WordPress has many native features and, as such, there are some which often get overlooked or poorly utilized. One such feature is user roles.
In this post, we’ll introduce user roles and what they’re most often used for. We’ll also offer a breakdown of the six default roles offered by WordPress and their capabilities. Finally, we’ll highlight four plugins which can enable you to further optimize user roles for your needs.
What are User Roles?
User roles are not unique to WordPress, but they do play a large role in the CMS’s setup.
In short, user roles are designations as assigned by the network or website administrator. Each role has its own list of capabilities. These enable the administrator to limit which users have access to what website elements.
User roles are most often used for the purpose of content management, but they can also be used for security and other such purpose.
User Roles: A Breakdown
Now that you have a greater understanding of user roles, it’s important to understand which roles are available to WordPress website owners.
1. Super Admin – The Super Admin is not a role that is used too often on smaller WordPress websites. But it can be useful if you run multiple websites on the same network.
This role enables the user to have full access to site network administration features. This means they can create and delete entire websites, manage users, themes, and plugins, and so much more.
2. Administrator – The Administrator is a single-site role that provides the user with access to all site-related administration features. Unlike the Super Admin, an Administrator cannot create and delete sites on a network. But they can make changes to a single site.
For example, the Administrator can install and activate plugins and themes, create site users, and edit theme options. They also have full access to content so they can create, edit, or delete pages, posts, and media.
In short, if you have set up your own WordPress site (even through a host) then you are the site Administrator.
3. Editor – An editor role is just as it sounds. It enables the person to edit, delete, and otherwise manage posts and pages on a website.
This includes posts and pages of their own, as well as those of others.
The editor has full access to the content areas of the site, but access to plugins and other such features are limited.
4. Author – Like the editor, an author role can create, edit, and manage posts and pages. Unlike the editor, they can only perform the aforementioned actions on their own content.
An author is someone who you trust to create, edit, and publish content without the need for approval.
5. Contributor – If you wish to have greater control over the content that your writers contribute, then contributor role is what you’re looking for.
The contributor role enables writers to create and manage their own content, but they cannot publish them. This task will instead need to be carried out by the Editor, or an Administrator.
This role is used most often on sites that use a lot of contributors, such as LifeHacker. But it can also be used on smaller websites that accept guest posts.
6. Subscriber – A subscriber is someone with very limited capabilities. In fact, they can only manage their personal profile.
This means they can change their email address or password, but they have read-only capabilities elsewhere on the site.
The subscriber role is not used often as there are plugins that can better manage site memberships and subscriptions. But if you ever need to enable someone to create a profile on your website in a pinch, then the Subscriber role is your best bet.
4 User Roles Plugins for Your Website
The native user roles provided by WordPress can be helpful. But sometimes you need more control over user capabilities, or you just want a more flexible system.
Fortunately, there are plenty of WordPress plugins available that enable you to extend WordPress’s user role capabilities, or even create and manage your own custom roles.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, but powerful user role plugin, then User Role Editor is just what you’re looking for.
User Role Editor enables you to change role capabilities with just a few clicks, and you can easily add and remove capabilities by checking the checkbox. But even better, this tool enables you to create custom roles and even add and remove capabilities from your site altogether.
If that wasn’t enough, this plugin can be used across multiple websites. You can also create a default role for new users, or assign capabilities on a per-user basis.
And with more than 500,000 active installations, this plugin truly speaks for itself.
Price: Free, but a Pro version is available starting at $29 per year.
For another simple option that packs a lot of punch, Members is a great user role plugin to consider.
Members was developed by a core WordPress contributor and, as such, the user interface is intuitive and easy to navigate for those who are acquainted with the WordPress dashboard.
Once installed, the plugin will add two new sub-menus to your dashboard’s User menu: Roles and Add New Role. You can then easily view the roles that are currently set up on your site (including those native to WordPress), or add new roles and capabilities as you see fit.
And with the use of plugin-supported shortcodes, you can even restrict content to certain user roles just like you might on a membership website.
Price: Free, but annual plans which offer professional support exist starting at $39.95.
It seems that simplicity is an inherent feature of most user role plugins available for WordPress Users. WPFront User Role Editor is no exception.
Once WPFront User Role Editor is installed on your site, you can begin to edit roles and capabilities immediately.
To do so, simply click the Roles sub-menu on the left-side of the screen. Here, you can review current roles, add new roles, and assign users. And with the Pro version, you have access to even more settings (such as media library permissions and widget permissions).
The plugin even enables you to set up login redirects, so you can direct users to a page based upon their designated user role.
Price: Free, but a Pro version is available starting at $29.99.
The interface of Capability Manager Enhanced is a bit more overwhelming than the other options on this list, but the plugin is just as robust and effective.
With Capability Manager Enhanced, you can edit and add user roles and capabilities. And once you get used to the large array of options, you’ll find that this is quite easy.
But this plugin also enables you to backup and restore user roles and settings. This is helpful if you want to revert to a previous set up, or store it for later use. Even further, you can restrict content based on user role.
User roles are an often underutilized feature within WordPress. But when used correctly, they can ensure that your website runs smoothly and that your content and backend are protected from unauthorized access.
And with the use of WordPress plugins, you can even optimize the default user roles to fit your website’s needs.
Do you have questions about user roles, or any of the plugins mentioned above? Leave a comment below.