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The Zen of wp-admin

Philipp Steinweber
Written by Philipp Steinweber

The Zen of wp-admin

I’ve seen it. Yes, it exists! Back in the days when I mainly fixed other people’s websites for a living… man, I’ve seen a lot. That’s why we only maintain sites we’ve built ourselves nowadays. Seriously, what are some people thinking?

I’ve seen nice, even minimalistic (in our world that’s good!) looking sites. But as soon as I was introduced to their backend – the famous /wp-admin/ – I couldn’t believe it. Two words: a mess.

In our world the backend is used by the clients. Maybe not all parts of it (more on that later), but clients actually do log in there and write or at least edit content. Those are the two main things every client wants you to achieve. What everyone wants to do is: write & edit. And what do most people offer them? Bam:

wp-admin-unzen

You see where I’m going. That has to stop! And there are very simple ways of doing that (stopping). Let me break down our best practices for you, so you never have to experience that confusion again (or in case you’re a creator: never make your clients experience that confusion again).

1. Install ‘Plugin Central’

Plugin Central is a huge time saver and it’s process driven, therefore it’s good. Get it here or search for “plugin central” in the WordPress Plugins > Add Plugin screen.

Once that’s done, use it. Go to Plugins > Plugin central and install the other required plugins from there. Simply copy the following URLs in the install text box:

  • http://wordpress.org/plugins/admin-menu-editor/
  • http://wordpress.org/plugins/white-label-cms/

If you don’t like Plugin Central (hey, I also question every single plugin I use, so that’s fine), get the plugins from the WordPress repository manually: Admin Menu EditorWhite Label CMS.

But installing other plugins is not the only task we’re gonna use Plugin Central for. It also has the nice feature of disabling the upgrade warning for plugins. A thing clients shouldn’t have to worry about (although some should!).

2. Admin Menu Editor

Did you ever realize that Plugins don’t really know where they should place their extra menus? There are at least 4 common places where they register their menu position. That’s bad.
But it’s also not their fault. I always thought: Why doesn’t just every plugin place itself into the Settings menu? The answer is simple: WordPress doesn’t allow a third sub menu level. That’s why more complex plugins, which require a second navigation hierarchy, can’t place themselves into the submenu. Kinda sad.

But we do like happy endings, and Admin Menu Editor has one for us right there. Our best practice is putting all the custom plugin menus underneath the official WordPress stuff. And as the cherry on top of the cake: replacing their neon colored, non-retina-ready and off-aligned icons with a simple grey gear wheel. What beauty.

At the same time we can fix the other misconceptions of the admin navigation. Who ever came up with the order Posts, Media, Pages – I doubt their sanity. Posts, Pages, Media – thank you.

One more thing: depending on how you use Widgets we could argue that moving them out of the Appearance menu would be beneficial too. But moving across menu hierarchies is a pro feature of the plugin, so you have to discuss that with your wallet.

3. White Label CMS

This one is the fine tuning. Maybe partly optional when you are just zening up your own backend, but if you’re doing WordPress sites for clients, make sure to consider using it.

It makes me talkative about WordPress in general, ah no, even life! In the perfect world, your clients (from now I assume you’re some sort of service provider/consultant) shouldn’t worry about what the CMS is called, which features it has, and that wp-admin is the short version for WordPress Administration. They should trust that you provide them with the solution they need. Not that there is anything to hide regarding WordPress – but they just shouldn’t have to worry about abbreviations and version numbers. That’s where white labeling comes into play. Where you basically say: that’s the Metamonks control panel (or whatever you want to call it).

White Label CMS has a couple of options, and you can choose which ones you like, and which ones don’t make sense in your case. I’ll briefly talk about some which we started liking:

  • Hiding/replacing WordPress at every occurrence, in form of word and logos. Irrelevant information.
  • This includes replacing /wp-admin/ with /login/. Much more intuitive. And technically optional, you can still use /wp-login/ as you’re used to it. Your client can use and remember /login/
  • Hiding default dashboard panels: yes please!
  • Setting up custom dashboard panels. How much more sense it makes to have a personal greeting there, a link to the manual and the latest articles of our (this) blog. Big win for everyone.
  • Hide post meta boxes. Of course this could be switched off on a per user basis in the screen options, but who does that for a lot of users? Do it here if you do not want your client to decide whether or not he wants to allow trackbacks for that post.
  • You could also hide additional menu entries on a per user role basis here, but this has kind of been taken care of above.

4. Such beauty.

Let’s have it, the before and after shot. Saves a lot of words:

wp-admin-before-and-after-zen

And this is an access all-areas version. I let you think about the abstraction of having only 5 or so menu entries in total.

So, don’t be lazy when it comes to the optimizing backend. There is absolutely no need to. Let us know if you have more ideas for a better WordPress experience.

About the author

Philipp Steinweber

Philipp Steinweber

Philipp is the founder of Metamonks and Omooni, and passionate about personal growth. On Soulful Hustle he open-sources the strategies and insights learned from his projects.

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