Build Your Clients A Better WordPress Admin Experience

On by Ron Piper. 1 Comment

When it comes to giving clients a flexible, yet user friendly interface for managing all the great things we implement on the front end of a website, the way you set up WordPress admin is critical.

Set it up right, and you’ll give your clients a quick and painless experience for updating anything they want to update on the website. Set it up wrong, and things will be cluttered, non-intuitive, slow and difficult to understand.

Here are some simple but extremely effective strategies you can use.

1. Use Advanced Custom Fields for user friendly content editing.

WordPress provides us with one built-in content editing field on each page or post.. but what happens if your design has multiple content elements? What if you have columns, call-to-actions, unique image layouts, lists, tabs or any number of other elements?

The site owner should still be able to edit all of this content, and they shouldn’t need to edit any code in order to do so.

One approach to handling these elements is to install a visual page builder plugin such as Visual Composer. I don’t recommend this. It leaves too much room for user error, creates unnecessary clutter, slows down the site, and leaves most clients still finding it far too technical to work with.

The solution? Use Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) for each of the sections on your page. Depending on the type of content the user needs to edit, you have a huge range of field types you can use in different ways to create the perfect content management experience. The setup, the fields you use, and how you use them will be different for each project. Here’s an example of a page showing some of the typical elements you’ll find on a site, and one way to handle them with ACF.

Image and text fields

These are the most basic types of content you’ll have on all pages.

wordpress custom fields image and text fields

Repeatable content fields

These powerful fields are excellent for any content types where you need to add multiple of the same type of item. e.g. carousel items, feature lists, call-to-actions, tiles, testimonials and so forth.

wordpress custom fields repeatable fields

Gallery fields and post selection fields

These are just a couple more field types that might come in handy for various uses.

wordpress custom fields gallery and relationship

2. Use ‘Flexible Content Fields’ to create flexible layouts.

The flexible content field is an ACF field type that deserves a special mention of it’s own. Many sites will not require this, but some will and when employed it will take the content management experience to a new level.

‘Flexible content’ is use in conjunction with other ACF field types. It allows the user to add repeatable rows of content. Each time the user adds another row, they have the choice of what type of content it is, and this affects the content fields they have to fill in. Essentially it allows the user to build a page in a flexible way based on pre-defined layouts.

wordpress flexible page layout

3. Use an Options page for general settings and site-wide content.

We’ve looked at some effective ways to handle all sorts of page content with WordPress, but what about content that doesn’t belong to a specific page? Some examples of this include:

  • Site logos
  • Social media links and settings
  • Phone numbers and addresses
  • Call to actions
  • Copyright text and other footer content
  • Google analytics code
  • Other site wide variables

There are a number of work-arounds and non-ideal solutions you can use that will be likely to leave you with a cluttered, non-intuitive environment. Use widgets and you’ll be leaving too much room for user error. Use plugins and you’ll be inviting in malware risks, slower pages and a more cluttered admin panel.

Here’s one example of a simple options page done with Advanced Custom Fields. Everything is in one convenient place and is super simple to manage.

site-options-header

site-options-footer

site-options-social

Planning the WordPress back end is key.

One critical yet often missed step in the site building process is content management planning. This step doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming, but it definitely should be done. It’s about looking at the design for the site, determining what the site owner needs to be able to edit or change, and planning out how they will do it from within WordPress.

With a good admin panel set up you can create almost anything with WordPress

WordPress has over time become a leading platform for powering the the content management of all types of websites and applications. With some forward planning, the use of custom post type structure, custom fields and a select few core plugins.. you can create a powerful, clean and intuitive content management system to power anything you design for the front end.

Did you find this helpful? Do you have anything to add or any questions? Please share or comment below!

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