1. Code
  2. General

A Layman’s View of the WordPress User Roles

Read Time:7 minsLanguages:

The WordPress user feature could be confusing for some of us in the beginning. Therefore, to remain effective and efficient, it is paramount to understand the different roles that are available when creating users and defining their capabilities. There are different types of users in WordPress. WordPress offers default roles in the form of Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor and Subscriber. You can also add a new user and assign him custom roles. The role defines a list of things that the person is allowed to do and is known as the capabilities of the role.

You should be careful while assigning users their respective roles. This is primarily due to the fact that some users may have more control of your blog than anticipated. For example, some roles allow the user to delete the blog, its content or part of the content and will not be considered as a wrong act. Hence, as a rule of thumb, you should go through each role and match them with the most appropriate user.

The real power in such roles is the capability given to each role, as without these capabilities, it is just a name without any real control. For instance, administrators and editors have more capabilities than subscribers, authors and contributors. You can also change some of the capabilities in a role, create a new role, and customize the capabilities with the help of plugins. The WordPress Plugin API enables the addition, removal and change of roles and capabilities.

In general, there are six basic roles that you can choose from. The list shown here begins with the highest access level and proceeds to the lowest access levels. For instance, we have listed Super Administrator first, meaning that they have the capabilities of everything listed in their role as well as those listed in all the other five below them. Each one can do these roles by default, though they can be modified.

Default Setup

The default setup offers six roles with capabilities up to 57. The roles offer several combinations showing the rights/privileges given to the role.

Super Administrator

This is the role having the maximum capability. The super administrator can manage multiple blogs from the same domain and can oversee the whole network. They can also be known as the Network Administrator and they are responsible for themes, network users, the network options and the site as a whole.

They have access to the blog network administration features. They can use the Network Admin sites screen for reviewing and managing different sites that form part of the network. From this screen, the Super Administrator can also access themes and setting for all the sites on the network. With the help of the Add New Sites Screen, they can add new sites to the network. With the help of the network Admin themes screen, the super administrator can control the themes used for each site. They can activate or deactivate a theme used by a site in the network. When they disables one theme, it can remain selected and if another theme is selected, the disabled theme will be removed from the Site Appearance Theme. This user role is best reserved for owners of sites, chief editors and webmasters.


In case of a network of sites, an administrator can be considered as a second in command to the Super Administrator. In case the person has only one site to manage, the administrator will be the one holding the ultimate authority, as there is no need of networking abilities and a super administrator. The administrator of a single site manages the themes, the users, and the plugins, updating them whenever necessary as well as editing and importing or exporting of data from the dashboard. The role of the administrator can differ in a single site and in multiple site installations (network). However, all administrators have the following capabilities.

Activating plugins, creating users, deleting others’ pages, deleting plugins and posts or private pages and private posts; they can also delete a published page; delete or create users and also edit the dashboard, files, pages, posts, private pages, published pages and posts and edit themes and options. They have the permission to export and import content and manage categories, links and options. The administrator can moderate comments and promote users. They can publish and read private pages and switch themes or upload files.

Administrators of single site installations have additional capabilities, which are available only to Super Administrators in multiple sites. These are updating core, plugins and themes; installing, deleting, editing themes and plugins and editing users.


This role is below the Administrator. The role of the editor is somewhat similar to the editor of a magazine or a newspaper. They can edit the content and create new content. They also has the permission to moderate comments and reply to comments. They has the power to edit categories and links. In case there is no network of sites, but just a single site, the editor is also in charge of handling the everyday tasks.

An editor can delete others' pages, posts, private pages and posts and published posts. They can also edit others’ posts and pages as well as private posts and published pages. They can manage categories, links and moderate comments. They have the permission to publish pages and posts and read private posts and pages as well as upload files.


The author is also a person who can create content, manage it and publish it. However, the author cannot create the pages of the blog or website but only the posts. The difference between an author and an editor should be clearly understood. An author can only make changes and modify their own content, whereas the editor can modify their content as well as the content of any other author. Authors are also given the permission for uploading images, files and other additional material on the site or blog. The author can delete published posts and edit posts. They can read posts and upload files.


A contributor is a role that has the capability of adding new content. They are given access to a certain part of the dashboard. This is usually the Add New Posts area. Though they have the permission to submit their content, they cannot publish it directly, as the publishing work has to be done by the author or the editor after they review the contributor’s work. The contributor can edit, delete and read posts.

Do you accept guest posts on your blog? If so, the WordPress contributor role is very useful. It is the best role for guest posts, as the role of the author includes publishing posts and review posts and you don’t want to give this permission to guest posts. A contributor cannot add images to their post. However, they can add images by the use of a HTML code and then link it to the image hosted at another place. Contributors can also see posts in the dashboard. If the person is someone that you trust, you can also give him or her more rights and permissions. They can even run the guest posting on the blog, but if the person is a onetime guest post, it is better to stick with the contributor’s role.


The audience to the website or blog constitutes the subscriber. They cannot do anything on the site without first registering at the site. Once they have registered at the site, they can have access to the content on the site and even leave a comment. They, however, cannot make any changes or modifications to the content. Nevertheless, you can allow subscribers to see private posts and pages with additional plugins and coding.


WordPress has offered roles as an integral part of the installation. Such roles allow easy setup of different types of users, which are available as default or as customized. The default user roles consist of the Super Administrator, Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor and Subscriber. User roles and capabilities are important, especially where there are many people working on and around a blog. They make the sites more manageable, efficient and sustainable.

Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.