NOTES: WP admin refresher

White Label CMS</a> is the most popular free plugin for customizing the admin screens. It lets you add your own login logo, remove and add dashboard widgets, hide meta boxes on editing screens, remove items from the admin menus and add custom CSS in places.</p>

Free Admin Themes
Slate Admin Theme

As with our first choice, the Slate Admin Theme doesn’t go to town in terms of reimagining the back end, but concentrates instead on making what’s already there that little bit slicker and easier to navigate.

An appealing dark grey color scheme is easy on the eye, and prominent accent colors mean picking out relevant navigation and action items is a breeze. There’s also an attractive focus on content in the post editor, where the default implementation is considerably less cluttered than the default admin.

Interested in Slate Admin Theme?

Fancy Admin UI

The Fancy Admin UI theme keeps things nice and clean with a blue and grey default color scheme that you’re free to customize further via the Settings panel.

The plugin also minimizes default WordPress branding, making it an excellent option to build on if you’re looking to present branded experience to a client.

Interested in Fancy Admin UI?

Material Admin Theme

The Material Admin Theme takes the default admin design in a subtly different direction that ties in with the recent craze for material design.

As with most of our free theme selections, there’s not a huge emphasis on additional functionality here, but heightened contrast, clean typography and some subtle transparency effects combine to make it an attractive alternative to the default admin.

Interested in Material Admin Theme?

Premium Admin Themes
The five free options we’ve covered above give you simple ways of freshening things up on the back end and, in some cases, easy ways of quickly branding the user experiences for clients.

The next six solutions we’ll look at are all premium and kick things up a notch with more powerful customization options.


WPShapere is available for a very reasonable $15 and gives you a considerable degree of flexibility when it comes to kitting out the back end of WordPress.

You’ve got options for completely rebranding the login page, full control over admin menu sorting and appearance, and an intuitive options panel to tie it all together.

With support for white label branding, Multisite support and compatibility with WooCommerce and other popular plugins such as Visual Composer and Contact Form 7, this is an extremely powerful and attractive option at the price point.

Interested in WPShapere?


The First admin theme is also priced at just $15 and gives you a stripped-down set of back end customization options to play with.

You’ve got the ability to customize the admin bar at the top with your own logo, control over footer text, and nine color schemes to choose from. It’s not the most fully-featured premium option out there, but solves a number of common problems at a reasonable price.

Interested in First?


Legacy is a white label WordPress admin theme that ships with 20 different built-in variants to choose from along with the ability to create your own fully customized theme. The plugin gives you full control over menu contents and layout, helps you create beautiful custom login screens, and enables you to fully white label the back end for clients.

Legacy is available for $22 and works smoothly with BuddyPress, Multisite setups in general, bbPress, WooCommerce and Gravity Forms.

Interested in Legacy?

Ultra WordPress Admin Theme

The Ultra WordPress Admin Theme takes a similarly comprehensive approach to Legacy and serves up 30 pre-built theme options to choose from, along with the ability to define your own.

You’ve also got full control over the top admin bar and all left-side admin menu items, in addition to the ability to customize your login pages and easily integrate custom branding throughout.

Ultra Admin is available for $22 and integrates smoothly with BuddyPress, bbPress, and WooCommerce.

Interested in Ultra WordPress Admin Theme?

WordPress Admin Theme

The somewhat unimaginatively named WordPress Admin Theme further ratchets up the number of built-in color schemes, with an impressive 43 options to choose from (several of which are shown in the video below).

Available to buy for just $15, the plugin more than covers you for white labelling purposes and integrates nicely with both WooCommerce and iThemes Exchange.

Interested in WordPress Admin Theme?

Material WP
Based loosely on Google’s material design guidelines, Material WP gives you a genuinely different-looking backend for either your own or clients’ sites, and makes customization a breeze.
We’ll close out our list with MaterialWP, one of the most impressive admin plugins around which is available at a bargain price of $15.

Based loosely on Google’s material design guidelines, the plugin gives you a genuinely different-looking back end for either your own or clients’ sites, and makes customization a breeze. Individual admin elements can be changed at will and features such as drag-and-drop admin menu reordering enable you to get things set up nice and quickly.

A full demo version is available for you to take for a spin, and the plugin works smoothly with BuddyPress, WooCommerce, and bbPress.

Interested in Material WP?

The Future of Admin Themes
As with many parts of WordPress, the area of admin themes is certain to change enormously in the next 18 months – largely as a result of the REST API finally fully making its way into core. We’re likely to see completely separate applications emerge that deliver entirely new takes on what it means to administer a WordPress site.

Automattic’s desktop app Calypso is the first one of these out the door and it’s a highly significant development. It’s still probably too early to make hard and fast predictions about exactly which direction admin customization will go in, but a number of points are reasonably safe bets:

JavaScript-powered applications using the REST API will present a serious alternative to the current plugin ecosystem, and the currently somewhat underserved area of custom admins will be a hot area for developers to explore.
Custom admin interfaces targeting particular site verticals are likely to emerge. Early implementations such as Pickle and Happy Tables show one direction the market may well be heading.
It’ll be some time yet before we see the next wave of WordPress admins arrive, and the collection of plugins we’ve highlighted above should give you plenty of options for fine-tuning the WordPress admin experience for both yourself and clients in the interim.

If you’re particularly interested in the client customization side of the equation, be sure to check out our piece on creating the perfect client CMS for even more options.

Do you use an admin theme? Do you use any of the options we’ve mentioned in this article? If you have a favorite we missed, let us know in the comments below.

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How To Customize The WordPress Backend (For Clients And Yourself)


Nick Schäferhoff

Filed Under

Community, Featured


August 3, 2016


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One thing that WordPress users most appreciate about the platform is its flexibility. Pretty much anything on a website built with it can be customized: Page templates, custom post types, widget areas, you name it.

Yet, one area that is often still treated like it’s set in stone is the backend. Most of the time we concentrate on changing things in the front of the site but take the WordPress admin area for granted as it is (or as themes and plugins make it).

However, the ability to change doesn’t stop there. WordPress wouldn’t be WordPress if you couldn’t also customize the WordPress admin panel to your liking and that’s exactly what we will look into in this article.

We will have a look at the reasons to customize the WordPress admin area, how to introduce changes to it manually, and a number of plugins that also get the job done.

Sound good? Then let’s get cracking.

Why Customize The WordPress Backend?
We can change the WordPress admin panel in two basic ways: design and functionality. The first is concerned with how the backend looks, the second with how you can interact with it.

In the following, we will learn how to work on both of these aspects. However, why bother in the first place? Isn’t the WordPress backend good enough as it is?

While the admin panel is already very good, there is always room for improvement. For example, depending on the plugins and themes you are using on your website, it can become extremely cluttered.

If that is the case, it can be a good thing to know how to rearrange, hide and get rid of menu items, widgets, and other elements that have been put there by others. That way, you can gain more control over your site.

A second reason to learn to customize the WordPress backend is if you do a lot of client work. Here, the ability to change the admin panel’s design allows you to create a more personal experience, for example by adding custom branding.

What client wouldn’t like to log into their website and be greeted by their company colors and logo? That way you can truly make them feel like they are working with a custom solution and not a generic CMS.

Furthermore, being able to make changes to the backend can make WordPress easier to use. It allows you to selectively hide things your client doesn’t need and thus keep them from accidentally taking the site down.

It is also possible to eliminate distractions and improve their workflow by giving them only the very tools they need to take care of their site and content. Your client will appreciate it and at the same time you reduce the likelihood of getting an emergency call.

Convinced that messing with the WordPress backend is a good idea? Then let’s find out how to do it.

How to Customize the WordPress Backend Manually
Now that we know the reasons to modify the WordPress admin panel in the first place, let’s see what we can do in this regard manually.

Customize the Login Page
Usually, the client journey begins before they come to the dashboard, at the login page. For that reason, it’s only good and proper to start our customization here

For example, if you would like to change the WordPress logo on the standard login page to something else, you can do so with the following piece of code:

function my_login_logo() { ?>
<style type=”text/css”>
#login h1 a, .login h1 a {
background-image: url(<?php echo get_stylesheet_directory_uri(); ?>/images/login-logo.png);
padding-bottom: 30px;
<?php }
add_action( ‘login_enqueue_scripts’, ‘my_login_logo’ );
For it to work, you need to a add a file named login-logo.png to the image folder of your theme directory (it should be under 80×80 pixels in size).

Of course, you can also completely customize the login page via CSS. If you plan on making extensive changes, it might be best to enqueue custom style sheets like below.

function my_login_stylesheet() {
wp_enqueue_style( ‘custom-login’, get_template_directory_uri() . ‘/style-login.css’ );
wp_enqueue_script( ‘custom-login’, get_template_directory_uri() . ‘/style-login.js’ );
add_action( ‘login_enqueue_scripts’, ‘my_login_stylesheet’ );
The WordPress Codex also has a few suggestions for CSS operators to make the backend your own:

body.login {}
body.login div#login {}
body.login div#login h1 {}
body.login div#login h1 a {}
body.login div#login form#loginform {}
body.login div#login form#loginform p {}
body.login div#login form#loginform p label {}
body.login div#login form#loginform input {}
body.login div#login form#loginform input#user_login {}
body.login div#login form#loginform input#user_pass {}
body.login div#login form#loginform p.forgetmenot {}
body.login div#login form#loginform p.forgetmenot input#rememberme {}
body.login div#login form#loginform p.submit {}
body.login div#login form#loginform p.submit input#wp-submit {}
body.login div#login p#nav {}
body.login div#login p#nav a {}
body.login div#login p#backtoblog {}
body.login div#login p#backtoblog a {}
If you want to go a step further, you can even build your own login page template. The WordPress Codex also has instructions for that.

Make Use of WordPress User Roles
Yet, not everything has to be coded. WordPress also provides a bunch of customization options out of the box. One of the best examples: user roles.

User roles are different types of users that you can assign to the people registered on your website. Each role comes with defined capabilities that determine what the user can and can not do.

The most powerful role, the administrator, should always be reserved for you if at all possible. The client should usually only receive a role that lets them do what they need, nothing more.

For example, if they need to write, edit, and publish posts but not change themes or update plugins, an author profile is enough.

You can always change the role of any user in the Users menu in case something changes. Plus, if none of the roles are appropriate, you can even modify user capabilities via plugin.

Hide Or Eliminate Menu Items
Depending on their role, users will have different menu items available to them. However, sometimes it’s necessary to hide a few more.

To do so, we have two functions available:

To subtract one of the pages from the admin menu, you can use the first one in this way:

function custom_menu_page_removing() {
remove_menu_page( $menu_slug );
add_action( ‘admin_menu’, ‘custom_menu_page_removing’ );
In combination with the current_user_can() function, you can even limit the user roles this applies to. For example, you can add the following code to your functions.php to remove menu XYZ for any user that is not the admin:

function remove_menus(){
if ( !current_user_can( ‘manage_options’ ) ) {
remove_menu_page( ‘plugins.php’ );
add_action( ‘admin_menu’, ‘remove_menus’ );
You can find the slugs for the different menus in WordPress Codex. Also, be aware that this code is just hiding the menu items. They can still be accessed by typing in the address manually.

Customize Screen Options
Another built-in feature for making changes to the WordPress backend are screen options. These let you switch on and off almost anything visible on the backend screen with a simple mouse click.

For example, you don’t use tags for your posts? Simply disable them from appearing in the editor screen. This also works for excerpts, trackbacks, redirections and everything else.

The screen options even allow you to determine how many comments to display in the comments menu. All you need to do is find them in the upper right corner on any screen and use the checkboxes to make elements appear and disappear.

customize wordpress backend screen options

Simple, right? The best thing: Screen options are saved on a user basis so you can customize screens for each person on your site.

Add Custom Widgets to the WordPress Dashboard
Talking about screen options and hiding widgets, how about doing the opposite? With this handy piece of code, you can add custom widgets to the dashboard that contain any content you want (thanks to WPExplorer!):

function add_custom_dashboard_widgets() {

‘wpexplorer_dashboard_widget’, // Widget slug.
‘My Custom Dashboard Widget’, // Title.
‘custom_dashboard_widget_content’ // Display function.

add_action( ‘wp_dashboard_setup’, ‘add_custom_dashboard_widgets’ );

* Create the function to output the contents of your Dashboard Widget.

function custom_dashboard_widget_content() {
// Display whatever it is you want to show.
echo “Hello there, I’m a Dashboard Widget. Edit me!”;
Simply change the end where is says “Hello there, I’m a Dashboard Widget. Edit me!” to whatever you need to make your widget appear.

For example, you can add a custom welcome message for your client with links to documentation and more. Beginners tend to forget or get confused about what to do where in the backend.

For those cases, it’s a good idea to provide some additional information like so:

function custom_dashboard_widget_content() {
echo “Hello Client XYZ, please remember to stay away from the plugins menu.</br>If you have any need of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us under:
Here is the result:

create custom dashboard widgetYou can even go a step further and add your own help tabs to pages for more exhaustive information:

function setup_help_tab() {

$screen = get_current_screen();

if ( ‘post’ == $screen->post_type ) {

get_current_screen()->add_help_tab( array(
‘id’ => ‘post’,
‘title’ => ( ‘How to Publish a Blog Post’ ),
‘content’ => ‘<strong>To publish a blog post, please follow the steps below.</strong>
<li>Locate big, blue <em>Publish</em> button.</li>
<li>Click it.</li>
<li>Well done.</li>
) );
add_action( ‘admin_head’, ‘setup_help_tab’ );
The example above will add the information to the Help button they can find on almost any screen.

create WordPress help section

Disable Theme and Plugin Editor
The built-in editor inside the WordPress backend can be quite useful. Editing theme files without dialing up to your server — what’s not to like?

However, the same feature also poses a security risk. Anyone who has access to it (both legitimately and illegitimately) can bring your website down without any problem.

Plus, chances are high that you make edits to theme and plugin files via FTP or on a staging area anyway and thus don’t need the editor to begin with. For that reason disabling it is an overall good idea.

Luckily, that’s quite easy to do. All it takes is adding one line to your wp-config.php file:

define( ‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT’, true );
After that, the theme and plugin editor is a thing of history.

Edit the Dashboard Footer
Of course, after creating a custom admin dashboard, it’s only good and proper that you take credit for it. You can do so by changing the message in the WordPress footer, where it usually says “thank you for creating with WordPress”.

wordpress change dashboard footer

This is a prime location to link back to your own website or remind clients of who built their site for them. The following code allows you to insert whatever you want:

function change_admin_footer(){
echo ‘<span id=”footer-note”>From your friends at <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Acme Webdesign</a>.</span>’;
add_filter(‘admin_footer_text’, ‘change_admin_footer’);
Just add it to functions.php, customize to your needs, save and you are good to go.

Plugins for Customizing the WordPress Admin Area
The code examples above enable you to make changes to the WordPress backend by hand and there are more possibilities out there. However, for more extensive customizations taking the plugin route can be the easier solution and we will look at a few of them now.

Custom Login Page Customizer
Custom Login Page Customizer

Above, we already talked about how to customize the WordPress login page. This can be done via code but also with this plugin.

What makes this solution special is that it works within the WordPress customizer. That way, you are able to change the login page’s logo, colors, background, buttons, and much more while seeing a real-time preview.

Make changes until you are satisfied and then simply click one button to make it go live. Easy peasy.

Admin Menu Editor
Admin Menu Editor

As the name suggests, this next plugin allows you to modify the WordPress menu. You can customize and reorganize admin area menus via drag and drop, rename them and other things.

Admin Menu Customizer even lets you create new menu items that link to any page you want (including external links) and even disable menu items that have been forced upon you by other plugins.

WP Admin UI Customize
WP Admin UI Customize

Our next contender can control a lot of different aspects of the WordPress admin and it does so in style. With its visual interface, users can move around items in the WordPress admin menu and build a custom menu in a widget-like manner.

You may also eliminate blocks from the dashboard entirely (not just switch them off via the screen options) and even customize the login screen if needed.

The best part: Changes be made according to the user role. So, if you want to switch off update notifications just for your editors, you can do so without a problem.

White Label CMS
White Label CMS

White Label CMS is another free and popular plugin to customize the WordPress backend. It offers customizations in the areas branding, dashboard panels, admin settings, and menus.

The plugin allows you to change logos, add custom CSS and control the visibility of dashboard panels. It can also create custom widgets, hide screen options, meta boxes and more. Plus, you can change menu items for editor user roles.

WP Help
WP Help

Above, we showed how to add extra information to the WordPress backend. This plugin lets you do a similar thing, which creates detailed documentation for your site and make it available in the menu bar.

That way, you can create a knowledge base to answer the questions of your clients and allow them to help themselves rather than getting in touch with you. The plugin itself is a little dated but still worth looking into.

Tabify Edit Screen
Tabify Edit Screen

We already learned how to disable metaboxes and other screen elements by using the screen options. However, what about the ones that are left over? They can still make the screen look pretty cluttered.

To further clean up your backend, this plugin orders items on the admin dashboard on top of one another in the form of tabs rather than next to each other. Talk about a space saver!

Plus, Tabify works with drag and drop and can create different custom layouts for different pages, posts and other types of content.

WordPress Dashboard Themes
WordPress dashboard themes are a bit of a hybrid between themes and plugins that have been getting somewhat more popular lately.

They basically do the same thing in the backend that normal themes do to the front of your site — change the design and functionality. That way you can overhaul the WordPress dashboard with little effort. WPMU DEV have put together an extensive list of dashboard themes on their blog.

Create a Custom WordPress Backend
Finally, as should be obvious from the above, it is also possible to completely rewrite the WordPress dashboard. Examples of that already exists.

For example, Jason Schuller created Pickle, a WordPress-based suite for creating restaurant websites that moved the entire menu to the frontend. Another case is Happytables, a similar solution that also comes with its very own version of the WordPress backend.

Consequently, the infrastructure is there, it’s up to you to use. If you are playing with the thought of hacking together your own WordPress backend, this article is a good place to start.

As easy to use as WordPress is, even the platform’s intuitive admin interface can be overwhelming for novice users. And while we usually concentrate on changing things on the front end of our website, looking into how to customize the backend can be worth your while.

Whether it’s simplifying the interface for your client, adding branding, or making the admin area safer to use — there are plenty of good reason to invest time in this area. Luckily, with WordPress nothing is set in stone and you can change almost anything.

Above we have shown you how to modify key aspects of the WordPress admin area by hand and also given you a rundown of plugins that can do the same and more. With that information in hand, there is nothing to stop you from creating your own custom WordPress backend and making the platform truly your own.

What kind of changes have you made to the WordPress backend? Any additional tips or plugins? Let us know in the comment section!


Nick Schäferhoff