icon representing a single WordPress user within a larger organization of users on a blue background

WordPress User Roles: Understanding the Differences

One of the great things about WordPress is the ability to have multiple users associated with a site. If those users are just your partners, you probably want them to have full functionality in the dashboard. But let’s say you run a blog with guest writers coming and going, or have teammates that aren’t as technical who could easily (accidentally) change the entire theme. In cases like this, it’s helpful to limit a user’s permissions to make sure nothing bad happens to your site. That’s where user roles come in.

Whenever you create a new user on your WordPress site, there’s that little option that says “Role.” This gives you five options: Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, and Subscriber. Each one has different permissions, allowing you to pick and choose who has control over what on your site. Pretty neat, huh?

So to help you understand the different user roles, here’s a nifty chart to help break it down (or for text descriptions, keep scrolling!)

a chart of WordPress user roles showing their different levels of access. From highest level of access to lowest, roles are Admin, Editor, Author, Contributor, and Subscriber

Administrators have full functionality over your site; there’s basically nothing they can’t do. Reserve Admin status only for your partners and people you truly want to have access to everything.


Editors are second in command on your site. They have full control over posts and pages, but can’t touch theme or plugins. Remember that non-technical teammate who might accidentally click something they shouldn’t? This might be a good option for them. Then they can’t accidentally change your theme, and the dash will be a little simpler for them. It’s a win-win!


Authors can only control posts, not pages. It’s a small distinction, but can be extremely helpful if you want someone who only contributes blog posts.


Contributors, at first glance, sound a lot like Authors. The difference here is that Contributors can only edit and delete posts; they’ll need an Author, Editor, or Administrator to come over and hit publish.


Subscribers have the least functionality with your WordPress site, in that they only have one permission: reading! These people can’t affect your site at all, but can enjoy your content.

As you can see, WordPress user roles can be incredibly helpful for declaring different permissions concerning your site. If you want to learn more about the exact capabilities of each user role, be sure to check out the WordPress Codex.

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