Having built countless WordPress sites for clients over the last few years, I know that many people can find the WordPress admin panel a scary and confusing place.
It can also be a daunting challenge to teach a beginner how to use WordPress. There is so much that WordPress can do, that it’s hard to know where to begin.
Here are our top 5 tips for simplifying the WordPress back end so that your clients will find it much easier to use, and you will find it much easier to teach them how to use it!
1. Manage your custom fields
Chances are, if your WordPress site is customised to any degree, then you will be making use of custom fields.
I’ve found that custom fields can be a difficult concept to explain to clients, and the fact that they have to pick which ones to use from a dropdown list makes them particularly non-user-friendly.
A while back I came across this post by Steve Taylor on How to Control Your own WordPress Custom Fields. Using this method, you can hide the regular Custom Fields box, and add your own box, with it’s own title (e.g. Post Options), and in this you can place all the custom fields that your client will need to use, along with handy descriptions explaining the purpose of each one. They will always be visible, so the client will not have to search for them, and you can have checkboxes and other inputs as well as text fields. Much better!
Update: I recently discovered that Steve has made his code into a plugin, making it much easier to use and upgradeable. The plugin is currently in BETA, you can download it here to try it out.
2. Separate different types of content with Custom Post Types
If your client wants to publish more than one type of post, you’ll probably want to create a custom post type for each one, so that they get a separate section for each one in the admin menu.
Then if they want to add, say, a new FAQ, they know they have to click on ‘Add new FAQ’.
I posted recently about how to separate your content using custom fields.
3. Remove unnecessary admin menus
The WordPress admin menu has grown slowly over the years, and there are now a vast array of options, most of which a client should never have to use.
So to avoid confusion, it’s a good idea to hide the menu items that the client doesn’t need to see. That way they won’t wonder what they are for, and they won’t be able to change anything that could potentially mess up their site.
Here’s an article showing an easy way to remove unwanted items from the admin menu.
For an even easier way to hide any of the admin menus and screen options for different user roles, try the Adminimize plugin.
4. Explain the ‘Paste as Plain Text’ function
If your client is in control of adding their own content to the site, then you can’t stop them if they want to display every letter of their headings in a different colour, but you can at least advise them of the pitfalls of copying and pasting from a word processor.
Despite WordPress having a pretty flexible WYSIWYG editor, many clients still prefer to write their content in Word, just because it’s familiar to them. You should encourage them to type directly into WordPress, but if they still insist on using Word, at least show them how to use the ‘Paste from Word’ or better yet ‘Paste as Plain Text’ buttons, otherwise they will end up with some crazy bloated markup, where the formatting from Word has been transferred into WordPress.
If they really need more control over the formatting, you can install a plugin to extend the TinyMCE editor. TinyMCE Advanced is a popular choice.
5. Provide Ongoing Support
While WordPress is pretty easy to use for publishing content, unless your client is particularly savvy, they are probably going to need your help again at some point.
Things like database backups, WordPress core and plugin upgrades, and any theme customisation are best left to someone who knows what they are doing, and knows how to fix any problems that may arise.
So I wouldn’t recommend handing full responsibility of a site over to a client unless they are clued up on these things and confident that they can handle them.
If you have any other tips for making WordPress more user-friendly for clients, please leave a comment below.