Rethinking the WordPress Admin Menu

A story in two tweets

Last week I had attended a thought-provoking dinner about all-things-WordPress.

It included a lot of discussion about the state of the WordPress admin. And a few days later, I saw this:

And I thought, “Good idea.”

For you regular blog readers, this one may be a bit in the weeds, but I’d actually really appreciate your feedback, as this is a proposal that would hopefully make your lives easier. If it doesn’t make sense, then it’s a bad idea.

A Menu Proposal

There are lots of quirks about the admin menu in WordPress. “Menus” residing under “Appearance” is maybe my least favorite, but plenty of things are sub-optimal. One possible explanation is that the menu isn’t based around the actions people taken when managing the content of their site. The following isn’t perfect, but let’s try something new just to put it out there.


  • Design a menu that aligns with [my assumptions of] the thought process of a newer site manager.
  • Use task-based verbs wherever possible.
  • Order top-to-bottom by frequency of use.

The Concept

  • Site Status ((The Dashboard needs all kind of help, but I do think there’s a place for it, so this is a dashboard though not necessarily the dashboard.))
  • Create Content
    • Post
      • Standard ((WordPress 3.6 will involve a lot of work around Post Formats. One of the problems observed in recent testing of the Format interface is that it doesn’t align with how people think about entering content. I hope this would at least partially address that.))
      • Aside
      • Link
      • {any other post formats; ex: “Video”}
    • Page
    • Media ((The rationale for putting this here is that the media management page is becoming more like the post page and attachment pages in general are under utilized.))
    • {any other post types; ex: “Event”}
  • Edit Content
    • Posts ((I built the Post Status Menu Items plugin to add these items to the existing menu, and I think it would be a great addition here.))
      • Published
      • Draft
      • Pending
      • Scheduled
      • Trash
    • Pages
    • {any other post types}
  • Organize Content
    • Menus
    • Categories
    • Tags
    • {any other taxonomies; ex: “Locations”}
  • Manage Site
    • Updates
    • Comments
    • Widgets
    • Users
    • Plugins
      • {plugin options that don’t belong elsewhere; ex: ??}
    • Tools
    • {other “utility”-type plugin pages; ex: “Forms”}
  • Look & Feel
    • Customize Design
    • Theme Options
    • Themes
  • Configure Site
    • General
    • Writing
    • Reading
    • Discussion
    • Media
    • Permalinks
    • {Other “Site Configuration”-related plugin settings; ex: Security}

See It

Here’s a before and after screenshot.


Dashboard, Posts, Media, Pages, Comments, Appearance, Plugins, Users, Tools, Settings


Site Status, Create Content, Edit Content, Organize Content, Manage Site, Look & Feel, Configure Site

Note: This was done rather quickly so I just used existing menu icons. They don’t really make sense.

Notes & Musings

Leaving weeds-level-1 and proceeding to weeds-level-2. Continue at own risk

  • The default admin menu right now is 10 items. This one is seven.
  • This is a three-level menu rather than a two-level menu, meaning that a new menu design would have to be made to allow for implementing something like this. Also, the top-level menu items don’t map to existing pages. ((And maybe they shouldn’t? In many cases, WordPress just deals with this right now by linking to the first option which doesn’t always make sense either—for example, the “+ New” button in the admin bar adds a new Post and “Appearance” goes to “Themes.”))
  • By breaking taxonomies out into their own menu it solves one problem but creates another:
    • Old Problem Solved: Now taxonomies will only appear in the menu once. This isn’t the case if they apply to multiple post types which can be confusing.
    • New Problem: The menu doesn’t make clear which taxonomies belong to what post types.
  • In the end, I’m still struggling with Menus and Widgets, but I think that’s because I’m not quite sure how a new user thinks about them. In the end, I placed menus in “Organize.” ((Menus are technically a crazy taxonomy, so this has at least a technical logic to it.))
  • Media’s a bit lost too, maybe.
  • This spreads out plugin options based on what the plugin does. For that to work requires plugin authors to intelligently decide that which may be asking too much, but I like how it works.
  • In looking at all of the plugins I have on my site right now, I believe they would all belong  in one of the top-level menus.  Some belong in one of the “… Content” menus (Testimonials), some in “Manage Site” (Gravity Forms, BackupBuddy, Custom Post Types UI, Advanced Custom Fields), and the rest in “Configure Site” (BulletProof Security, WordFence, JetPack).
    • Tiny Rant: I’ve never been a fan of plugins that create their own top-level menu items—I think it’s often just done for branding—but I could maybe imagine a compromise where there are a few hidden “canonical” top-level items that are triggered if any plugins require them. Maybe “Security” or “E-Commerce.” (And really, who am I kidding? Top-level plugin menus are probably here to stay.)

What Do You Think?

I should immediately say that I didn’t put a huge amount of effort into this or try out anything else. Rather, I had an idea, set some principles to direct my decisions, and then discovered what happened.

So I’m curious to hear whether this makes sense. Would it help a new user? Would it hinder an existing one? What would you change?

Update Plot Twist

Interesting update here. After tweeting out this article (and getting some positive feedback on Google+), I got this response from WordPress Developer Andrew Nacin:

And indeed, he’s right! Checkout these screenshots of the 2.3 and 2.6 admins. I’m not sure what this means, but I will say that since WordPress 2.6, we’ve seen the additions of Custom Menus, Custom Post Types, Custom Taxonomies, and a lot more. As WordPress transitions from a blogging platform toward a full-featured CMS, what does this mean for how it’s administered?

2 thoughts on “Rethinking the WordPress Admin Menu”

  1. I like it, though I use the Users and Plugins menus enough that having to navigate down the menu tree would be annoying.

    I also think that menus should be as simple as possible, so though limiting to two levels can cause some odd placement of items, it also makes it much faster to drill down to the content you are looking for.

  2. Good points all around, Ben.

    One thing you’re making me think of is the fact that devs/super-users probably use the menus very differently from newer users. It’s probably heresy, but I almost wonder if there could be different menus for different “site configurations” or something.

    And I hear you on the need for quick drilling down. Just not sure how to get there :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.