Exploring the WordPress Dashboard

January 5, 2017

In this article, we are going explore the WordPress Dashboard. From the Dashboard’s homepage, you can quickly access your website’s content and get a glimpse of some features associated with your website.

The Dashboard is the first thing you will see upon logging into your WordPress website. If you are not yet logged in, you can do so by typing in wp-admin at the end of your website’s URL. Enter your username and password and click Login. Now, if you’re already logged in and deep into a sub-panel menu, don’t worry, you can always return to the dashboard by clicking the Dashboard link located at the top of the left-side navigation menu.

Before we dive into the features of the dashboard, let’s quickly browse around and become more familiar with our administration homepage.

The toolbar is located at the very top of the page. On the far left is the site name. If you hover over this a drop down will appear providing you with the option to Visit Site, which is a link to your home page.

visit site

Notifications are displayed across the top of the toolbar. For example, if there are updates or recent comments, you can quickly access them by clicking the respective icons.

If you hover over the +New button, a drop down menu will display with quick links to add new items, such as a post, media, page, or new user. This is simply a shortcut since the traditional way is through the navigation menu on the left.

plus new

And lastly, the far right indicates the name of the user that is logged in with options to edit your profile and log out.

user menu

The left-side navigation menu will definitely get the most attention since it is how you navigate through the back-end of your website. If you watch our free Beginner’s Guide to WordPress series, we really dive into the nitty-gritty of each sub-panel menu, since each item plays an important role.

left side nav menu

You aren’t able to customize this menu, but new items will be added upon installing certain plugins. However, you can expand or collapse the menu by clicking the toggle arrow.

Dashboard Widgets

Information is displayed on the Dashboard through widgets, which are the boxes you see displayed on the Dashboard homepage.

The great thing about the Dashboard is that you can customize it entirely to your liking, which entails selecting which widgets you want to display on your main page by enabling or disabling them via the Screen Options drop down menu.

Upon clicking the Screen Options at the top of the page, you can view a list of all your widgets and check the box for each widget you want to display. Those items left unchecked will automatically be hidden.

Rather than removing the widget completely, you can also expand or collapse the widget by clicking anywhere on the widget title bar. Widgets can be moved to a different column, or up and down, through the drag-and-drop feature. By clicking and holding the menu bar, drag the widget to your desired location and release.

Widgets Options

The dashboard is not restricted to the default widgets that come packaged with WordPress. Plugin or theme developers can create their Dashboard Widgets that enhances their plugin’s functionality and its capabilities.

For example, the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP plugin features a great widget that displays real-time statistics about your website. This allows you to readily view the information upon logging in, such as the number of visitors, acquisition channels, and traffic.

There are many other widgets that you may choose to select as part of your Dashboard display as they may be valuable to you for one reason or another. Let’s start by taking a closer look at the five main default widgets and evaluate their respective benefits.

Five Default WordPress Widgets

The five widgets populated here are the default widgets and are helpful tools effectively managing your website.

1. Welcome to WordPress! Widget

welcome to wordpress widget

The Welcome to WordPress widget is always displayed at the very top of the dashboard and takes up the entire width of the viewing area. It is unique to other widgets as there is no option to minimize it; alternatively, there is only the option to dismiss it. Of course, once dismissed it can easily be re-enabled via the screen options drop down menu.In summary, this widget is an assembly of links to help beginners manage their site. On the

In summary, this widget is an assembly of links to help beginners manage their site. On the left-hand side is a large Customize your website button, which is a link that will take you to the WordPress theme customizer. Just below that is the option to Change your theme completely, which is a link that redirects you the main themes area.

The Next Steps column includes useful links for creating blog posts, adding pages, and previewing a live demo of your site.

The More Actions column on the right contains links to the widgets main page, menus page, comment settings section, and a link to the “First Steps with WordPress” page in the WordPress codex.

2. At A Glance Widget

at a glance widget

The next default widget I find to be most helpful as it provides you with a general overview of your website, including a summary of the number of posts, published pages, and comments on your site. Each is displayed in the form of a link, which redirects you to the area to manage that content.

It also tells you the current version of WordPress you’re running alongside the current theme that is activated, which is also a link to the main themes area, should you choose to change your theme.

In some cases, the At A Glance widget will display important metrics from third-party plug-ins as well.

3. Activity Widget

activity widget

The Activity widget displays a snapshot of the most recent activities that have taken place, such as an itemized list of recently published posts, upcoming scheduled posts, and recently submitted comments.

In this example, we see a recent comment that was published. Each comment has a link with the post title that redirects you to that specific post. The links below feature a number to indicate how many comments we have in total and the status, such as the number of comments that have been approved, pending approval, flagged as spam, or deleted. By hovering the mouse over the comment, a menu appears with the options to Approve (or Unapprove) the comment, Edit, Reply to, flag as Spam, Delete, or View the comment.

4. Quick Draft Widget

quick draft widget

Another simple default widget is the Quick Draft widget. For active bloggers, this is a practical tool that can be used to quickly and easily write a post, such as jotting down the title and some content that may have come to mind. Once the draft is saved, it will be added to the log of draft posts, so you can complete the post at a later date.

5. WordPress News Widget

The WordPress News widget displays the latest blog posts from the official WordPress blogs, such as the WordPress.org blog and WP Tavern, as well as trending plugins with a link to view the plug-in through a pop-up window and quickly install it.

I’d imagine that most users quickly minimize this widget or disable it from the Dashboard altogether; however, it could be useful since it displays information about WordPress updates, version announcements, and security notices.

Concluding Thoughts

Well, that about wraps it up for our tutorial on the Dashboard. If utilized properly, the Dashboard can save time by displaying relevant information in a simple fashion. For many, the Dashboard is simply overlooked after logging in or in some cases the dashboard is so overcrowded with unwanted widgets from installed plugins that it has become a nuisance. Clean up is easy and controlling what specific information you want readily available on your home screen is what the dashboard was designed for in the first place.

Keep in mind that WordPress has given you basic tools to control and customize your dashboard; however, but them to good use in your hands. Now that you feel comfortable with the Dashboard and its capabilities, log in and start customizing it to your liking.

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