Understanding and customising the WordPress dashboard

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Car Dashboard

photo credit: hassanrafeek via cc

This post is about the WordPress dashboard on a self-hosted site, the dashboard on WordPress.com hosted sites is slightly different.

The WordPress dashboard is what you see when you login. It gives you a quick overview of what’s happening on your site, draws in some information from official WordPress RSS feeds and is very easy to customise.

It looks like this (click the image for a better view):

WordPress 3.4 Dashboard

To the left of the screen is the main navigation menu, which is collapsible – just click on the Collapse Menu link at the bottom.

To the right of the screen is a set of eight panel widgets.

I’ll go through each of them starting from the top left. To make it easier to follow this tutorial it’s a good idea to open up your dashboard in another browser tab so you don’t have to keep scrolling up. Alternatively, open the top image in a new browser tab, the image is a screenshot of the WordPress dashboard in version 3.4.

Right Now

WordPress Dashboard - Right Now

This is a brief summary of the status of your site.

It shows the following information:

Content

  • The number of published posts (1)
  • The number of published pages (1)
  • The number of categories (1)
  • The number of tags (0)

Discussion

The discussion section relates to comments, as you can see, there are no discussions on our demo site.

It shows we’re using a theme called Twenty Eleven which is using 6 Widgets.

At the current time we’ve blocked search engines so the warning notice link is visible.

And finally, it shows which version of WordPress we’re using.

Here is the same panel widget from an established site:

WordPress Dashboard - Right Now Widget

The extra notices are for the anti-spam plugin Akismet, which has blocked 11,431 spam comments and a call to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress.

Recent Comments

This widget shows the most recent comments, pingbacks and trackbacks to any page on your site. The default setting is five. You can change this by clicking on the Configure link and entering a more appropriate number.

Recent Comments Widget

Recent Comments Widget

WordPress encourages discussion by allowing readers to comment on posts and pages, when somebody leaves a comment on your site you get a notification. You can then approve or delete it.

Pingbacks and trackbacks are different to comments, but they too show up in this section.

Pingbacks

A pingback is notification that a website or blog is linking to you.

Trackback

A trackback is slightly different. The people at WordPress explain it best, here it is:

  • Person A writes something on their blog
  • Person B wants to comment on Person A’s blog, but wants her own readers to see what she had to say, and be able to comment on her own blog
  • Person B posts on her own blog and sends a trackback to Person A’s blog
  • Person A’s blog receives the trackback, and displays it as a comment to the original post. This comment has a link to Person B’s post

This is how the widget looks when it’s full of notifications:

Recent Comments

There are two comments and three trackbacks.

The options for each appear when you move your mouse over the space at the bottom of the section. From here you can approve or delete each notification.

At this stage all comments, pingbacks and trackbacks are pending. They won’t appear on your site until you approve them, and when you do, they appear at the bottom of the linked to, or commented on page.

Generally, I don’t publish pingbacks, I do publish trackbacks and I do publish comments if they are not spam – which means the person commenting must talk about the article the comment relates to. “Great blog, you are doing a wonderful job” type comments get deleted, and usually, so do comments from people with names like payday loans (as demonstrated in the image above; not yet deleted, but pending).

At the very bottom of the widget is a comments summary and links to each section so you can click-through and manage the comments. It’s also linked to from the menu on the left.

Incoming Links

Using Google blog search, WordPress looks for incoming links to your site and displays them here.

Incoming Links Widget

The default number is 10, but you can change it by clicking on the configure link. The text in the “Enter the RSS feed URL here:” box is the search string WordPress uses to query Google.

Incoming Links Widget

Plugins

The last widget in the left hand column displays the current most popular plugin and the newest plugin on the official WordPress site. There is a brief description, a link to the plugin’s page on WordPress and an install link.

Plugins Widget

QuickPress

Moving over to the right hand column, the top widget is QuickPress. This is a mini-editor which you use for quickly creating posts.

QuickPress Widget

Complete each field in the usual way and hit Save Draft or Publish.

Saving it as a Draft generates this view:

QuickPress Widget

And publishing the post generates this view:

QuickPress Widget

Recent Drafts

This widget displays up to five recent drafts. The title is a link to the post. Clicking the View All link opens up a list of all draft posts.

Recent Drafts Widget

WordPress Blog and Other WordPress News

The last two widgets display links to the latest blog posts on the official WordPress blog and other WordPress/Automattic properties.

WordPress Blog and News Widgets

That’s it for the widgets.

Layout and Options

The good news is that this window is customisable. In so much as you can switch off some of the widgets, change the number of columns and move the widgets around.

In the top right hand corner of the screen is a Screen Options tab:

Screen Options

Clicking it opens a window where you can switch off widgets and change the number of columns to display the widgets you want to use.

Screen Options
(Click the picture for the bigger version)

Changing the number of columns from the default 2 to 4, causes this to happen:

WordPress Dashboard 4 Columns
(Click the picture for the bigger version)

Two placeholders have appeared in the new columns, to move a widget to either of these locations, simply drag and drop. Move your mouse over the header of a widget until the mouse turns to a cross shape, then click and drag it to the new location.

WordPress Dashboard 4 Columns

To minimise a widget, move the mouse over the top right hand corner until the down arrow shows, then click the arrow.

Open:

Widget Toggle

Closed:

Widget Toggle

That’s it for the dashboard. I hope you have found this tutorial useful and have a better understanding of the WordPress dashboard? Have a play around with the layout options to find the best layout for you. It’s fully customisable, so you can change it again at any time.

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