WordPress For Beginners: Understanding User Roles

September 7th, 2009
WordPress, Wordpress for Beginners

I have a role to write articles, someone else has a role to look over it and edit and deem as feasible for reading, but what does the role I have mean?

Meta: Words or phrases marked in italic will be explained in future posts.

You have a role of doing something wherever you are at or at whichever position you are, those roles are pre-defined and involve certain things that you can do and cannot do, some times we do break rules, however with software we usually cannot.

Likewise with WordPress there are some roles that are pre-defined and have certain capabilities that you can use to assign to members of your site, in this post we will look at those roles and know what each of them mean.

Subscriber Role

What is Subscriber Role?

A subscriber role is the most basic and default role that is assigned to any user that registers to the site, unless you of course change that by tweaking the settings.

A subscriber can comment on your blog without having to enter their details and also modify your database by setting up their profiles.

Best Practices for Subscriber Role?

Subscriber role is suited best for users whom you want to register to your site and comment without having to enter their details everytime, in addition to that you can also use this role to promote special offers and more, but it may require additional coding or plugins.

Subscriber Role in WordPress;

  • Modify their Profiles
  • Comment on the blog (when logged in) without having to provide name and email, unless you change that in the settings.

Who Should You Assign Subscriber Role to?

Subscriber Role can be open to everyone who wants to save sometime while entering their details over and over again while commenting and various other things you reserve for subscribers, however they need to be logged in, this role is best suited for every user on your site, and every other roles on your site has all the capabilities that this user has.

Contributor Role

Who is a Contributor?

A Contributor to your site has a bigger role than a regular subscriber in the sense that they can compose articles unlike subscribers, however they cannot publish or schedule the articles.

Any article written by a contributor can be saved as draft or under pending review which we will look at when we deal with “Types of Posts a WordPress site can have and what it means”.

A contributor can only contribute towards the site, however they do not have rights to publish a article.

Best Practices for Contributor Role?

A contributor role is best given to someone who wants to contribute to your site by adding new articles, but which you would like to go over before publishing.

Contributor Role In WordPress;

  • All of the Subscribers privileges+
  • View comments in the administrator panel.
  • Add new posts to drafts or to pending review.
  • Edit their own posts.
  • View posts added by others in post listing section, however they cannot view drafts and scheduled post, but they can see the titles.

Who Should You Assign Contributor Role to?

Contributor roles should be assigned to those users who want to post articles to your site, however you still need to go over them before you publish them, this means that everything they write will go through you before it hits your site.

Author Role

Who is a Author?

Author is a well known term and it has the same meaning in WordPress, a author can write articles, add it up as pending review, save it under drafts but more importantly they can publish what they write.

Yes publish it, which means, whoever you assign an author role can publish articles to the site without having your consent.

Best Practices for Author Role

You can give the role of an author to people who can add and publish articles to the site without having to ask for your review, once you give a role of a author they do not have to go through the pending preview cycle to publish, so you might not have a control over what gets published.

This role requires a bit of trust as they can publish anything (not explained) to your site without your knowledge.

Author Role in WordPress;

  • All of the Contributor privileges+
  • View posts added by others in post listing section, however they cannot view drafts and scheduled post, but they can see the titles.

Who Should You Assign Author Roles To?

In a hierarchy you would always want to go through top level, however once you assign a role of a author to someone, it bypasses that and it does not require checks, so you should only assign this role to people who you trust can write good articles for your site, if you feel otherwise you should always put them in the contributor role.

Editor Role

The Editor role can do all of the above, but in addition to that, they can edit other’s post (which is what a editor does) and change anything in anyone else’s post, however WordPress logs who edited which post and when (if you have post reviews on), so you need to turn post revision on which we will look at in future posts.

However when you assign the role of an editor to someone, you virtually give control over everything that is published on your blog to them, so do this very carefully and thoughtfully.

WordPress does not have a role between an author and a editor which is really wanted, but you can actually restrict roles by using several plugins.

Who Should You Assign Editor Roles To?

If an author can write and publish articles, an editor can write articles, publish them, edit them, they can do the same for any other author or editor on the site, this means that the person whom you assign as a editor has all the rights except for administrative which we will see next.

This role should only be assigned when you are entirely sure you want to do it and except for administrative privileges it has every other privileges a newspaper or magazine editor has.

Administrator Role

I have a key to your house and I can do anything with it, virtually a administrative role is just like that, once you assign a role of a admin to someone, they can do as they like, so this role should *NEVER* be assigned to anyone other than yourself, if you do need to do that, make sure you assign it to someone who you trust.

An administrator account can DELETE your entire blog, they can DELETE all comments, in short they can ruin everything you created in couple of clicks.

That aside an admin user on a WordPress blog is responsible for upgrading the blog, upgrading plugins, moderating comments among other things that all of the above roles add up to, so this is a role you should never assign to anyone (not explained) unless you are certain of what you are doing.

Who Should You Assign Admin Roles To?

No one, unless you are really sure what you want to do with your blog.

Which Role Can Be Used and When In Simple Words

  • A subscriber role should be used when you want people who comment on your blog to not enter their information over and over again.
  • A contributor role should be used when you want your subscribers to contribute to your site, but don’t want to directly publish articles to your site.
  • An author role should be used when you trust a contributor or someone you think will write the best, without you having to go through what they wrote.
  • An editor role should only be given to people who you trust to write, edit and publish not just their own articles but those of other’s too.
  • An administrator role should never be given to anyone other than yourself, this is the most critical role and can rule the roost, and it does, but only if you hold it yourself.

All your comments, suggestions and critiques are more than welcome, it helps us improve.

P.S. I left Editor Role and Administrative Role in-depth talk deliberately along with WordPress Premium Subscribers as I will cover them in future.




  1. buzz (1 comments.) says:

    Love this, thanks. So how do you set up the login for people to create for themselves? I cant seem to find a widget or tab in my Admin panel

    • Tre (1 comments.) says:

      Go over to General Settings. There will be a checkbox next to Membership “anyone can register”.

  2. Kai (1 comments.) says:

    Thanks a lot, this helped me fully understand what each role does and clears up lots of questions.


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