One of the greatest challenges I have in teaching WordPress to clients, students, and in workshops and online courses like Lorelle’s WordPress School is the fact that WordPress keeps changing the interface and the names of the various interface bits and pieces. They are doing it again on WordPress.com with a “new and improved” interface and via their Jetpack WordPress Plugin with the new “one stop united Dashboard” feature.
A little history is needed in today’s tutorial on the naming of the WordPress interface, the backend, administration screens/panels, dashboard, codey-hacky part of WordPress.
In 2004, a small team that included me and early WordPress developers started naming all the interface elements in WordPress. The overall interface was called the Administration Panels. Today, these are called the Administration Screens, not far from the original.
Each panel or screen represented a collection of options and features in WordPress. Things were very simple, and I miss that simplicity. We had Dashboard, Write, Manage, Links, Presentation (Themes/Appearance), Plugins (only on self-hosted or managed versions of WordPress), Users, and Options. It made sense. If you wished to publish, you clicked Write and chose between publishing a post or Page by WordPress version 1.5. It was clean, minimalistic, and easy to use.
Then they started messing with it.
WordPress clearly had to improve the interface as the content management system became more and more complex and intricate. Posts and Pages were divided into separate screens, Options became Tools and Settings, and Presentation morphed into Themes then Appearance. I’m waiting for it to be called “Customization” soon as that is where the trend is going.
The name choices also cause confusion. For example, under Settings you will find General, Writing, Reading, and Discussion, among others. I’ve had clients and students look for a way to publish under Settings > Writing or Reading, and getting lost under Settings > Discussion to find their site’s comments. Personally, I would group the settings for each option such as Writing, Reading, and Discussion on their appropriate main screen such as Posts and Pages, Appearance for “Reading” options, and Comments for Discussion settings. People expect to find options in the area where the feature is presented.
As WordPress develops, expect to see such changes. Expect the names of things to change.
You may see all the various interface changes in WordPress over the years on “A Journey Through Five Years of WordPress Interface” from planetOzh and “History of WordPress: WordPress UI Evolution + Other Improvements” by WPExplorer.
Today we focus specifically on the names of the WordPress Administration interface to help you navigate its slippery waters. We will be examining the Administration Screens and Admin Bar.
WordPress Administration Screen Names
The WordPress Admin Screens are officially called the Administration Screens. Historically, they were the Administration Panels. They are also known as the backend, admin, admin interface, WP admin, interface, and variations thereof.
There are many screens in the Admin screen or backend of WordPress. These screens hold related features and functions. Examples include Dashboard, Store (for WordPress.com users), Jetpack (for those using the Jetpack Plugin), Posts, Media, Pages, Comments, Appearance, Tools, and Settings. Some screens on the Admin menu may have subscreens such as under Settings you will find General, Writing, Reading, and Discussion, among others.
Many authors and bloggers refer to the Administration Screens as the “Dashboard.” The term Dashboard is trademarked and may not be used to represent the entire backend interface of WordPress. The Dashboard is a screen featuring modularized content related to the overall activity of your site.
When giving instructions on how to access an area of WordPress, they are written typically in bold such as:
Go to Settings > Reading > Visibility to change the visibility settings to make the site public, private, or hidden from search engines.
When said aloud, there is a pause between the words such as “Go to [pause] Settings [pause] Reading [pause] Visibility to change the visibility settings…” This gives the listener a chance to absorb the instructions and repeat them as they hunt for each of the menu items.
Here is how accessing the menu items work in the backend interface.
- The first word is written in bold such as Settings. Hover your mouse over the menu on the left side of the backend screen where it says “Settings.” A submenu will popup.
- Move your mouse to the second word in bold Reading. If that area features a submenu, it will appear. If not, click “Reading.” This will take you to the Settings > Reading screen or panel.
- Scan the web page and look for the third word in the instructions Visibility. It is a heading on the web page with options to set.
- When you have completed setting all options, click the Save button. The web page will reload and your options will be saved. Most of the time a confirmation message will appear at the top of the page indicating you have saved the settings.</li.
At the bottom of the main Administration Screen menus is an arrow and the words “Collapse menu.” Try pressing the button. This shrinks the main menu down to icons and expands it up to include words. If you are working on a small screen, this is a great way to regain some screen real estate property.
The Admin Bar
The Admin Bar is your gateway to your site’s main interface navigation both on the back and the front end. It sits at the top of the site when you are logged in. It is invisible to those who are not logged in. You maybe able to change the color of the bar, but it is black by default.
The Admin Bar is changing on WordPress.com, so expect changes to come to your non-WordPress.com site. This is part of the Jetpack WordPress Plugin united dashboard administration changes. Expect what is described below to change as improvements are made to the interface.
Depending upon if you are WordPress.com or the self-hosted or managed version of WordPress, and the WordPress Plugins and Theme options you may have installed, the features on the Admin Bar by default include:
- My Sites: The WordPress Admin Bar used to feature the name of your site in the upper left corner of the bar, helping you to identify the site you were on if you had multiple WordPress sites. Today, this has been replaced by My Sites. This has caused much confusion for my clients and students working on multiple WordPress sites at the same time. Hover over it to display the name of the site you are working on and its Administration Screen access points. Among the other options in the drop down menu are shortcut links to help you add posts, Pages, Media, and access other Admin Screens quickly.
- Reader: If you are a WordPress.com member, you have access to the WordPress Reader, a web page featuring the latest posts from sites you follow.
- Sparklines: WordPress.com members and those using the WordPress.com Stats WordPress Plugin now integrated into the Jetpack WordPress Plugin, you will see a set of fine lines in the Admin Bar. These are a measurement of your visitors by the hour for the last 48 hours. If you click it, the link will go to your stats page with information on visitor activity on your site.
- Add New Post: Currently represented by a pencil with a + symbol, this is a shortcut button to add a new post, one of many.
- Gravatar: This used to say “Howdy, Your Name,” whatever your name was, keeping a little of the Texas flavor of the co-founder, Matt Mullengweg, in the interface. The howdy is now gone and this is simply your Gravatar image. This is a shortcut link to your site account and account settings. Please note that unless your site is on a managed installation of WordPress like WordPress.com, WPEngine, or others, this will only take you to your WordPress site account information, not your web host account. Hover over the image to access shortcut links to your user Profile and to log out.
- Notification: If there are comments awaiting review on your site, the notification box in the Admin bar will light up orange. The look and feel of this has changed recently and expect it to change again as the admin bar develops.
- Search: A magnifying glass may be the last thing on the far right of the Admin Bar. This is a search everything or omnisearch feature of WordPress. It searches your site and WordPress interface for the search term including posts, Pages, Comments, Media, Plugins, Feedback, etc.
Your assignment today is to learn how to navigate all the bits and pieces of WordPress and name them.
Start with the Admin Bar on your test site. Hover over each menu item on the bar and move around your site via the quick access links. Look at the Reader, sparklines (Stats), Gravatar image (account), etc.
Do an Everything Search through your site. Your test site won’t have much content yet, but try it anyway.
Then move into the Administration Screen menus and hover over each one on the left (for right-to-left languages) to see which have submenus, and which submenus have submenus. Explore them and look for memory triggers to help you remember where things are in the menus.
For additional credit, log into your site and count how many access points there are in the Admin Screens to create a new post. How many can you find? While you are at it, consider adding the login and new post links as bookmarks to your web browser to speed up access to your site.
This is a tutorial from Lorelle’s WordPress School. For more information, and to join this free, year-long, online WordPress School, see:
- Lorelle’s WordPress School Introduction
- Lorelle’s WordPress School Description
- WordPress School Tutorials List
- WordPress School Google+ Community
- WordPress Publishing Checklist
- How to Give Feedback and Criticism