Understanding User Roles in WordPress: From Subscriber to Admin

A basic outline of WordPress user roles, courtesy of Bob Dunn.Let’s face it: not everybody can be in the driver’s seat. When it comes to administering a WordPress site, assigning different levels of responsibility is important, especially in larger organizations. Back in August, Nancy wrote a brief post explaining how to add a new user to your WordPress site. This week, we’re going to look at the different user roles in WordPress, and how to fit people along the scale.

When creating and assigning roles in WordPress, there are two important things to keep in mind:

Everyone needs a co-pilot – add a second administrator. It’s usually a good idea to have at least two top-level administrators on your WordPress site. If someone gets sick, or has their e-mail hacked, it can be a real pain in the ASCII to regain full access to the site.

Roles and ranks are not the same thing. It’s easy to think of WordPress roles in terms of organizational seniority. But not so! Instead, WordPress roles reflect different levels of responsibility on the website. Your role on the site should only reflect the level of responsibility that you intend to have. It’s likely that most of the Fortune 500 CEOs lack direct administrative powers over their own websites – so don’t feel left out if you only have editorial power.

The cover of a Spider-Man comic book.

Being a WordPress administrator is exactly like being Spider-Man! OK, not really.


The most basic of the roles in WordPress. A subscriber can edit their profile – and that’s it! This is a good role for people who will only comment on posts. As well, some WordPress plug-ins allow you to limit the visibility of certain parts of your site – like a members-only blog. To access secure parts of the site, users may need to be logged in (at the very least) as subscribers.


This is where it starts to get interesting. The contributor can write and manage their own posts, but needs someone else to publish them. Contributors are unable to upload files. If you have someone blogging on your site, but want to proof their work before they publish, this is the role for them.


Someone who can publish and manage their own posts, but cannot touch posts created by other users. Authors can also upload pictures and other files to the site’s media library. If you have someone blogging on a long-term basis, but they don’t need to touch your website’s pages, the author role is perfect.


Managing posts, pages, categories, links, comments, and media – this is the glamorous life of a WordPress editor. Someone holding this role is able to change virtually all of the content on the site.


This is the highest level for a single WordPress site (although you can have Super Admins for a network of sites). Administrators have access to all of the administrative features on the website, including managing users, plug-ins, themes, and CSS. But with great power comes great responsibility. Your site administrator should have a good understanding of WordPress – at least enough to know what parts not to touch!

So those are the WordPress user roles. Use them carefully, and you can make sure that people in your organization don’t step on each other’s toes when editing your site.

Image credits: Marvel Comics, via Wikipedia; Bob Dunn

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About Nancy Bain

Our services include building optimized, functional and self managed WordPress websites, Nova Scotia social media training and consulting, interactive full screen high definition virtual tours with lead capture and print advertising. For most of our clients, we are their one stop solution for all things marketing, branding and small business development related.


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