The WordPress User Experience as it pertains to backend management (aka monkeying around in the Admin Panel) inspires a lot of discussion, some ire, cuss words among other feelings. Of course there are many who feel the back end management of things is still relatively easy and not too fussy.
I think out of the box WordPress is hard to use for the novice user whose never had to manage a proper Content Management System (CMS) before. However, there are some CMSes that I can think of that did a worse job.
Over the past couple of years I’ve been refining the backend management experience for the sites I’m building for clients. The goal was to make things as easy for them to manage as possible.
So here are a few tools I use to assist with that.
from Tyler Digital — Webmaster User Role was introduced to me by fellow WordCamp LA co-conspirator, friend and source of inspiration, Nathan Tyler. What Webmaster User Role does is simply create a Role titled “Admin” that has a reduced set of permissions; the user sits somewhere in between Administrator and Editor roles, which is about where I feel an additional role ought to exist. The “Admin” user can’t edit theme or plugin files, can’t install themes or plugins; but can still manage a number of critical site components. So it empowers end-users to manage their site and content effectively but without too many available power tools to detonate their site.
What I’ll do now, is create two users: One user is the “Admin” and that’s the account I tell clients to use. Then I also give them the Administrator account and tell them “Use this only in case of an emergency.”
Menu Editor Pro by Janis Elsts.
This plugin is great! It’s a simple and easy way to help you wrangle your left-side menu system in your admin panel. It works great in conjunction with Webmaster User Role, also. With Menu Editor Pro you can edit menus by role have full access to change menus as you see fit. Specifically you can drag and drop to re-order menus. Add menu separators (although separators were removed in 3.8), remove menus, rename them etc.
I’ll use Menu Editor Pro to wrangle plugins that spit out a bunch of menus and options that can work to confuse users. LearnDash is a prime offender. Their menu systems can get pretty messy. But Five minutes in Menu Editor Pro can help clean up any confusion right quick for all your site users.
Bring Back Admin Menu Separators — Oh how I love small, simple plugins. As I previously noted, Admin Menu Separators were removed in 3.8 to many peoples’ surprise. This plugin brings them back!! Yay! The plugin simply provides styling for the separators, which were removed or remained unstyled for some reason. I use this plugin along with Menu Editor Pro to manage the menu systems and make them easier to navigation… Having the separators as a visual cue is a great way to break up site functionality into logical sections/chunks and make it easier to manage site content.
You’ll note the tiny screenshot to the right. That’s a small section of what I have in place currently. I mean, in the grand scheme of things it’s only a few tiny lines thrown in, but it the visual separation really can make a huge difference. Truly.
Duplicate Post — This is a simple plugin that does one thing really well. Allows you to copy/clone most any piece of content, from Sliders, to Shortcodes and Pages and Posts. If it’s a post type, Duplicate Post can dupe it for you. Useful for duplicating landing pages or any sort of useful content with lots of fields you probably don’t want to keep entering. Download it from the WordPress Plugin Repo.
Admin Columns Pro — Admin Columns Pro is another lovely plugin that helps you modify the look and feel of the back end of your website. Particularly useful if you need to visualize and sort your data by different information within a given post type. Sometimes people want to quickly see what images they’ve
assigned to a page. Admin Columns Pro lets you handle that on a global level, or per post type. It’s pretty rad!
It’s not a free plugin, and not essential, but it’s a nice functional tool that can really help improve the admin User Experience a little more.
White Label CMS – Made by that Aussie guy, Troy Dean from Video User Manuals, White Label CMS is a tool I’ve been using for years to add that final bit of polish before handing over a client project. It lets you modify menus, and messages, remove widgets in the back end and provides a nifty styling capability for the login area. Sweet!
Thrive Content Builder – Yep, there are tons of front end editing plugins out there. An explosion of them really. And that’s great. I’ve used a number of them, such as Barley, Visual Composer and more recently Velocity Page. They’re all good and some need further polish, but I’d recommend you test them all out. While I don’t use Thrive Content Builder, I did test it out on a pair of client sites and each client responded well to being able to edit on the frontend. Still, you’ll never quite escape the back end, but Thrive’s offering comes close.