Major WordPress Dashboard Features Demystified

WordPress is Content Management System. There are two things which I want us to pay attention to here; “Content Management” and “System”. Remember a system is collection of elements or components that are organized for a common purpose. The components can sometimes be sub-systems. So what are the elements/components of WordPress? And what is the common purpose – what is the goal?

The physical elements can be the files and the database, however, our major interest is in the components these files create (the admin features). The goal of WordPress is to ease “Content Management” by management we mean Creating, Reading, Updating and Deleting(CRUD) content. The fundamental use cases in any software system are CRUD. For the purpose of this discussion we shall also add displaying and Scheduling of content

Creating, Updating, Deleting and Scheduling Content

The first top four sections of the dashboard are the ones for this functionality. The pages and posts. As discussed in our previous article {INSERT-LINK-TO-ARTICLE}, these are the two major components for adding content by Authors, Editors or site administrators. There is also another type of content that is added by visitors to the website – comments. You cannot discuss content and leave out comments because the comments, like posts and pages, are read by the website visitors. Also some content can be purely images, videos etc – this can be added using the Media component

These four components also are where the updating and deleting of content can be found. The scheduling functionality is found under posts; while creating a new post, you can specify a date on which it will appear on the website.

To achieve its objective of search and find content (for updating purposes), under Posts, WordPress provides called “Categories” – this helps to add filters during a search. Instead of looking through an entire sea of posts, the user can filter out posts using categories.

Reading and displaying Content

This is in two flavors – when authors, editors or administrators want to update content, it has to be read (from the database) and displayed to them. The other is when a visitor to the website loads a page in their browser – still content must be read and displayed to the user. I will focus on how content is displayed to the website visitor.

The components which deal with reading and displaying content to the website visitor are under the Appearance section, with the major component being themes.

Each WordPress theme can have one or more template. For example the home page/front page appears usually appears different from other pages because it has different template from other pages. This is usually set when adding new pages. Note that in most cases template and theme are used interchangeably because most themes have only one template – the default one. Each theme/template layout must consider or plan for where to place the following important display features.

Menu – A website’s navigation so critical for the website’s usability purpose (that is why sites with poor navigation have low conversion rates). Thus each theme must define at least one menu position. In your website dashboard, navigate to Menus. At the bottom you will see something like the one in the screenshot below (my current theme supports 3 menu positions)

Widgets – A widget is a small block that performs a specific function; this could be to display an image, to display some text, to display a search field etc. Each template must define at least one widget area which such small blocks can be added. In addition to displaying small content, widgets improve the appearance of the website. If you click on widgets, you will see something similar to one in screenshot below. Remember the number of widget areas depend on the theme you are using.

My theme has 7 widget positions (Sidebar, footer column1, footer column2, footer column3, footer column4, footer column5, footer column6). In sidebar position, I have added 6 widgets.

To add a widget to position, simply drag one from the “Available Widgets” section on the left, configure the widget and save, done! Note that dragging a widget does not delete it from the “Available widgets” section – you are simply using a copy. That is why you can use the same widget more than one in the same position or in different positions

You can remove a widget from a position in two ways: by deleting it (if you do not have any intention of using it in the near future). The other option is to drag the widget to the “Inactive Widgets” section. This option is used where you predict to reuse the widget and you don’t want to reconfigure it.

The Customize and Header features, under Appearance, are mainly used to finalize the look of the theme by completing all the theme’s proposed features. Leave the Editor tool for those who understand PHP, you wouldn’t risk to destroying all the beautiful work previously created by your hand!

Plugins

Discussing WordPress dashboard would be incomplete without talking about plugins. Although not directly part of CRUD, they can be part indirectly. Plugins are used to extend the WordPress’ functionality. By extending we mean, they add more functionality to the core WordPress’ or they and an entirely new feature.

For example, when I wanted to add a Contact Us form to the Contact Us page, I failed because WordPress does not have default functionality for that feature. So I had to look for that ready-made functionality because I don’t know how to implement it by either. I found a plugin called Contact Form7 download it, installed it and activated it. After activation, a new feature (Contact) had been added to my dashboard – compare right hand image with left-hand image below. Essentially the plugin extended my dashboard features.

Please note that some plugins may not add any additional feature to the dashboard.

Those are the major features I wanted to share with you. Users and Settings are self-explanatory, try them out. In case of questions, please post them here as comments, I will be glad to answer you. Till we meet next time.