6 WordPress Features You Should Know – Or May Have Forgotten About

I bet that familiarity blindness is costing you time and effort each day, because you have forgotten about some key WordPress features.

Let me explain.

When I get into the driver’s seat of my car, I can start the car without looking. As I’m driving, I flick on the turn signal without a second thought. But I don’t know that I could tell you where all of the dials and controls are located in the car when I’m standing outside of the car.

I’m sure there’s a proper technical term for it, but I like to refer to it as familiarity blindness.

Familiarity blindness shows up a lot in software. Picture the way you interact with an app on your phone. You could probably navigate your most-used apps without ever really thinking about it. And if a new feature was introduced, you actually might not even notice for quite some time. That’s because you’re going to keep using that app the same way you have in the past.

Neither of these examples are a really big deal. But, one place where familiarity blindness is probably slowing you down is on your WordPress website.

I’m going to share 6 WordPress features you may have become blind to, or possibly never even knew existed.

1) Screen Options

I get an unreasonable amount of joy from watching the look on a long-time WordPress user’s face when you show them the Screen Options button. It’s hidden in plain sight in the top right corner of all WordPress admin pages.

WordPress features: screen shot of the Screen Options menu in WordPress, giving the user the option of selecting which columns can be displayed in the WordPress editor for Posts.
Screen options for Posts

On each page of the admin dashboard, the Screen Options offers a set of specific functions. In the screenshot above, you’ll see the options for the Posts section. As you can see, I’ve switched the “Number of items per page” to display 100 rather than the default 20. If you’ve ever needed to delete several hundred items from the pages or posts section of your site, you can see how this one option could save you a considerable amount of time.

WordPress features: screen shot of the Screen Options menu in WordPress, giving the user the option of selecting which columns can be displayed in the WordPress editor for Menus.
Screen options for Menus

Another area where screen options can do some amazing things is in the Menu section. By default, WordPress hides some of the most powerful, albeit lesser used, features of the menu system. This isn’t done as an elaborate Easter egg hunt. The menu system is already complex enough. Hiding the advanced features makes sense as a way to limit confusion for the casual or novice user, while still giving advanced users an easy way to access the advanced features.

Having an easy way to open a single menu item in a new window (Link Target), or add a Title Attribute to a link, are both super handy. But, the star of the show is the CSS Classes option.

If you’ve ever had the need to make a specific menu item stand out from the rest as a Call To Action, you know how challenging it can be to target the single item with CSS.

I’ve seen developers try to target specific items based on their position in the menu, only to have that break down when the client adds or removes a menu item later on. As somebody who hates doing double-work, this is one of my favorite tricks in order to avoid just that.

CSS Classes for menu items

With the CSS Classes option, you can add a unique class to any item on your menu, making it easy to target. Now, instead of targeting “First”, “Last”, “Second to Last”, you can instead target a specific menu item, no matter where it exists in the menu.

2) Quick Edit

When working in the WordPress dashboard, one of the most time-consuming parts is waiting for pages to reload as you cruise from section to section to do your tasks. And, if you need to make changes to several pages or posts, that time can really add up.

Hello, Quick Edit. Maybe the most under-utilized feature in all of WordPress.

Quick edit for a single post

When viewing the list of pages or posts in the dashboard, clicking the quick edit link under the post title gives you this powerful collection of options.

You can edit the title or slug, change the post date or author, add or remove categories and tags, and even switch the status from draft to published or the other way around. All this without waiting for the 2 extra page loads it would have taken to load the edit screen and then save your changes.

Giving you the ability to make tweaks to a single page or post so quickly would be reason enough to include it on this list, but hold on to your hat because that’s child’s play when you consider the time savings for making changes to multiple posts at a single time.

Have you ever needed to add a dozen posts to a new category? Or, launch a stack of pages all at the same time? This is where Quick Edit can save you a substantial amount of wait time.

Edit multiple posts all at the same time

First, select each of the posts you want to edit. In the Bulk Actions dropdown, select Edit and click Apply. You’ll get a new option panel that looks like this.

Edit multiple posts all at once

On the Bulk Edit screen, you can add categories or tags, set the author or publish status for all of the posts at once saving you big chunks of time.

3) Media Sizes

Did you know that each time you upload an image to your site, WordPress generates a handful of resized versions of that image automatically? And, if you go to Settings -> Media, you can control what size those images will be.

Media Settings lets you control the size for the auto-generated images

Why does WordPress make these extra images? In short, it’s to help your website perform better.

For example, if you’ve got an ecommerce site and you want to show 50 products on a page, you wouldn’t want the visitor to wait while their browser downloads 50 full-size product images. Especially if they are on a mobile device. So, WordPress generates thumbnails for you automatically and, assuming your theme is built to use them, it will display the thumbnail sized images for the 50 products.

While the thumbnail, medium, and large size images are a great start, you can also create your own custom sizes.

If your designer wants to display a specific size featured image, you can use the add_image_size() function to your theme. From that point forward, every time an image is uploaded, WordPress will create a copy of the image to match the size you specify.

4) Time Zones

The Timezone setting is located on the General settings page and it is possibly the most neglected setting in WordPress.

Timezone settings

By default, WordPress sets your timezone to UTC or Universal time. Depending on where you are in the world, this could mean your site’s time is off by about half a day. That may not seem like a big deal, but there are two solid reasons why setting your time zone is important: Stats & Scheduled Posts.

Los Angeles has an 8 hour difference from UTC. For a site based in LA, all traffic that visits the site after 4 PM will have their stats recorded on the following day. That seems like a bad thing, doesn’t it? Oh, and if they were scheduling a post to go out at a specific day/time, good luck lining that all up. Take a minute to set your timezone, and save yourself the headache.

5) Language Settings

As an English speaker, this isn’t a setting that I need to mess with because WordPress defaults to English. But, working on a team of 40+, it’s likely that people on the team may speak another primary language, and would be more comfortable using the WordPress dashboard in their native tongue.

Set the default language for your site

On the General settings tab, you have the ability to set the default language for the site. If your team is more than 50% non-english speakers, consider switching the default to a more appropriate language.

6) Gravatar

While Gravatar isn’t necessarily a native WordPress feature, it is so ingrained into the fabric of the WordPress experience that I felt it merits inclusion.

Gravatar stands for Globally Recognized Avatar. It is a free tool built by Automattic, the driving force behind WordPress itself.

Basically, you sign up for an account, confirm your email address, and upload an image to use as an avatar. From that point forward, any time you leave a comment on your site or any other WordPress website, your global avatar will display rather than the silhouette icon.

Tip of the iceberg

There are so many features in WordPress, it’s impossible to know them all. I don’t claim to, and I don’t expect you to, either. The trick is to find the hidden gems that make your life easier.

If you have a hidden gem in WordPress that saves you time and energy, share it in the comments. I’d love to hear about it!

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