The 6 WordPress user roles: here’s what you need to know

Confused about WordPress user roles and capabilities?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Right now, you’re gonna take a crash course in each of the 6 Wordpress user roles.

Ready to get started?

Then let’s do this.

What are WordPress roles and capabilities and why do I need to know about them?


Let’s talk a little bit about superheroes.

Ok, picture this.

You’re Stan Lee, and you’re creating a brand new superhero team.

There are 2 aspects to the process of creating each superhero.

First, you have the person, their background and traits etc.

Then you have the powers that they possess.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

You can think of WordPress roles like superheroes (trust me it helps when you’ve been working hard all day!).

And, if each WordPress role is a superhero, then the capabilities are the specific powers each superhero has. – Only in this case, we’re dealing with the power to publish content and manage network options, not x-ray vision and regenerative healing (unfortunately).

There are lots of capabilities, or “superpowers” if you will, that you can assign to the people who are working with you.

Examples of individual capabilities (or permissions as they sometimes referred to) include “edit_posts” (allows a user to edit their own posts only) or the “edit_others_posts” capability, which allows the user to edit someone else’s work.

Rather than trawling through the huge list of individual capabilities, WordPress has made things easier for everyone by creating the 6 roles.

Each of the 6 WordPress roles outlined below has a specific set or group of capabilities associated with it.

Why are roles and capabilities important?

Why are wordpress roles and capabilities important

If you have more than 1 superhero person working on your website, you need to

know how to correctly assign WordPress user roles and their powers capabilities to individual team members.

Controlling who gets power over and access to the various functions on your website improves efficiency and reduces the chances of costly mistakes being made.

So it’s definitely worth a bit of figuring out.

To help you do that, here’s a list of the 6 default WordPress roles and their associated capabilities, so from now on, you’ll know exactly what role to assign to each member of your team to maximize efficiency.


Administator role wordpress


As the creator of your own website, you will be assigned the role of “Administrator” by default.

The Administrator is the most powerful role you can have when dealing with a single website.

Administrators have full access to all of the capabilities, as well as the ability to assign roles to others.

There is usually only one Administrator of a site, though it is possible to have more.

Administrators have the power to do pretty much everything. They can create, edit, publish and delete content, install and manage themes and plugins, alter the web site’s code and edit or delete users accounts.


editor role


When it comes to content management, the editor is the top dog.

For those with large or medium-sized businesses, this role often falls to the head of content marketing.

Those assigned the role of Editor will have full control over the content on your site.

They will be able to create, publish, edit and delete any pages and/or posts created by themselves or by anyone else.

Editors can also monitor comments, amending or deleting them as they see fit. They can also manage links and categories.

Editors are not able to access plugins or themes, and they can not initiate updates or add new users.


author role


This role is designed to accommodate the needs of individual writers and content creators.

The author role grants the ability for an individual to both publish and manage their own posts.

Unlike the Editor, however, the Author does not have the power to edit or delete anyone else’s work.

Authors are fully responsible for any content that they themselves create. In addition to managing written content, they can upload media files and they do also have the power to delete their own (published) posts if they wish.

Authors can not edit pages, create new content categories or alter other users content in any way.

They can, however, add tags to their work.


contributor role

The Contributor role is very similar to the Author role but with fewer capabilities.

Contributors have very little power, which means that handing out this role carries very little risk.

If you are trying out a new writer, you may want to assign this role with a view to upgrading their role to Author once trust has been established.

It’s also a useful option to have if you work with one-time contributors quite a bit.

Basically contributors can write and add posts but they don’t have the power to publish them.

They can not upload media files either, which can be a problem as it’s not possible for contributors to add images to their own content.

Contributors are able to view all comments, even those that have yet to be moderated. However, they do not have the ability to approve, edit or delete comments.


Subscriber role


Subscribers are the folks at the very bottom of the WordPress roles ladder.

This role comes in handy for those businesses who operate on a subscription model, because it allows you to grant users access to exclusive material.

Basically, subscribers have only 2 capabilities (or permissions).

They can read posts and write comments, and that’s it.

Subscribers are permitted access to the admin area of your Wordpress site, but they can’t do anything other than manage and edit their own profile.

Here’s what a person with the Subscriber role gets to see:

dashboard in wordpress

If a subscriber tries to access any other area of the dashboard they’ll be shown the following message:

Yeah, it sucks to be a lowly Subscriber.

Super Admin.

super admin


This role only applies to those who are running more than one site.

Like the regular Administrator role, the Super Admin role allows an individual total and complete control across 2 or more sites.

Super Admins have access to all of the administration features and capabilities across a network of connected WordPress sites.

As the name suggests then, Super admins have a lot of power.

For example, they can add and delete entire sites.

When a super admin is in place, the regular administrator’s role is somewhat modified (weakened).

For example, when someone is assigned the role of Super Admin, the ability of regular Administrators to upload, install and modify themes and plugins is revoked.

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