What Is a User Role in WordPress?

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This tutorial answers the question, what is a user role in WordPress? Also, how can you control who has access to what? Some WordPress websites become too big for one person to update and maintain it alone. That’s when site owners give site contributors access to their Dashboard. This guide explains what WP user roles, levels, and permissions are, and how best to use them.

What Is a WordPress Active User Role?

You can think of your WordPress website as a private piece of virtual real estate. You control who enters, and what they have access to once they’re in. Several people can be logged in to the Admin Area (Dashboard) on different devices. However, what they see and have access to depends on the user roles you assigned to them.

A WordPress default installation comes with 5 preinstalled names for user roles.

  1. Administrator
  2. Editor
  3. Author
  4. Contributor
  5. Subscriber

There is another role for Super Admin, but that’s only used for multisite networks.

#1 WordPress Administrator user role

The administrator is the most powerful of all the roles and has full access to the Admin area. It’s typically reserved for the owner or someone they assign to manage the site.

The default Admins Dashboard has menus to everywhere and everything.

Your Administrator dashboard may look different depending on the installed theme and plugins.

WordPress administrator permissions include the following:

  • Add, delete, and modify permissions for active users
  • Add new posts and pages
  • Edit all posts and pages
  • Delete posts and pages created by any user
  • Install, configure and delete plugins
  • Install, configure and delete themes
  • Access and perform edits to the WP core files
  • Others, depending on the setup

There’s nothing the administrator can’t access or change if they need to.

#2 WordPress Editor user role

Administrators assign the Editor role to those responsible for content creation and management. Some site owners may also assign this user level to trustworthy guest posters.

The default Editor Dashboard menus look like this.

WordPress Editor permissions include the following:

  • Add, edit, and publish any new posts
  • Add, edit, and publish any new pages
  • Permission to delete any WordPress posts and pages
  • Moderate visitor comments

Editors are not allowed to access or alter plugins, themes, core files, or other user accounts.

#3 WordPress Author user role

Assign the WordPress Author role to regular content creators to manage their own posts.

The default Author Dashboard menus look like this.

WordPress Author permissions include the following:

  • Write edit and publish own posts
  • Delete own posts (draft and published)
  • Add existing tags and categories to own posts
  • View comments only

Authors cannot create new categories or access pages and posts created by other people. WP authors can view comments pending review, but not moderate, approve, or edit them.

#4 WordPress Contributor user role

Assign the Contributor user role to regular contributors to your WordPress website or blog. These users have limited permissions. An editor or administrator must publish their posts for them.

The default Contributor Dashboard menus look like this.

WordPress Contributor permissions include the following:

  • Write and edit own posts
  • Delete own posts (draft and published)
  • Add existing tags and categories to own posts
  • View comments only

Contributors can’t upload media to their posts or publish their own work. When a contributor finishes writing a post, they must submit it for review.

#5 WordPress Subscriber user role

The WordPress Subscriber has the lowest level of Dashboard access. This role is typically used for membership sites where owners require users to log in to read content and post comments.

The default Subscriber Dashboard menus look like this.

WordPress Subscriber permissions include the following:

  • Change profile settings
  • Change password

More Control Over WordPress User Roles

The default user roles work well for most WordPress site owners. However, you can customize them further and even add new access levels with plugins. Examples could include senior and junior editor and author roles with different sets of permissions.

The Capabilities plugin by PublishPress is a good example of a permissions & roles editor.

Here’s a snapshot of the control options it offers for customizing roles.

Closing Comments

Assigning user roles to different people is vital when there’s a team working on a WordPress website. Permission controls let administrators focus on their role while others get on with theirs. Always think carefully about who gets access to what before creating a new user login. It’s easy to upgrade or downgrade these roles as needs arise.

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