There are a number of reasons why you might want to customize the admin area of a WordPress website. One of those reasons could be to make the dashboard area easier to use from your perspective as a site administrator. The other reason could be to improve the user experience for your co-authors or clients.
While the admin interface looks fairly clean and manageable on a fresh installation of WordPress, it doesn’t take long for the sidebar menu and toolbar navigation systems to start getting cluttered. This can not only make it difficult to find the items and pages you are looking for, but it can easily overwhelm new users who are just logging into the back end of a WordPress website for the first time.
To help overcome this problem, in this post we will look at some of the ways you can simplify, customize, and personalize the WordPress admin area. This includes a number of useful plugins that you can use to make changes to the back end menus and appearance of the admin area, as well as rebranding the dashboard and login pages to match your brand or company identity.
5 Ways to Customize the WordPress Admin Area
These tools allow you to customize and personalize the WordPress admin area and back end of your website in a number of ways.
Some of their capabilities and features include the ability to simplify the WordPress admin menus, declutter the post editor screen, re-design the admin interface, and totally rebrand the whole back end of WordPress.
Some of these plugins are free, while others are premium options. However each of them allows you to make changes to the back end or login pages of your website that would otherwise require you to track down the corresponding files and make changes to the underlying code of WordPress.
If you’d rather make your changes to the WordPress admin area through a visual interface, then the plugins in their guide to customizing the back end are for you.
Admin Menu Customization
As your list of essential WordPress plugins grows, finding your way around the back end of your website can become increasing difficult, let alone how it must feel to new WordPress users logging in for the first time.
Thankfully the free Admin Menu Editor plugin allows you to fully customize and reorganize the menus on the admin area of your website to get them to look how you want. The interface for creating the menus is a little complicated at first glance, but that is mainly down to the large number of menu items and sub menu items on the WordPress admin area.
Through the editor you can rename any menu items, drag and drop the items into new locations, and even create new menu items that link out to external pages of your choice. This would be useful if you want to hard code some links to documentation or support pages for the website that your clients or co-authors will find useful.
As some developers are happy to add their plugin’s setting page menu icon to the top level or the WordPress admin sidebar, being able to reassert your control over your own website with a plugin like Admin Menu Editor can be a real blessing.
Declutter the Post Editor Screen with Tabify
As is the case with the above Admin Menu Editor plugin, if you’ve added a few plugins to your website, or are using custom fields, then the post editor screen on your WordPress site could quickly start filling up with options panels and meta boxes.
However, by using the free Tabify Edit Screen plugin, you can use tabs to divide the post screen up and separate out some of the controls. This not only makes each of the individual meta boxes easier to find, but it also helps to declutter the post edit screen and remove the distractions that can lead to a loss of focus when creating new content for your blog.
The interface for the plugin is very straightforward to work with. Creating and organizing the tabs and their content is simply a case of dragging and dropping them into place. You can also create separate tab layouts for posts, pages, and any custom post types that might be active on your website.
If you’ve ever felt that the WordPress post editor screen could look a bit more streamlined, then this plugin could be what you’ve been looking for.
WordPress Admin Themes
Just as you can change and overhaul the front end of your WordPress website using a theme, you can do the same with the admin area.
While the changes might not be as far reaching those that take place after installing a new front end theme, you can still make some useful and noticeable changes to the appearance of the admin area.
These admin themes don’t install in the same as way a regular WordPress theme, and are instead installed like a plugin. The plugin will usually contain new CSS files which will overwrite the existing core files. However, you can also edit these files yourself to create your own admin theme, providing you have the necessary abilities.
For those that want an off the shelf solution, here are some interesting looking admin themes for WordPress:
Slate Admin Theme
Slate Admin Theme is a free theme for the admin area that allows you to give this type of customization a go on your website, for no extra charge.
After installing and activating the plugin your WordPress admin area will be changed to reflect the style of this theme. The aim of the plugin is to simplify the back end; however unfortunately the design can’t really be considered an improvement on the default WordPress admin design.
Cream6 Admin Theme is another free option. However, again, its redesign of the dashboard area is more of a step backwards compared to the default theme.
Modern Admin Theme
As is often the case with plugins, the premium admin themes provide more value to the end user. Modern Admin Theme is no exception to this and despite the UI not looking too different from the WordPress admin area of today, back when it launched in 2013 the flat design was a welcome alternative.
With this admin theme you get access to five colour schemes, a custom login form, and configurable menu and dashboard icons. You can upload your custom logos to rebrand the WordPress back end and the whole theme is retina ready to suit high resolution displays.
Through the settings of this admin theme you can decide which user roles the design is enabled for, as well as having the ability to customize the admin bar.
Ultra WordPress Admin Theme
Ultra WordPress Admin Theme is another premium option and its one that gives you lots of control over how your admin area looks.
As well as all the customization options, this theme actually includes 31 pre-built configurations which can be applied to the back end of your website in a few clicks. Through the theme controls, you can rename and reorder the menu items and change their icons for a completely personalized look.
If you want to white label the WordPress admin area, or just customize its appearance, then Ultra WordPress Admin Theme has everything you need to do so.
Some WordPress commentators have questioned whether 2015 will be the year of admin themes so this is definitely an area to keep an eye on for the future. If the WP API does become a part of the WordPress core, then we could see some impressive admin themes that really change the way we work with WordPress.
For now though, the above options gives you a few simple ways to make the admin area your own.
Custom Login Page Redesign
If you don’t want to go as far as overhauling the entire look and feel of the admin area, but still want to add some branding and a custom look to the back end experience, then customizing the login page is a good comprise.
While it’s likely that only you and your team will access this page, it can still be a great way to instil your brand with others, especially when working with multiple authors and content creators.
Custom Login Page Customizer
Custom Login Page Customizer is a free plugin that allows you to use the WordPress Customizer tool to create your own login page. This means you get a live preview of your changes as you make them, rather than having to switch browser windows and hit the refresh key to view your work.
Through the customizer you can add your own logo to the login page, as well as set the background colour or image, personalize the form styling, and change the button appearance.
If you don’t need the ability to customize the WordPress admin area or rearrange menus then this free option is a great choice.
Rebrand and White Label the Admin Interface
If you are creating websites for clients, you might not want to confuse them with the many references to WordPress that appear on the admin interface. You might also want to change some of the terms used on the back end to simplify the user experience.
If that sounds appealing then using a plugin to totally rebrand and white label the admin interface lets you add your own branding to replace the WordPress branding.
White Label Branding for WordPress
The premium White Label Branding for WordPress plugin is a popular option, showing there is a real need for this type of tool. After activating the plugin on your website, you can then begin adding your own branding to replace that of WordPress.
This could allow you to enter the details of your web design service, such as the logo and any links to your website. This would ensure your clients never forget who created their website, and always have a way to get in touch if they have more work to commission.
You can customize pretty much every aspect of the WordPress admin area with this plugin. This even extends to using the role manager to customize the user roles on the website, or even create new ones. The plugin also has the ability to create a fake administrator role that can be assigned to your clients, preventing them from making irreversible changes to the website you’ve created for them.
The White Label Branding for WordPress plugin gives you the ability to redesign all aspects of the admin interface, including creating custom themes, login pages, and personalized menus. If you want to stamp your brand on the back end of WordPress, then this plugin is for you.
Before making any drastic or sweeping changes to the WordPress admin area, it’s well worth remembering the effect this could have on yourself and other users of your website when it comes to following documentation and seeking support.
If you customize the admin menus, the post editor screen, the WordPress branding, or even the general appearance of the back end area, there is a good chance this will make it more difficult to follow guides and tutorials due to the new locations of menu items and settings pages.
Therefore if you are supporting clients who’ve sites you’ve customized, or providing online documentation for them, it’s a good idea to ensure this reflects any of the changes you’ve mad to those websites.
However, if you are ready to start customizing the admin interface, there are plenty of great plugins out there that make doing so very straightforward.
If you have any questions about these plugins and tools, please leave a comment below.