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Understanding and Modifying WordPress Users Roles and Permissions

Running a website is a tremendous responsibility. Apart from design, you also have to focus on content development, security, maintenance, and marketing. While a single person can handle all these aspects for small WordPress projects, bigger websites require a team for better efficiency and productivity.

As one of the most robust content management systems out there, WordPress has a built-in user management system directly available from the dashboard. Here, you can invite new users to your blog as well as assign their respective roles.

To start building your WordPress team, go to your dashboard > Users > Add New.


The “Add New User” page is also accessible via the top bar > New > User.

Understanding WordPress User Roles

User roles serve two main purposes in the WordPress environment.

First, they help users get familiar with the rest of the team. By knowing the roles of others, users know whom to contact in case they encounter difficulties such as malfunctioning plugins, new content submissions, and so on.


Additionally, user roles have varying permissions when it comes to what they can and can’t do on your site. By default, there are five different user roles:

  1. Subscriber – These users have the least permissions in WordPress. Although they can access the dashboard, they can only update their profiles and change their passwords. Additionally, they can be granted access to private content, which is useful if you require readers to sign up before they can do anything on your site.
  2. Contributor – A contributor can write, edit, and save their posts. They can also read unapproved comments, but they can’t approve nor delete them. However, they cannot publish their posts without the help of an They also cannot upload attachments for their articles.
  3. Author – Unlike contributors, authors have the power to publish or delete their posts at will. They can also specify new tags for their posts. However, they can't create new categories when publishing posts. They can only choose from the existing categories set by an administratoror editor.
  4. Editor –Editors have full control over all content-related activities in WordPress. They can write, publish, edit, and delete the posts of other users as well as moderate comments.
  5. Administrator – Lastly, administrators have access to everything within the WordPress dashboard. They can manage content, install new plugins, change the website’s theme, add new users, etc.

Modifying WordPress Permissions

Take note that you can't edit the default user roles or add new ones without User Role Editor. It is a free plugin that can be downloaded directly from WordPress’ plugin library.

To use the User Role Editor, simply go to your Dashboard > Users > User Role Editor.


To start modifying permissions, choose the user role you wish to edit from the drop-down menu and inspect the list below. Take note that permissions are organized into groups that associate with different WordPress elements such as pages, posts, plugins, and themes. You can either pick a particular group or choose “All” to display everything at once.


Although the permissions listed are quite self-explanatory, you can improve readability by clicking “Show capabilities in human readable form.” Additionally, you can enter any keyword in the “Quick Filter” field to find permissions.


After selecting the permissions you want to grant a user role, you can choose whether to Don’t forget to click “Update” to save your changes.

Adding New Roles

To add new roles with User Role Editor, click “Add Role” from the main page.


Next, specify a role ID and display name using the appropriate fields. Remember that you can’t use spaces or special characters for the role ID. If needed, you can represent a space with an underscore.


From the “Make copy of” drop-down menu, you can copy the current permissions of an existing user role into the new role. Doing so will allow you to save time when creating slightly different user roles.

Adjusting the User Role Editor Settings

You can adjust the settings for User Role Editor by going to Settings > User Role Editor. In addition to the options that are already accessible from the main plugin page (“Show capabilities in human readable form” and “Show deprecated abilities”), you can also enable role update confirmations, capacity to edit skills and the visibility of the administrator role.

Under the “Default Roles” tab, you can specify a default role for newly-registered users. Just be careful not to grant new users with an administrative role. Always double-check your settings before clicking the “Save” button.

Super Admin

In case you are running a WordPress multisite network, then you may use the “super admin” role.

Take note that a multisite network is composed of multiple websites in a single WordPress installation. By assigning someone as the super admin, you are giving them the ability to change the theme, plugins, content, and everything else in all websites.


Aside from applying themes and publishing content, WordPress has many other features that can help you manage and maintain your website. By learning how to use roles and permissions, you can now leverage the help of your team to supercharge the development and growth of your WordPress site.

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Article by Christopher Jan Benitez

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