Let clients use the WordPress Dashboard

Published 18 Jul 2009 in Clients, Usability, WordPress by ZigPress

In which ZigPress talks about introducing clients to the finer points of managing their sites after launch and handover.

Part 1 – It’s Great

Although there are a number of ZigPress client projects that use WordPress as a base, this was done mostly for ease of maintenance by ZigPress, not by the client (most clients have been happy to pay for ZigPress to perform routine content maintenance, due to a lack of time or confidence).

So when Alan, the owner of Chic Physique said “I want to be able to add news releases and articles for subscribers myself, and I need to be able to manage photo galleries and email subscribed members”, it was clear that Alan, who is quick to claim complete IT ignorance, was going to have to get to grips with the WordPress dashboard.

As someone who eats, sleeps and breathes websites and content management systems, it was actually quite difficult for me to tell in advance how easily he would cope with the way WordPress does things, and I found myself writing a user guide for him to make sure. I have had some extremely non-technical clients, and am often amazed at how much I have to explain. And re-explain.

However, I needn’t have worried – in a 45 minute training session this morning, he sailed through the main topics (managing posts, links, users and a basic NextGen gallery). I had used the Role Manager plugin to remove his access to the Settings, Plugins and Pages menu.

The only thing he found confusing was that each of the main menu items on the Dashboard side menu (Posts, Links, Users, etc) have a sub item called “Add New”. So when I asked him to add a new link, if he happened to be on the Posts page at the time, he would just click the “Add New” link that he saw, which of course added a post, not a link.

As soon as I saw this happening, I realised that WordPress’s inline nested menus could use some usability love – if they’re counter-intuitive for Alan, they’re quite possibly counter-intuitive for many people. Particularly because the use of colour and borders is subtle to the point of obscurity on many screens.

But that was the only learning glitch. So, if you can sort out exactly what they should have access to (which brings me neatly to part 2 in a moment), go ahead and give non-technical clients access to the Dashboard – they’ll probably cope.

Part 2 – It’s not flexible enough

Now comes a potential gotcha, which I’m sure many WordPressers are aware of, but it’s something I’m going to have to solve, because there doesn’t appear to be a plugin.

By allowing Alan to add, edit and delete subscriber user accounts (so that members of his fitness studio can log in to read articles about aspects of health and fitness), I had to give him complete access to the WordPress user management system. There is no way (for example) to give him rights to manage only those users whose role is of a level below his own. It’s OK for now, because he’s a friend as well as a client, and when I say “don’t ever click the delete link next to the ZigPress user”, he listens.

Having said that, I spent hour after hour googling for a plugin which would do this. There are a few that provide additional user management features, but (and if I’m wrong, please, please send me a URL!) not a single one that allows a WordPress (say) Editor-level user to manage (say) Author-level users, but not to manage Administrators.

Some of you would argue that this is because WordPress was not designed for that level of versatility. Well, OK, but ZigPress is already in danger of becoming a specialist WordPress agency, so I have to find a way.

As you might expect, that way is to write a plugin, offering a new user management page (list, add, edit, delete) and a new options page for the Administrator to decide who gets to edit which levels. Development is currently about 40% complete, and I’ll release it to the world via these pages when it’s done.


  1. On 10 Aug 2009 at 20:29, Taiyo Johnson said:

    Nice post. Found it googling “explaining wordpress to clients”

    About managing users and a plugin for that. The only one that I can think of is Role Manager and you probably have checked that out. If not, it is worth a look. I cannot remember off hand if it provides the functionality you are looking for.
    Role management is definitely a problem in wordpress. I hope they will improve this in the future. It would make our lives a lot easier.

  2. On 10 Aug 2009 at 21:24, Webmaster said:

    Thanks :)

    Yeah I’m aware of Role Manager, and use it a lot. But it doesn’t do what I need in this particular case, sadly.

    And yes, it would certainly make our lives easier. The ability to let certain types of user manage certain other types of user is a fundamental part of any good CMS, and if WordPress wants to become more of a CMS (which I’m sure it does), this kind of thing is going to have to be addressed, whether in 2.9 or further down the road.

  3. On 25 Aug 2009 at 18:27, Webmaster said:

    I found a solution: https://www.zigpress.com/2009/08/25/custom-wordpress-user-editing-restrictions/

  4. On 22 Apr 2011 at 06:52, Harold said:

    It’s a useful post, thanks for writing this one up.

    Anyway, I run article directories and membership sites which use Wordpress and Role Manager is what I always use to manage members and other authors.

    But unlike before, Wordpress today is so much better than its previous releases so I don’t exactly experience what you’ve experienced before. Anyhow,thank you for this information.

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  5. On 26 Apr 2011 at 16:14, debbiep said:

    great info thanks for taking the time to post

  6. On 01 May 2011 at 20:32, Sally said:

    I often have the debate with myself, of whether it is a good idea to let clients ‘run wild’ with access or not. It is definitely a double edged sword no matter how you look at it!