if you allow visitors to register accounts with your website.
Last but not least, the Dashboard tab is (ironically) the very first tab in the WordPress admin panel by default. The Dashboard dropdown’s Home item will direct you to the Dashboard screen, but it’s far from the most important dropdown item of the two.
Click or tap the dropdown’s Updates item to review all WordPress-related updates available for your website. Themes, plugins, and the WordPress platform itself require frequent patching. These updates can contain critical security fixes, so you should apply them as soon as they are made available.
WordPress updates, especially the big ones, have been known to break sites in very rare cases. For this reason, you should ensure that you have a current backup to restore from before applying updates.
You’ve visited every screen in the WordPress admin panel and probably assume you’ve seen all there is to see, but hold tight! The developers of WordPress, in their infinite wisdom, chose to hide a few features to all but those brave enough to seek them out. Expand the Screen Options tab near the top-right corner of almost any admin screen to see what you’ve been missing.
Return to the Menus screen linked up from the Appearance tab’s dropdown for an example of one such hidden feature. Expand the Screen Options tab here and you’ll find a list of “advanced menu properties” that are all disabled by default.
Not all of these hidden properties are useful, but the “Link Target” checkbox will enable an option often requested by WordPress users that don’t know it already exists. By assigning a link target to a navigation menu item, you can force it to open in a new browser tab. This is especially handy if you need to link to an external website from your navigation menu.
Perfecting Your WordPress Admin Panel Workflow
After your return from the farthest reaches of the control panel, are you surprised that users are intimidated by it? There’s a lot to the WordPress back end, but the hope is that this guide has given you an idea of how to manage your website more effectively.
As you continue to add content to your site and nail down its design, you’ll find that most of your time is divided between fewer than a quarter of the admin screens. And before you know it, you’ll be showing others how to navigate the powerful WordPress admin panel more efficiently.