How To Develop A Client-Friendly WordPress Dashboard

We web developers and designers shudder at the thought clients misusing our carefully built sites. To guide clients through website management and mitigate problems before they ever arise, here are the 3 biggest things you can do to make your WordPress dashboard client-friendly. These 3 practices will safeguard your site and keep life simple for your clients.

1. Add Advanced Custom Fields

The Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) plugin allows a variety of simple and intuitive visual editing options to be added to the dashboard. This set-up gives clients a great amount of control over the content on their site without being distracted by the first line of code.

ACF can handle virtually any type of custom content a site may need. Content options include text boxes, images, galleries, post objects, page links, Google Maps, and more. Plus, to make sure the client isn't overwhelmed by all these custom fields at once, you can set them to display only on the edit screens of specific pages, templates, or post types.

Let's look at an example from a recent website The Ivy Group developed for Branchlands, a senior independent living community.

Advanced Custom Fields

The homepage uses an image slider to display community photos. Instead of incorporating a bloated slideshow plugin that could overwhelm the client with options, we developed our own slider that has already been configured. All the client has to do is choose which photos they want to display.

Image Slider

With the Advanced Custom Fields gallery field plugin, we created a simple and intuitive way for the client to customize images. See the above image for the view from the homepage's edit screen within WordPress. The client clicks the “Add to gallery” button to select their photos and then drags and drops the photos to display in the order they want.

2. Simplify the Admin Menu

When a client signs in to the WordPress dashboard of a site for the first time, the amount of buttons and links can be intimidating. They may think, "I'll never wrap my head around all of this" and wonder, "What's the difference between 'Posts' and 'Pages'?"

To help the client smoothly acclimate to WordPress, remove any unnecessary menu items or options that they don't need and will only serve to confuse or distract them.

For Branchlands, we created a very simple plugin that removes unwanted admin menu items. We prefer this method to editing functions.php directly because it can be easily applied to other sites and deactivated from the plugins page whenever you want the old menu items back. Here's how it's done.

3. Train In-Person with a "How To" Manual

A great way for clients to learn how to use their new site is with a walk through session. This training is most effective when done in person but an online screencast is a fine substitute if an in-person meeting is not an option.

There are often technical difficulties when doing an online screencast, so arrive early. Remember to lead the walk through slowly and give the client plenty of time to talk and ask questions. Most importantly, come prepared with a "How To..." manual for using the site that you can work through with them. The manual is a valuable resource for after the walk-through for the client to continue to develop their skills.

When making a "How To" manual for clients, be thorough and comprehensive. Describe every detail of what they'll need to do in order the operate the site even if it seems obvious to you (Remember your audience and that they won't know what "WYSIWYG" means). So keep the technical lingo out and don't make any assumptions of what the client already knows. Explain and relate information in simple, common terms.

Once your manual is done, share the final document with your client. Understand that clients may not read the "How To" manual, but don't let that stop you from creating one. The next time they contact you with a basic question, politely direct them back to the manual for help. While you are happy to assist the client, the manual is a wonderful resource to help clients become self-sufficient WordPress users.

These tips for creating a client-friendly site are a few of the most beneficial we've implemented to date. Let us know your favorite tips for building a client-friendly site in the comments below.