How to Avoid Confusing Your New WordPress Authors and Only Give Them What They Need.

Too much WordPress information
Information Overload

I run the website for my neighborhood association. No wait. Let me rephrase that…I am the guy who developed a website to facilitate the needs of my neighborhood association. It was never my intention to write posts about the neighborhood happenings or to document the minutes from the association’s monthly meetings. My position (as I saw it) was to provide the tools and teach people how to use them. Even though WordPress makes publishing content very easy, especially for someone who’s been working with it for seven years, I always have to keep in mind that it is completely new to others, especially the Dashboard as seen by new Authors.

When I developed and launched this association website, I created user accounts for all of the seven board members. I also wrote a very long email explaining how to login and add content to the site. I included links to some great video overviews on what the Dashboard is, how to make posts, pages, categories, etc and even created my own twenty minute screencast to talk about site-specific things.

I received no follow-up questions. That should have been my first clue that there was either no interest in adding content, the explanations didn’t make sense, or that publishing content through a piece of software like this was so scary and unfamiliar that no one wanted to attempt it.

This was a year ago. Up until today I was just fielding emails and adding posts as I received them. Inevitably my ability  to keep up with posting the updates the community members were requesting was challenged. I’m all about supporting my clients, even the pro-bono projects but I was starting to miss these updates, so I needed a solution, and fast.

Just as I was considering approaching the group to request that they review the instructions again and have someone step up to the “Author” role, I was greeted by an email from one of the members requesting that a new person be given access to the site so they can post the updates. Whooo hoo! Problem solved, but I wanted to make sure that this person wasn’t distracted (confused) by too many options within the WordPress Dashboard.

I removed a bunch of items from this user’s Dashboard and Edit Post in order to not overwhelm them with information that don’t need and to make the Visual Editor more of the focus.

Here’s the Dashboard before:

This is what a cluttered WordPress Dashboard looks like
Click to Enlarge

Here’s the Dashboard after:

clean-wordpress-dashboard
Click to Enlarge

Here’s the Post Edit screen before:

cluttered-wordpress-post-edit
Click to Enlarge

Here’s the Post Edit screen after:

clean-wordpress-post-edit
Click to Enlarge

You’re might be wondering how I accomplished this and how you can do the same. Did I use a plugin? Did I write a special function? Was it simply mind of matter?

Nope. I used some easily accessible built-in WordPress settings that don’t get too much “press” on WordPress tutorial sites. I don’t mean to leave you hanging, but you’ll have to stay tuned here to learn how I did it. I’ll be posting a detailed tutorial with screenshots in the next few days…this post is already too long!

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