The WordPress dashboard is one of those parts of WordPress that really hasn’t had a lot of love or attention paid to it for a long time. While those of us used to moving around it are comfortable and familiar with it, it can be a pretty daunting place for the uninitiated.
This is why it’s great that there are ways in which we can make the WordPress Dashboard less intimidating and even a welcoming place. In this guide, I’ll be showing you some great options to customise the dashboard. Some of them are free, some of them are pro, but all of them give you great options.
While this guide will provide the basic information on each of the options I’ve handpicked, I have dedicated videos and will link those below. So, if you want to learn more about a specific option, you can delve in deeper with the dedicated and more detailed videos.
White Label CMS
White label CMS comes from Troy Dean over at WP Elevation and provides a huge amount of control over the WordPress Dashboard. I’ve used White Label CMS on several client and personal projects in the past and it’s always worked well to fine-tune the overall dashboard experience.
Since I first used it, it’s grown a lot in features and now has the majority if not all of the tools you’ll need to create a more unique, less overwhelming WordPress dashboard for your clients or contributors.
Out of all the options, we’ll look at today, White Label CMS is the only option that has an onboarding wizard to get you started. It’s not overly complex and can easily be skipped if you simply want to get to the good stuff. But, it can make the initial set up steps quick and easy.
Speaking of the good stuff, there’s a lot to unpack here from custom branding to customising the login screen. If you want to hide the fact you’re using WordPress there are several options to remove or replace that branding for your own. You can also simply remove the WordPress version information if needed. Personally, I’d rather leave that in place as it makes logging in and checking things a little easier when you can immediately see the version.
Speaking of customising the login screen, I’d love to see a customiser like experience like that offered by Ultimate Dashboard Pro plugin (which we’ll look at in a short while) as that makes editing more visual over the ‘fill out the boxes’ approach employed by White Label CMS.
One area that is great to see is under the Dashboard section where we can manage and add new panels to our WordPress dashboards home page. This is made even more useful if you want to add custom-designed panels using basic HTML, Elementor or Beaver Builder Pro. This allows you to create visually interesting and feature-rich dashboard panels for your users when they log in and remove the awful default WordPress ones!
As with most of the options we’ll be covering today, there is control over the menu structure, admin bars and more. All the core things you’ll need to take control over what your clients or user roles can and can’t access.
It’s great to see so many features included in a totally free tool. While there aren’t a lot of options for styling your dashboard, you could easily pair up White Label CMS with a dashboard theme like Slate and manage the look and the functions separately – more on this later.
All in all, there’s not a lot to dislike about White Label CMS.
Admin 2020 offers an abundance of customisation options for your dashboard. If you’re looking for an easy way to immediately change the entire look of the WordPress dashboard but don’t have the time to get in and tweak everything or install a bunch of plugins to handle many common tasks, this plugin may be a good option for you.
You can easily configure it to show a load of useful statistics on the dashboard homepage. Link it to Google Analytics and you can view some useful data here. If you want to add training videos on how to use the website, you can do that here too. There are a lot of options to help make the dashboard home a useful place as opposed to just a place for WordPress and plugin companies to slap their promo and advertising bumph.
Changing up the look is only part of what Admin 2020 offers though. You also have a media manager plugin built-in (this can be turned off if you have an alternative or just don’t need one), you can manage all the menus, what’s on display, their order and loads more. You should easily be able to tweak everything to get the look and feature set you want.
To be honest with you, there are so many options for tweaking Admin 2020, that you should be able to find a combination that works well for you. It also includes light and dark modes as well as a load of customisation options, so you can get it inline with yours or your client’s branding without too much fuss. Once you get the perfect setup, you can easily export those settings and apply them to additional copies of the WordPress dashboard with relative ease.
If you’d like to try Admin 2020 out, you can use a Lite version for free. If you want to get the full-fat version though, you’re going to have to stump up $39 for a single license, $159 for unlimited or $249 for lifetime access.
I don’t think the lifetime and annual fees are too bad, but the $39 for a single site license is a bit steep and is almost double what I paid for it about 3 months ago.
So, that wraps up my quick look at Admin 2020. Have you used it on any of your sites or is this something you could see yourself using? Let me know in the comments section.
A new option for me is Branda from WPMUDev and is generally aimed at multi-sites where you want to have global control over various aspects of the WordPress dashboard. However, you can still leverage many of the tools included on a single site and if you’re used to using this particular plug-in, it may be a good choice for you.
As you would expect, Branda includes a host of the usual suspects like menu management. In Branda’s case, you can manage a lot of the settings based on user roles and specific users.
You have some really granular control over the various aspects of the Admin menu, the admin menu bar, branding, logo, colour schemes and a shed load of other options.
To be honest, with a lot of these tools for customising the WordPress dashboard, you could easily get overwhelmed with the number of settings and tweaking options on offer. Thankfully, in the case of Branda, you can choose what options are enabled or disabled. This means you could easily spend time only configuring the options that actually matter to you.
I appreciate this level of granularity as it means I don’t have to see and potentially be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options on offer.
Finally, as with most of the plugins and options I’m covering here today, you can easily import or export your settings. So, once you’re done getting everything just the way you like it, you can export that and import it into any future sites you use Branda on.
There is a Pro version of Branda available with additional options available, but I’m only looking at the free version here today.
There is one area I’m not too keen on and that’s the heavy branding and advertising that is included in the plugins settings section, but as long as it stays confined to only the plugins settings then I can live with it.
Ultimate Dashboard Pro
Ultimate Dashboard Pro is from the same company that brought you The Pagebuilder Framework WordPress theme and provides a more simplistic approach to your dashboard tweaking.
Don’t take that for being less useful, consider it more a case of allowing you to do what needs to be done without adding a ton of unnecessary bells and whistles that you may have no use for.
It does pack some very useful features in thought. I especially like the ability to easily add in your own custom dashboard panels using a page builder to design something truly useful and eye-catching. You can also very easily configure what content is shown to each of the user roles. Now you could set up one set of options and include information for your site Editors and a different set of options and info for your Authors.
Again, all the usual options are here for removing the annoying WordPress dashboard panels either en masse or pick and choose what is shown from the list of available options. You can manage the menu structure based on user roles, which is great to see but I would love to also see the option for customising things based on specific users too. Not all Editors are created equal after all.
Where the Ultimate Dashboard Pro shines though is its ability to create your own dashboard widgets that can contain text, videos, HTML and more and are really easy to set up for many different purposes. You can then assign the location in your dashboard for them and also what user roles will see that particular widget. This gives you a lot of customisation and personalisation options.
If you want to white label your WordPress dashboard, that’s an option. Want to add a little class to the boring WordPress login section, that’s easily achieved here too. Although, I would like to see more options available here to tweak the fonts, remove the lost password links, etc. But, that’s a small niggle for sure.
If you’re looking for a powerful tool for editing and adding additional options to your WordPress dashboard, ultimate Dashboard Pro is one to put on your shortlist.
Slate WordPress Dashboard Theme
Slate is less of a Dashboard customisation plugin and more of a theme for your dashboards. The cool thing here is that you could easily combine Slate’s dashboard redesign with a plugin like Ultimate Dashboard Pro and really go to town on the design and features of your custom dashboard.
Combining tools like this allows you to get more control over the dashboards look and feel and it makes editing and tweaking the CSS styling of the dashboard through the settings panel. However, if you simply want to have some control over the CSS styling used throughout the free version of the Slate dashboard theme, you could easily install the free Code Snippets plugin and tweak from there.
As I just mentioned, if you want more control over the theme itself, you can take a look at the Slate Pro theme which clocks it at $23 per license over on CodeCanyon from Envato.
I personally haven’t used Slate Pro so can’t comment on the features it offers or if it’s worth investing in. You’ll have to judge that one for yourselves I’m afraid.
Building your own Custom Frontend Dashboard
Building your own custom dashboard for WordPress isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you enjoy the challenge and don’t mind learning some new tools, it can give you a fresh way of providing your clients with a truly unique set of options.
I’m not going to go into detail on building your own custom frontend dashboards as I’ve created several videos on this topic and will include links to them for you to delve into if this interests you.
Just know that there are lots of tools that make this process fairly straightforward, some great free options that will get you started and if you want to make more comprehensive and feature-rich versions, there are pro tools that provide a lot more control over your designs and features on offer.
While WordPress is a popular and very powerful website platform, you can gain a lot more control over this often overlooked aspect of the website management process. Hopefully, this video has shown you some of the great options that are out there.
► FEATURED PLUGINS
✅ White Label CMS: https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/white-label-cms/
✅ Admin 2020: https://admintwentytwenty.com/
✅ Ultimate Dashboard Pro: https://jo.my/udp
✅ Branda: https://wordpress.org/plugins/branda-white-labeling/
✅ Slate: https://wordpress.org/plugins/slate-admin-theme/
► DEDICATED TUTORIALS
✅ White Label CMS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_46Cn__mPc
✅ Admin2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjvMefEgQ6A
✅ Ultimate Dashboard Pro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9L1hDWwOU8
✅ Slate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOcLrnPVS-s
✅ Frontend Dashboards: https://www.youtube.com/c/WPTuts/search?query=frontend%20dashboard