WP Tutorial

The WP dashboard screen of your web site is one of the most important areas of WordPress to master. In this tutorial you will learn your way around the WP control panel.

You will also learn about some of the “hidden” features of the WordPress dashboard that will become more useful to you as you become more skilled at using WordPress.


Note: We assume that you already have installed a WordPress website or blog on your domain and that you know how to log into your website or blog.

If you need help logging into WordPress, see this tutorial: Accessing Your WordPress Blog Site Admin

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



Your WordPress Dashboard

Once you are logged into your WordPress site via the login form, you will typically be taken to your Dashboard, which is your site’s administration area.

 Your WP Control Panel - An Overview

The WordPress Dashboard

The WP control panel is where all of your site’s administrative tasks are carried out.

Your WordPress Site Dashboard is divided into several useful sections that provide you with access to tools and features such as:

  • Important data and information about what is taking place on your site. It also allows you to see at-a-glance metrics and information about recent activity that has taken place on your site, system updates and notifications, and up-to-date information on the latest news from the WordPress community and various WordPress-related resources, such as messages, notification 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 allow you to modify, expand and enhance the design and functionality of your site, upgrade plugins and themes, as well as add, change and delete your content and content sections.

 Your WP Dashboard - An Overview

The Dashboard “At A Glance” Section

Let’s complete the step-by-step tutorial below, then, to learn more about using your Dashboard and your site’s main admin sections.

The WordPress Control Panel Explained

In version 3.8, WordPress introduced new design changes to its administration area …

Your WP Admin Area Explained


Although this new design was mostly cosmetic and intended to give WordPress users and developers cleaner typography for clarity, ease of reading and a more aesthetic experience, this has also affected much of the existing WordPress documentation 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 customize the look and feel of your administration area, expect to see other improvements to backend features when WordPress releases new versions.

If newer versions of WordPress include changes to any of the functional aspects or features of the software, then rest assured that we will post an update about it here.


Important: If your website runs on an older version of WordPress 3.8, then make sure you upgrade to the latest version immediately, as newer versions of WordPress contain many bug and security fixes.


Your WP Dashboard

WordPress Dashboard Messages

Depending on how your site is managed and maintained, you may or may not see the messages below.

The first time you log into your site powered by WordPress, you may see a “Welcome to WordPress” message displayed inside your Dashboard …

Your WordPress Control Section Explained

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

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

 The WP Control Area - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

 Your WP Control Panel - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

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 go back to the dashboard, you can select “Dashboard” (or click on Dashboard > Home) in your admin menu …

 The WP Dashboard - An Overview

Or scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click on the link to dismiss the message and go back to your main Dashboard …

The WP Control Panel Explained

Dashboard Screen Sections

The Dashboard gives you access to all of the main controls and features that you will need to manage your site …

The WP Administration Section Explained

Your WP Dashboard is divided into different areas

The Dashboard screen is divided into a number of different sections:

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

WordPress Admin Area: Header Section

Header Section

The header section displays system updates, messages, warnings and notifications …

 The WordPress Admin Screen - An Overview

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

The WordPress Dashboard Explained

Screen Options Feature

The Screen Options feature is located in the top-right corner of your WordPress administration screen, in the header area …

Using The WP Control Screen

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

Your WP Admin Screen Explained

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

 Your WP Administration Section - An Overview

If you are in the Posts section, clicking on the Screen Options tab allows you to configure completely different options, such as displaying 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 which plugins you have installed on your website …

Understanding The WP Admin Area


Tip: Some developers or web designers may choose to prevent certain elements from displaying on your admin area because they may decide that their clients won’t be needing these features, or simply to give sections of your site a less cluttered look, or to prevent accidental errors from happening.

If you are looking for a particular function or element in your administration area 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 searching for!

WordPress Online Help Section

You can access the official WordPress documentation and community support forum sections by clicking on the Help tab located on the top right-hand corner of your header area …

 The WP Control Panel - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

As an example, if you are editing content in the Edit Post area of your site admin, clicking on the Help tab will bring up help information and tutorials specifically related to editing posts …

The WP Dashboard Explained


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

WordPress Administration Area: Toolbar

The WordPress Toolbar is located at the very top of your Administration screen and provides you and your logged in site users with access to a number of important admin functions, features, information and quick links to other areas of your site …

How To Use Your WordPress Control Screen

Many Toolbar items can fly out to display additional information by hovering your mouse over the icons …

 The WP Control Area - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

For example, the “updates” icon on the toolbar lets you see if the WordPress software or any plugins or themes need updating …

The WordPress Dashboard Explained

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

Understanding The WordPress Control Area

You can also see what effect any updates you make to your pages or content will have on your site as seen by your site visitors.

Tip: Open your “front end” in a new window to keep working in the backend of your site …

 Your WordPress Control Screen - A Tutorial

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

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

How To Use Your WordPress Dashboard

Depending on which section of the admin area you are working on and what plugins you have installed, you may also see different kinds of information showing on the admin toolbar …

 Your WordPress Control Area - An Overview


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

The WordPress Dashboard Explained

The section below shows you how to do this …

The “Howdy, User” Section

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

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

Your WordPress Control Section Explained

How To Enable Your 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

Understanding Your WordPress Control Screen

Make sure that Show Toolbar when viewing site is enabled in the Toolbar section of your Profile area …

 The WordPress Admin Screen - A Tutorial

Don’t forget to click the Update Profile button before leaving to save your changes …

 The WP Dashboard - A Tutorial

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

Using The WP Dashboard

WordPress Admin Area: Navigation Menu

On the far left side of the Dashboard is the main navigation menu that contains links to all your administrative features …

The WP Dashboard Explained

The WordPress Admin Menu


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

In order to access all of the WordPress control panel features, you must be an administrator of the site. …

Using The WP Control Screen

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

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

 Your WordPress Control Screen - An Overview

Different Roles Get Access To Different Capabilities And Options Inside The WP Dashboard

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

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

Your WordPress Control Screen Explained

And the sidebar menu collapse into a narrow column with only a set of icons displaying for all functions …

Your WP Control Area Explained

This is a useful feature if you want more space in your admin working area.

If you are not sure what the icons mean, just click the bottom icon to expand all items, or hover over an icon to display its submenus …

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

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

Your WordPress Dashboard Explained

To insert sub-menus into the navigation menu column while you’re working, click on a menu item …

How To Use Your WP Control Screen


We plan to provide helpful tutorials about each of the navigation menu items in future blog posts.

WP Administration Section: Main Working Area

The large area in the middle of your administration screen is your main working area. This is where you will get access to most of your site’s information, configure most of your settings, create, edit and delete pages, posts and content associated with these, upload images and media to your site, add, update and configure plugins and themes, modify your site options, and so on.

When you log into your admin area, the Dashboard will display a number of panels with information about various activities happening on your site, plus news and notices from several sources …

 Your WP Dashboard - A Step-By-Step Tutorial

As your site grows with content and functionality (e.g. adding e-commerce or a support helpdesk, etc.) and more users begin to interact with your site, you might find your working area starting to look very busy …

 The WP Administration Section - A Tutorial

Fortunately, you can declutter the work area by hiding, minimizing and reorganizing the layout and display of your your information elements.

WordPress Administration Area: Footer

The footer section is found at the bottom of your WP Administration area and displays links to WordPress and your site’s current WordPress software version …

Your WP Control Section Explained

Congratulations! Now you know how to use your WordPress dashboard and admin areas.