Working with User Roles in WordPress


WordPress has a nice little feature that allows site owners to define specific user roles as they see fit. This tool is very helpful for blog-based sites that may utilize multiple contributors and editors. Even better, working with user roles is easy. You can do everything you need from the WordPress dashboard.

Working with different user roles starts by determining the default role for new users. There are five choices already built into WordPress:

  1. Subscriber – This is the role most new members will be assigned. It allows them to create a profile and leave comments on posts.
  2. Contributor – The role of the contributor is one that allows a site member to create content for review. The contributor cannot publish his or her content; only editors and administrators can.
  3. Author – The author role also allows a member to create content. But unlike contributors, they can also publish content without further review.
  4. Editor – Those assigned the editor role can manage and publish posts on behalf of contributors.
  5. Administrator – Site administrators have full permissions to do anything. They can create, review, and publish content; they can add and remove plugins; they can add and remove members; they can change all site settings and install and uninstall themes.

As a site owner and administrator, you can add new users through the dashboard and assign a role to each one. You can also allow new subscribers to join your site while assigning them whatever default roles you choose. You can edit their roles at any time.

User Roles Editor Plugin

As handy as the dashboard is for adding users and defining user roles, it does have some limitations. For example, WordPress has established certain functions a contributor does, and does not, have access to. The contributor can create content, for example, but cannot upload image files to go with that content. These kinds of limitations can make administration a hassle for those with more advanced roles.

An easy workaround is to use the User Role Editor plugin from Vladimir Garagulya. This excellent plugin lets you see all of the specific capabilities that can be assigned to any role. At last count, there was more than four dozen in the list. You can go through each role and, by utilizing a series of checkboxes, be more detailed in determining what capabilities are assigned to your given roles.

You can also:

  • Create customized roles with individualized capabilities
  • And new capabilities based on your theme and site options
  • Create groups of users with similar roles to be assigned exclusive capabilities.

You might want to check out user role functions on your WordPress site if you allow subscribers and contributors. Establishing users with specific roles and capabilities is one way to open up your site to more content that will improve SEO potential, drive traffic, and simply make your site more interesting. But be careful if you are new to this idea. It may take a while for you to fully grasp the potential of user roles and their individual capabilities.

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