Understanding WordPress User Roles: A Guide to Managing Permissions

Welcome to my blog! As a professional website designer specializing in WordPress solutions for small businesses, I’m here to share my knowledge and guide you through the ins and outs of managing permissions on WordPress. In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into understanding WordPress user roles and how they can help you efficiently manage your website. Whether you’re a business owner, a web developer, or simply curious about WordPress, this guide will provide you with the information you need to effectively assign and control user permissions on your WordPress site. So, let’s get started!

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to WordPress User Roles
  2. Default WordPress User Roles
    • Administrator
    • Editor
    • Author
    • Contributor
    • Subscriber
  3. Custom WordPress User Roles
    • Creating Custom User Roles
    • Assigning Capabilities to Custom User Roles
  4. Managing User Permissions
    • Editing User Roles and Capabilities
    • Restricting Access to Specific Content
    • Plugins for Advanced User Management
  5. Best Practices for User Role Management
    • Regularly Review User Roles and Permissions
    • Assign Minimum Necessary Permissions
    • Educate Users about User Roles
  6. FAQ
  7. Conclusion

Introduction to WordPress User Roles

WordPress user roles are a fundamental aspect of managing a website with multiple users. User roles determine the level of access and control each user has within the WordPress admin area. By assigning appropriate user roles to individuals, you can ensure that they have the necessary permissions to perform their tasks while maintaining the security and integrity of your website.

Understanding the different WordPress user roles is crucial for effective user management. By correctly assigning user roles, you can delegate responsibilities, prevent unauthorized access to sensitive areas, and streamline collaboration among team members. So, let’s take a closer look at the default user roles provided by WordPress.

Default WordPress User Roles

WordPress comes with five default user roles, each with different capabilities and levels of access. These roles are:

1. Administrator

The Administrator role has the highest level of access and control. Administrators can perform all administrative tasks, including managing plugins, themes, and user accounts. They have full control over the website, including the ability to add, edit, and delete content.

2. Editor

Editors have control over content management. They can publish, edit, and delete any posts or pages on the website. However, they do not have access to administrative settings, plugin management, or user management.

3. Author

Authors can create, edit, and publish their own posts. They have no control over other users’ content or administrative settings.

4. Contributor

Contributors can write and submit posts for review but do not have the ability to publish them. Editors or Administrators must review and publish their content. Contributors cannot edit other users’ posts or access administrative settings.

5. Subscriber

Subscribers have the least privileges among the default user roles. They can only manage their own user profile and leave comments on the website. Subscribers cannot create, edit, or publish content.

Understanding these default user roles is essential for effective user management. However, there may be instances where you require more granular control over user permissions. In such cases, creating custom user roles becomes necessary.

Custom WordPress User Roles

WordPress allows you to create custom user roles to suit your specific requirements. Custom user roles provide you with the flexibility to assign highly tailored permissions to individual users or groups. Let’s explore how you can create and assign capabilities to custom user roles.

Creating Custom User Roles

To create custom user roles, you can either utilize a plugin or add custom code to your WordPress site. The User Role Editor plugin is one of the most popular options for creating and managing custom user roles. It offers a user-friendly interface to control capabilities and assign roles.

If you prefer manual implementation, you can use the add_role() function in WordPress. This function allows you to define a new user role and assign capabilities to it. The capabilities determine what the user role can and cannot do on the website.

Assigning Capabilities to Custom User Roles

When creating custom user roles, it’s crucial to assign the appropriate capabilities to ensure the desired level of access and control. WordPress provides a wide range of capabilities that can be assigned to user roles, such as creating, editing, publishing, and deleting posts, managing plugins and themes, and moderating comments.

By carefully selecting and assigning capabilities, you can create custom user roles that align with your specific requirements. For example, if you have a team of content writers who should only have the ability to create and edit posts but not publish them, you can create a custom user role with the necessary capabilities.

Managing User Permissions

Once you have set up user roles and assigned capabilities, you may need to manage user permissions based on evolving requirements. WordPress provides various methods to manage user permissions effectively. Let’s explore some of these methods.

Editing User Roles and Capabilities

To modify user roles and capabilities, you can use the User Role Editor plugin mentioned earlier. This plugin allows you to add or remove capabilities from existing user roles, as well as create new user roles. With the plugin, you can easily fine-tune user permissions to meet your specific needs.

Alternatively, if you prefer manual implementation, you can utilize the add_cap() and remove_cap() functions provided by WordPress. These functions allow you to add or remove capabilities from user roles programmatically.

Restricting Access to Specific Content

In certain cases, you may want to restrict access to specific content on your website. WordPress provides built-in features to achieve this. When editing a post or page, you can change its visibility settings to make it password-protected or private.

Password-protected content can only be accessed by users who have the correct password. Conversely, private content is only visible to users with elevated user roles, such as Editors or Administrators. Using these options, you can control who can view and access specific content on your WordPress site.

Plugins for Advanced User Management

If you require more advanced user management features, numerous plugins are available in the WordPress plugin repository. These plugins offer additional functionalities, such as user activity tracking, frontend user registration, frontend content submission, and more.

Popular plugins like User Switching, WP User Frontend, and Advanced Access Manager can enhance your user management capabilities and provide more flexibility in controlling user permissions.

Best Practices for User Role Management

To ensure proper user role management, here are some best practices you should follow:

Regularly Review User Roles and Permissions

Regularly review the user roles and permissions assigned to individuals on your website. As your business evolves, roles and responsibilities may change, and it is essential to keep user permissions up to date. Remove any unnecessary user roles or capabilities to minimize the risk of unauthorized access.

Assign Minimum Necessary Permissions

When assigning user roles, follow the principle of least privilege. Assign the minimum necessary permissions required for individuals to perform their tasks effectively. This reduces the risk of accidental changes or unauthorized actions.

Educate Users about User Roles

Provide proper training and education to users about their assigned user roles and responsibilities. Help them understand the limitations and capabilities associated with their roles. This ensures that users are aware of their boundaries and adhere to proper practices.

By following these best practices, you can maintain a well-structured user management system that promotes security and collaboration within your WordPress site.


Q: Can I change the capabilities of default user roles?
A: While WordPress doesn’t provide a built-in interface to modify default user roles, you can use plugins or custom code to add or remove capabilities from default user roles.

Q: How many custom user roles can I create?
A: WordPress allows you to create an unlimited number of custom user roles based on your requirements.

Q: Can I assign multiple user roles to a single user?
A: No, WordPress does not allow assigning multiple user roles to a single user. However, you can create custom user roles with combined capabilities to achieve similar results.

Q: Can I restrict access to specific plugins or themes?
A: By default, WordPress does not offer the ability to restrict access to specific plugins or themes based on user roles. However, you can utilize plugins like Advanced Access Manager to achieve this functionality.

Q: Can I limit the number of revisions a user can make to a post?
A: Yes, WordPress allows you to limit the number of revisions stored for each post. You can either use a plugin like Revision Control or modify the wp-config.php file to specify the maximum number of revisions.


Managing user roles and permissions is a crucial aspect of maintaining a secure and organized WordPress website. By understanding the different user roles and effectively assigning permissions, you can streamline collaboration, delegate responsibilities, and ensure the integrity of your website’s content. Whether you utilize the default user roles or create custom roles, WordPress offers a flexible and robust system for user management. Remember to regularly review and update user roles to align with your evolving business needs. Happy WordPress user role management!