An Introduction to the 6 User Roles in WordPress

Posted at June 26, 2023 at 7:33 pm by Michael Lavrik

Understanding user roles is important when building a WordPress website. Maybe you want to hire a blogger to create new posts, or perhaps you want to hire a freelance editor to proofread existing posts for typos. You can collaborate with other professionals such as these by creating separate accounts. Instead of logging in to your website’s dashboard using your account, they can use their own account.

When creating user accounts in WordPress, though, you’ll have to choose roles for them. The content management system (CMS) features six user roles, each of which has specific permissions. Some user roles have a higher level of permissions than others. By learning the CMS’s six user roles, you can choose the right ones.

3) Editor

A step down on the permissions ladder is the Editor user role. Unlike Admins and Super Admins, Editors can’t perform administrative tasks like activating new plugins or changing the theme. Rather, they can only perform editorial tasks involving your website’s content.

Editors essentially have full control over your website’s content. They can create new posts and pages, and they can delete existing posts and pages. Editors can also moderate comments, manage links and manage categories; they just can’t perform administrative tasks. Administrative tasks are restricted to Admins and Super Admins.

4) Author

Another user role in WordPress is Author. Authors are content creators. They can create, edit and delete their own posts. Authors can’t, however, edit or delete others users’ posts, nor can they create their own pages. Each Author can only manage his or her posts.

Authors can also create new tags for their own posts, but they can’t create new categories. Only Admins, Super Admins and Editors can create new categories. Editors can still assign their own posts to categories, but they’ll have to choose from the existing categories created by other users.

5) Contributor

Contributor is a lower-level user role for content creators. Like Authors, they can create, edit and delete their own posts. The difference between Authors and Contributors is that only the former type of users can publish their own posts. Contributors can save their own posts in the dashboard but not publish them.

After creating and saving a new post, Contributors must have another user publish it. Admins, Super Admins and Editors can publish Contributors’ posts. From the dashboard, these higher-level users can publish their posts.

The Contributor user role allows you to check content creators’ posts before they go live. You can create a Contributor account for a content creator. The Contributor will be able to create new posts, but you or another higher-level user will have to manually publish them.

6) Subscriber

Finally, Subscriber is a user role with the lowest level of permissions. Subscribers can only manage their profile. They can’t perform administrative, editorial or content-creation tasks. Instead, they can only manage their profile.

The Subscriber user role is designed to help visitors leave comments more easily. When leaving comments, visitors will typically have to enter their name and email address. The Subscriber user role allows them to leave comments without entering this information each time. Visitors can log in to your website with a Subscriber account, at which point they can leave comments.

Custom User Role

While WordPress has a half-dozen predefined user roles, it supports custom user roles as well. A custom user role, of course, is one that you create. They don’t follow any of the rules as the other user roles. You can customize the permissions for custom users.

WordPress doesn’t offer custom users by default. When creating a new user in your website’s dashboard, you’ll have to choose either Admin, Editor, Author or Contributor. You can still create custom users, but you’ll have to take an alternative approach.

There are a few ways to create custom users, one of which is by editing your website’s functions.php file. All themes come with a functions.php file. You can open and edit this file to include a custom user with your desired permissions.

Editing the functions.php can be somewhat difficult. Each permission requires a specific syntax. If you don’t know the syntax for a particular permission, you won’t be able to create a custom user with it. An easier way to create customer users is to install a plugin. The Members plugin, for example, allows you to create custom users for your website.

User roles are an important part of the WordPress ecosystem. The CMS features predefined user roles: Admin, Super Admin, Editor, Author, Contributor and Subscriber. While they have an account that allows them to log in to your website, their level of permissions varies.

1) Admin

Admin is a user role with the highest level of permissions for traditional, single-site WordPress installations. Your website must have at least one Admin. When installing WordPress on your website, you’ll have to create an Admin user. You can then log in to your website’s dashboard using the Admin’s credentials. Keep in mind that WordPress supports additional Admins. While logged in as the Admin, you can create new users with the Admin role.

Some of the tasks that Admins can perform include:

  • Activate and deactivate plugins
  • Change the theme
  • Edit theme settings
  • Update WordPress files
  • Moderate comments
  • Create new posts and pages
  • Manage categories
  • Delete existing posts and pages
  • Modify existing posts and posts
  • Manage users
  • Upload files


2) Super Admin

Super Admin is a user role with unrestricted permissions for all websites on a multisite network. Super Admins have most of the same permissions as Admins. The main difference is that Super Admins are can access all websites on a multisite network, whereas Admins can only access a single website.

As the name suggests, a multisite network is a collection of interconnected WordPress websites. It’s achieved by installing a special version of WordPress. Known as WordPress Multisite, this version allows you to develop multiple websites from a single dashboard. If you’re only developing a single website, you won’t need to worry about creating a Super Admin user. Super Admin users are only necessary for multisite networks.

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