WordPress 101: Logging In, the Dashboard, Editing, Themes, Plugins, and Customize

This article is part of the WordPress Curriculum on WebDevStudents.com.

An Overview of WordPress Concepts

This article provides an overview of some WordPress concepts that you will need to master as you learn WordPress, including how to login and navigate to the dashboard, how to edit a post, how themes and plugins work, and how to edit your overall website design with Customize.

While WordPress is easy, it isn’t at all intuitive. Read this article before you dive into WordPress. It is intended to give you an overview. Future lessons will go into more detail about how develop websites in WordPress. (If you prefer to learn by doing, jump to the next article in the series: the WordPress Block Editor.)

Logging Into WordPress

To edit a WordPress website, you need a login to the website. Each WordPress user has their own login to assure password security. The WordPress administrator will send you login that will allow you to create a password for your own account.

You can login to a WordPress website by going to:

yourdomainname.com/wp-admin or yourdomainname.com/wp-login.php

Replace “yourdomainname.com” with the website you want to access. In some cases, for security reasons, the login url of the website can be different. But you will find that you can login to the vast majority of WordPress websites by appending either /wp-admin or /wp-login.php to the domain name.

After you are logged in, you will see a black bar at the top of the page. Only logged-in users see the black bar.

The top of a website of a logged in user showing the black bar at the top of the page
The top of a website of a logged-in user showing the black bar at the top of the page

The WordPress Dashboard

WordPress has a public front-end, and a private back-end, called the dashboard. After you login you are brought to the dashboard screen.

The dashboard is the part of WordPress that only the website authors, editors, and administrators can see.

On WordPress, you can toggle between the front and back end of a website in the upper left hand corner.
Click on the website name in the upper left to toggle to the home page and back to the dashboard.

You can toggle between the front-facing website and the dashboard in the top left corner. Hover over the website name to see the options.

You can access all of your WordPress posts and pages from the left navigation. This is where you can access most of the tools and settings for the website.

WordPress Editing

WYSIWYG or What You See Is What You Get

If you come to WordPress with some experience in HTML and CSS you can quickly see the benefits of working in WordPress. Unlike with coding, there is almost always an element of WYSIWYG.

Here are three editors you could run into with WordPress:

1. The Classic Editor

The “Classic Editor” is the historical WordPress editor. It is called the “Classic Editor”, because it is no longer the primary editor. The Classic editor will look very familiar to you because it is built on Tiny MCE, a frequently used editor on the Internet. It is still used to edit products on WooCommerce.

  • The Tiny MCE editor is open source, so it is used in a lot of software in addition to WordPress.
  • It is a “Rich Text” editor, which means that you can add bold text and many other text attributes.
  • In WordPress, you could toggle to HTML editing by clicking the “Text” tab. This is very convenient if you know HTML and CSS and just want to make some edits in code.
Screenshot showing how to toggle to HTML editing
In the “classic editor”, you can work in HTML by clicking the text button.

2. The Block Editor

The Block Editor is the replacement for the Classic Editor. It is built on the Gutenberg Editor. It has many more features than the classic editor. 

  • The Block Editor is now the primary editor in WordPress. 
  • It’s built with React, a JavaScript framework.
  • It offers a lot more layout options than the classic editor, like photo galleries, embedded videos, and even stackable columns. 
  • Because it has its own learning curve, some WordPress users still use the Classic Editor.
To edit a post in WordPress simply click "Edit Post" at the top of the page.
To edit a post in WordPress simply click “Edit Post” at the top of the page.

In most WordPress websites, you can navigate to the page or post you want to edit, and then choose Edit Post or Edit Page. That will bring you to the Block Editor for that page.

3. Page Builders are used by most web designers. Page Builders allow you to do fancier designs with less work. 

One reason why WordPress is so much easier to use is because you can see the result as you are adding content. The WordPress editors all give you some WYSIWYG. The Page Builders are a true WYSIWYG.

Adding a New Page or Post to WordPress

To add content to your website, hover over the New button in the black bar at the top of the page. When you hover, you will see a list of what you can add to the website. Let’s cover Posts, Media, and Pages for now.

When you want to add a new page or post in WordPress, click +New on the top black bar.
When you want to add a new page or post in WordPress, click +New on the top black bar.

Posts and pages are two types of web pages you can add to WordPress. It can be confusing when to use each type.

  • Pages are used for timeless content like an About Page.
  • Posts are more like articles, with the most current at the top of the page. Bloggers create posts in WordPress.

Confused? Here is a good article on it…


We’ll learn more about this in future lessons. For now, remember to use Pages for the Home, About, and Content pages, and Posts for articles.

When you have a lot of articles on various topics, you would use Posts instead of Pages. WordPress is particularly good at organizing a large number of blog posts into Categories. For example, if you were a gaming blogger, you would have categories like:

  • Playstation
  • Nintendo
  • PC Gaming
  • iOS and Android

Imagine that you have hundreds of blog posts about video games. What you can do with WordPress is display the posts in dedicated pages. For example, you would have separate pages on Playstation, Nintendo, PC Gaming and iOS and Android. 

WordPress Themes

For WordPress, the theme is one of the first choices you will make for your website. It can be challenging to change themes later in the development of the website. 

The theme holds:

  • Header design and logo
  • Navigation 
  • Footer
  • Sidebar

Premium themes have additional features that allow you to design a home page. (And more.)

Each theme has its own learning curve. While you are learning, it is good to try different themes, but in the long run, you’ll want to find one flexible theme and use it over and over. 

How to Choose a WordPress Theme

You can make a fully functional website with the free WordPress themes. 

Most premium themes have a free version with limited functionality that you can try. 

Astra is the most popular theme today, and has a free version. 

I use the Beaver Builder theme, because it is very flexible and can be used with unlimited websites. 

Each year, WordPress releases a new free theme. These themes generally aren’t the best choice. They are created to teach new concepts. WordPress.org names their themes after the year, like Twenty-Twenty, and Twenty-Twentyone.

Add the theme from the dashboard of the website. 

Themes is in the dropdown menu under “Appearance”.

Click on Add New to see all of the free themes. 

To see the themes on WordPress, navigate to the Dashboard -> Appearance -> Themes
To see the themes on WordPress, navigate to the Dashboard -> Appearance -> Themes.

The WordPress Customizer

WordPress has a front-end Customizer that allows you to make changes and see them as you make them, e.g. WYSIWYG

Navigate to the “front-end” of your website. 

Click on Customize in the black bar. Once the Customizer is open, much of the rest is intuitive. 

You will use the Customizer to design the overall website, including the header, footer, and overall color and font choices. The Customizer is generally NOT used to style a single page. 

We covered a lot in this article. Now it is time to take the next step and try making some changes to a real WordPress website. The next article in the WordPress Training will walk you through it: The WordPress Block Editor.