454 – Customize the WordPress Admin Dashboard

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Customize the WordPress Admin Dashboard

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Full Transcript

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On today's episode, we are going to talk about how to customize the admin experience on your website, right here with Your Engineer Website podcast episode number 454.

Hello and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer. I'm Dustin Hartzler, and I'm excited to be here with you today, because there's tons of news to share when it comes to WordPress and Automatic news. And there is some cool stuff we're going to talk about how to customize your WordPress dashboard. What that looks like and how you can go ahead and do that. So, let's go ahead and dive right in.

The biggest piece of news and probably the biggest thing that you've already seen and already heard about is that Automatic purchases Tumblr. So Automatic is again the company behind WordPress.com. It is Matt's personal company, and Matt was the one, Matt Mullenweg was the one that cofounded WordPress, or co-founded, co-started, you know the two of him and Mike Little were the ones that created WordPress, if you will. So, the big news is that Automatic purchased Tumblr.

There's not going to be a lot of changes as way of, you know, Tumblr's not going to look like WordPress instantly, and the teams aren't going to be joined together. It's going to be a little bit of a couple of separate companies, it's going to be a different business unit inside of Automatic, and all the details you can read over from Matt's point of view, is over on photomatt.tumblr.com.

So, he posted about it on Tumblr, which I thought was kind of cool. So, this is probably about one of those times where we should dust off our Tumblr accounts and see what it looks like now and see what it's going to look like in the future. It's all about, Matt's goal is to continue to democratize publishing and make it so that you own your own content, that it can't be taken down by another company and that it's just the free web, if you will. So those are some of the things that I know about the merger. There's a lot of details that happened during my sabbatical that I don't have any idea what that was all about, but I woke up just a day or two ago and found out that we had actually purchased Tumblr, so that is the first news item.

The second thing that I want to share is about the team that I'm on, WooCommerce. WooCommerce 3.7 has been released. It's been a while. April 2019 was the last release of WooCommerce. This one contains over 1,290 different commits, and over 22 contributors. And it's the first release towards more stable, smaller, and more frequent releases. So, it's needs a minor release, it means everything is backward-compatible, but they did add some new features. Product blocks is something that ships with WooCommerce 3.7. It basically allows you to use the block editor, the new editor within WordPress. You can create blocks so you can do a product by category, and you can do that. Or you can do a featured category block.

There's a bunch of different, you know, so you can create a page and then you can pull in products from your store. It's really neat and it's really, really handy. It also needs a minimum of WordPress 4.9, and a minimum of PHP 5.6, and so those are some things. And then there are obviously some performance enhancements, and some bugs that were fixed, and they also added a feature that you can add additional content sections to your e-mail templates which makes it really nice instead of just having a thanks, you can add extra details there. And you can also auto generate coupon codes. So, this allows -- before you used to have to come up with your own coupon codes -- now you can click a button and it will automatically generate a coupon code for you. And let's see what else was in there. There was a ton of other things that happened. There's a link in the show notes for all of the details.

So, if you are a WooCommerce user, I recommend updating this. It landed just a couple of days ago, like I said, and honestly like looking through the WooCommerce queues where I work answering people's questions, I haven't seen a lot of issues with 3.7, so I think it's a pretty secure release and you're ready to update. So, take a backup, spend a little bit of time backing up, and making sure your site's working fine before you update, and then you can go ahead and update and see how that works and the new features are working.

The other thing I want to share with you today -- I guess I've got three or four more announcements. BuddyPress 5.0 is to add categories for adding BuddyPress blocks. Man, that's a mouthful. But basically, what this is, is the ability to add a BuddyPress block to your block editor, so if you wanted to add all of the people that are registered under BuddyPress, or there's a bunch of different things you can do. But it's going to be a block type, and then you can add the different -- it's kind of like with WooCommerce like I just mentioned. There's a new block section, and so you can add your new top-selling products, or you can add your most, the products that you've just added. You can do all those things. Well now you're going to have those features coming to WordPress within a block with BuddyPress. So that's just a little teaser coming. There's not a whole lot there yet, but that is on the way.

And then Jetpack 7.6 works even better with the AMP plug-in. AMP is the service that WordPress worked with Google, and basically, it's almost an instant load when you see a search results on a mobile phone for AMP. You can click on it, and it almost always loads almost immediately. So that works a lot better now with a Jetpack. They've made some security changes for Simple Payments. So, if you want to collect some money, and have a Simple Payment button on your website, you can. There's more security on there and it's limited the elements that you can add there. And again, Jetpack has a bunch of features too, that have been added as well. So that's Jetpack 7.6, and some hosts might have already updated it to you, and other hosts, you'll have to update yourself.

And speaking of auto updating, there's some discussion or some heated debate about if all the versions of WordPress should automatically update to 4.7. There's a big discussion and I'm not going to go into the whole thing of it. But basically, they wanted to take any version that is 3.7 to 4.6 to automatically update it to 4.7. And then that gives six versions of WordPress that they'll continue to do security updates for. So, a lot of discussion and what not there, and there's a link in the show notes to find out more about that.

All right, moving on into the "is there a plug-in for that section", this week I want to talk about a plug-in called Better Editor. It's a new plug-in, and it's basically a Medium.com WYSIWYG clone editor. So what this is, is when you, and some of the different apps actually do this, but if you highlight a word it automatically pops up a little formatting toolbar so you can do bold, italics, underline, you can give it a link, you can make it an H1, or H2 or whatnot like that. So, it basically, it gives you an in-line formatter which is pretty nice, and I think it's kind of neat. I think it's a neat way to highlight your text and you automatically make your changes right there instead of going over to the block editor and whatnot. So, that's called Better Editor, and you can find the link for it in the show notes for episode 454. Or you can just search for Better Editor on the WordPress repository.

Today we're talking about WordPress, and I think the cool part about it is we're 15 years into this WordPress journey or so, and not all dashboards have to look exactly the same. So, we're going to talk about some of the things that you can do to spruce up your admin dashboard. Maybe get rid of some of the stuff you don't need, and kind of make it look a little bit better. Customizing the WordPress admin screens gives it a more professional image, and it makes it stand out. Especially for building websites for clients, or maybe you just want your own branding on your own WordPress site, you know, sometimes you might have four or five websites open at the same time, and if all the branding looks exactly the same then you might be trying to find something in one site that's actually on another site. So, I've seen that and I've done that that many times before, so that's what I wanted to talk about today.

We're going to talk about a few plug-ins, a few different plug-ins that you can use, and a few things that you can do to completely customize the WordPress admin in the dashboard interface. And so, it's basically just like going in and giving your WordPress site a new coat of paint. The dashboard hasn't been updated in years, I think it was maybe 3.7 that the new admin dashboard, or the kind of dark on the left by default and then the dark across the top with kind of the grey insides, I mean that's what we've been looking at for years. And so, there's a few things that you can do to kind of give your WordPress site a new coat of paint.

A couple of benefits for customizing the dashboard, it makes it leaner and lighter by removing distraction menu items and widgets, you can enjoy a more user-friendly and more productive admin interface. Your clients will love the admin dashboard that's personalized specifically for them. It's optimized for performance, it's easier to know which sites you're on while you're looking at it in the back-end. There's just lots of things that works really, really well, and really makes a lot of sense to customize the back end of your dashboard.

So, the first thing you want to do before you do any of these steps is go ahead and back up your website. You could use BackWPup or Backup Buddy, or any of the plug-ins that are out there. UPdraft Plus. There are tons of them that will allow you to take a snapshot of your website. You want to do this before you start modifying things. And then there are some of these changes we talk about today can be done with the plug-in, but other ones will need a little bit of code to make it work. And if you use the code section, you'd want to create a child theme. I've talked about child themes before in the past, but a child theme, as the name suggests, is a child of its main parent theme and sits on top of it. So, any change that you make to your site, you can do to your child theme, and then when you update your parent theme to the latest version, the child theme stays the same, thereby it retains all of the changes you made earlier. And so, we'll just kind of skim over that, but a child theme is the best way to add the code to your website.

So, let's go ahead and talk about customizing your admin login page. There is a plug-in called Custom Login Page Customizer. And all of these are in the show notes for episode 454. And it allows you to easily customize your login page directly from the WordPress customizer. With that you can customize and personalize almost everything of your WordPress page to make it look exactly the way you want, and it shows you a live preview when you do it. So, some of the things you can customize with this is the logo. You could do the background, you could do the login form, you can do the forget form button, you can do the login button, the error messages, the welcome messages, and the form footer. You can do all of this in the Customizer which is really nice.

And so, you can have this great experience right from the get-go of logging into your WordPress that you can see a visual of there's no more WordPress logo, it's specific to that website. And then the next thing I would do is remove widgets from the WordPress dashboard. So, we just want to make sure we're getting rid of the unnecessary clutter, the unnecessary widgets. You don't have to use any code for this, you can go to the dashboard. On the upper right-hand side, the most hidden option, or the most hidden setting in the WordPress, I feel, is the screen options tab. And it does a lot of different things on different pages, but on the dashboard page, you click on screen options and it pulls down a window and it shows you the at-a-glance, the activity, the quick draft, the WordPress news and events, and the welcome screen. And you can go to the screen options and you can uncheck all the boxes that you don't want to see.

So, we can do all but maybe the quick draft, if you do quick posts or something like that. So just like that, all the clutter is gone. And then if you want to do, you can do the same for your WP admin pages for like post pages, post editor, you can go and you can hide a bunch of things in the screen options. So that's going to be the first recommendation, go to screens options on every major page like, if you go to the post page, the screen options is going to show you all the different columns, so maybe your content is really, you know, the title is really jammed together, and each line item for a post or a page is really, really tall, but each of the text is really, really small. You might want to get rid of some of the columns, and that will space things out just a little bit more.

Let's see what else you can do. You can add some new widgets to the WordPress dashboard, so you can remove them very easy with those checkboxes, but there is some code that you can add in the child themes functions.php file that will allow you to create a very basic widget. The one that I have in the show notes just will basically do a line of text or a line of code. It's just basically doing a little bit of HTML. But you can do whatever you want. So, you might want to say, here login, or you might want to create like an area where you can navigate quickly to a new post or a new page or the settings that they go to a lot. You can do all of that by adding it into a widget inside the WordPress dashboard.

Another thing that you can do is de-clutter the admin bar in the sidebar, and you can use the free WP Admin UI Customize plug-in to get those done. it's got a mouthful of a name, but it does some really cool things. Make sure you set the different roles so you can say like if you're an author, you only see these things. If you're an admin, you only see these things. And then you can go into the section, the admin section for WP Admin UI Customize, and you can drag and drop menu items where you want them. So, you can rearrange your entire WordPress site on all of those things on the left-hand side. You can remove them, you can hide them, you can rearrange them, and you can get them exactly how you want.

So, the other plug-in that works really well with this is called Admin Menu Editor. And so, this allows you to edit the admin menus, as well. The next you can do to customize your dashboard is to change the dashboard color schemes. It's pretty dull if you use the default one for every single one. And it comes with eight different color schemes for you to choose from. There is a plug-in that's called Admin Color Schemes, and it's a plug-in by the WordPress core team that adds eight more unique color schemes. Or you can use a plug-in called Admin Color Schemer plug-in. And this will allow you to create your own color scheme, and you can do that. And there's a plug-in called Force Admin Color Scheme, and it will force the admin color scheme to all users. So, it's a pretty simple plug-in that just adds a check box that you can go ahead and do that, and you make sure that all of the themes are customized for every person that logs into your website.

Now the customizing can be done just like that, just the regular colors, but then there's a few other plug-ins if you're interested in checking them out. There's one called Fancy Admin UI, there's one called Slate Admin Theme, there's one called Aquila Admin Theme, and those are all ones that have the ability to completely change the dashboard with its own theme. So, these are kind of cool if you're looking at a completely different theme, that would be a way to do that. Use one of those three plug-ins. And then there is a plug-in called Add Admin CSS, so if you don't like the options from some of the three that I just recommended, then you can go ahead and you can change the fonts, the colors, the sizes, all that stuff with CSS which is really nice.

That's what I wanted to share today about the future is custom-made. You know, you don't want people to necessarily know that you're running WordPress, or maybe you're going to handle all of the updates and support and everything, maybe you just want to have them have their custom WordPress site. The kind of hide all the WordPress features of that. So, by doing some of these things and updating the WordPress admin in the dashboard interface, you can do exactly that.

That's what I wanted to share with you this week. Take care and we'll talk again soon. Bye-bye.