Uncluttering the Admin Experience

There’s rarely a day goes by that I don’t log into a WordPress site. If you’re like me, you’ve grown immune to all the various options and learned to ignore the things you don’t need.

If you’re building custom WordPress sites for your clients, chances are they’re not so blissfully unaware. At best, all the options are overwhelming and confusing. At worst, a client might make an unintended change that blows the site up.

The goal? Simplify the WordPress admin experience for your clients. Below are a handful of easy-to-implement tricks for reducing clutter in the WordPress admin.

Shipping a customized theme? Get rid of the fluff.

Get rid of the code editor

I’ve written before about the dangers of using the built-in code editor. It only takes misplaced character to take a site down to its knobby, white-screened knees.

With one line of code added to the wp-config.php file, you can drop the possibility or even temptation of using the WordPress code editor.

Drop this in wp-config.php:

define('DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true);

Get rid of unused layouts

I use the Genesis Framework for all of my custom projects. By default, it includes six layout options (i.e. full-width-content, content-sidebar, content-sidebar-sidebar, etc.).

If you’re building a custom theme, chances are you don’t need all six layouts, so get rid of the ones you don’t need. By doing so, you’ll clear out some clutter and take away the opportunity for someone to use a layout you didn’t plan for.

Decide which layouts you don’t want and unregister them in your child theme’s functions.php file:

// Remove site layouts.
genesis_unregister_layout( 'full-width-content' );
genesis_unregister_layout( 'content-sidebar' );
genesis_unregister_layout( 'sidebar-content' );
genesis_unregister_layout( 'content-sidebar-sidebar' );
genesis_unregister_layout( 'sidebar-sidebar-content' );
genesis_unregister_layout( 'sidebar-content-sidebar' );

(I typically get rid of the three double sidebar layouts)

Get rid of unused widget areas

Again, I’m using Genesis as a reference point here, but let’s say you ditched the double sidebar layouts by unregistering them in functions.php. That’s all well and good, but guess what? If you took a peek at Appearance > Widgets from the WordPress admin, you’d still see an available widget area for the Secondary Sidebar.

That widget area doesn’t display anywhere on the site, so get rid of it!

You can do that by dropping this in your child theme’s functions.php file:

// Unregister secondary sidebar.
unregister_sidebar( 'sidebar-alt' );

Maybe you don’t need footer widgets or existing widgets that came with a pre-made child theme. Go through and remove any that you don’t need.

Get rid of unused CSS

If you’re building a theme from scratch, this isn’t a concern, since you’re only adding the styles you need. However, if you’re customizing a pre-made theme, odds are there’s some lingering CSS you don’t need for your finished product.

Specifically look for CSS related to:

  • unused layouts
  • unused widget areas or widgets
  • unused color schemes
  • unused plugins (Some themes include styles for plugins, such as WooCommerce or Genesis Enews Extended. If you don’t plan to use those plugins, ditch the related styles).

While your client may never know what CSS is there or not, they can certainly appreciate a speedier site load time that results from leaner code.

Before you go, add in some nice stuff!

Creating a better WordPress user experience isn’t just about getting rid of the things. You can also add in some nice touches.

Add editor styles

You spend a lot of time selecting fonts, colors, sizing, spacing, etc. for the front end of your site. Why not bring that joy into the WordPress editor?

Adding the front-facing styles to the editor allows users to better see how their content will look when published. Here’s a quick tutorial to lead you through the process of adding custom styles to the editor.

Spruce up comments & Gravatars

We want people to leave comments on our content and our clients do to. Here’s a handful of tweaks that make for a better commenting experience, hopefully encouraging readers to engage.

Speaking of comments…

What sort of global things do you do for a site before shipping it? I know there are a lot more things you can do than what I’ve mentioned and I’m curious what you recommend. Leave a comment and share!

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