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What are WordPress user roles and how to use them wisely

What are WordPress user roles and how to use them wisely


Let us introduce you to the WordPress user roles, what they mean and why it’s important to understand and use them in the right way.

What are WordPress User Roles, why do we need them and what level of permissions do they enable? Here’s our ultimate guide to help you understand and better manage User Roles in WordPress.

It might sound unnecessary to some, but understanding these roles is essential no matter if you’re running a blog, news magazine or a corporate website. If there are more than two persons responsible for the site, you should educate yourself and help your business works well.

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Who can write posts, manage comments, add new users or delete spam? Which User Role can maintain and update your site and which can only work as a temporary associate? What happens if your clients express the desire to see behind the scene or get more involved? Which role would you assign to them? All that and more we’ll explain in this WordPress User Roles guide.

WordPress User Roles

WordPress User Roles

Whether it’s a new member, a part-time co-contributor, outsource worker or an audit person, by choosing the right role you decide what they do, manage and see on your site. With that in mind, there are five main User Roles to choose from, depending on the level of permissions you want to give them.

  • Subscriber
  • Contributor
  • Author
  • Editor
  • Administrator
  • Super Administrator

In this guide, we’ll explain them all in details.


The Subscriber is the most basic WordPress User Role you can assign to anyone. Also, it’s the default User Role WordPress labels anyone who’s new to your site. To whom this Role relates to? Just, it’s a user that can log in to your blog or website and leave a comment or make its profile. Basically, they are like subscribers to your blog and can update their profile, change a password, sign up for the newsletter, and that’s all. An entry level to your online kingdom, much like the followers on your Social Media accounts and Pages.


The Contributor is the next level user. Let’s say you have multiple community members who are contributing to articles, or you allow guest posting. This is the role you would assign to them. As a Contributor, WordPress User can write an article or blog post but cannot publish it, so they just put it in the draft for Editors or Admins to review it. The same goes for the Media Library. Contributors don’t have access to it so they’ll need Editor’s or Admin’s help. Also, they don’t have the permission to alter, approve or delete comments.

So, if you have irregular users who want to contribute to your website, assign them this role, and you’re good to go.


The Author is a User Role that comes with slightly more responsibility than the previous ones. If we were to compare it, we would say it’s a blogger role – where users can write, draft AND publish content, as well as have access to the media library. Naturally. Furthermore, Authors can even edit comments – but only of their own posts, not others. Apart from that, Authors don’t have access to pages or posts other User Roles created. Even more, they cannot create new Categories, add new plugins or change the theme or any different settings on the blog or website.

If you have a new associate or a co-worker, this is a WordPress User Role you’ll usually assign them to.



The Editor, as the name itself says, is a User Role responsible for creating and managing website’s content. Editors can create, edit and delete any content, both their own and someone else’s and they serve as the boss to all the previous WordPress User Roles. They manage all the edits, approves and schedules of the content submitted by other User Roles aka Authors and Contributors. The things Editors don’t have access to? General WordPress settings, Plugins and Widgets section nor they can add or delete any other Users. They stick to one thing, which is content. Just in case.


And finally, the most significant and most crucial User Role in WordPress. The Administrator Role refers to blog/website owners aka you. As an Administrator, you have access to all WordPress settings, features, and options possible. Moreover, you are responsible for all the previous User Roles.

Apart from you and a person you trust the most, the Administrator User Role is for your Web Developer since it’s the person who’s responsible for maintaining your site. Other than that, there’s no reason to flash around with the permissions to this most significant role.

Super Administrator

This is a role reserved for a multi-site network. A person or persons who are Super Administrators have responsibilities for all the sites within a network and can manage overall site features. Furthermore, they can delete Administrators and other Users, so it’s advisable to be careful whom you assign to this role. You need to fully understand that anything Super Administrator can affect on your network, other users, and your overall business.

Additional WordPress User Roles

Apart from these main User Roles, there are a few ways you can make and assign custom ones. How? Platforms such as bbPress, BuddyPress, WooCommerce and some plugins can do that, and we’ll explain how.

bbPress User Roles

bbPress is a discussion forum software for WordPress and as such needs to have different User Roles. Apart from the main five in WordPress, there are:

  • Keymaster: the role with the most significant responsibility and power, like Administrator in WordPress. Keymaster has access to all the settings and tools and can create, edit and delete other users’ replies, topics, and forums. Furthermore, Keymaster moderates forums and manage all the tags.
  • Moderator: a person responsible for moderating, creating, editing or deleting forums. Besides that, Moderator can also do the same with users’ replies and topics. Unlike Keymaster, they don’t have access to settings.
  • Participant: a community member, person or persons who can create and edit their topics and replies and nothing more.
  • Spectator: like a subscriber, this is a person who has access to forums but limited only to read topics and replies without being involved in another way.
  • Blocked: a person or persons, former user, whose all capabilities are blocked. Simple as that.

Within the bbPress you can create custom User Roles such as Tutor or Pupil, just by adding these codes from the bbPress’s codex.  That way, you can distinguish Users and assign them differently, alternative permissions.

Or, if you just don’t like the existing User Role names, you can change them into something more according to your taste. Just follow the Adding new names guide, and you’re set to go.


BuddyPress User Roles

BuddyPress is another software/plugin built on and for WordPress. This one serves as an online community and social network builder within your site. With it, you can create public, private and hidden groups and manage them with these User Roles:

  • Members: default User Role, anyone who joins and signs up to your group. Users with this role can post or submit content to the group’s forums and, in some cases (like in the private groups) can see other members and send invites to other users.
  • Moderators: Upgraded members with more permissions like edit, close or delete forum topics, and any content which is produced by other plugins.
  • Administrators: the persons with the ultimate control over the setting and a group. They can change a group’s overall settings, group avatar, manage all the group members or delete a group.

WooCommerce User Roles

WooCommerce, for instance, has two more User roles apart from the original six ones in WordPress:

  • Customer: anyone who signs up or registers via the checkout. Customers are pretty much as Subscribers.
  • Shop Manager: person or persons who manage the shop without being an admin. Apart from Customers, they can lead WooCommerce and view all reports.

Besides these roles, additional ones can be added by using specific plugins, which we’ll describe right after this section.

Custom User Roles for WordPress

As we said, you can also create additional or custom WordPress User Roles by using specific plugins. Or manage existing ones in a different way which will suit your exact needs. Either way, these are the plugins we recommend.

User Role Editor

User Role Editor plugin

In case you want to improve and upgrade your WordPress User Roles, this is a plugin to do it with. Install it, and you can do so much with it! From creating your own roles, capabilities, and permissions, to renaming and changing roles, to deleting them, User Role Editor is one powerful plugin.

Just have a look at all the features you can manage with it – depending on the free or premium version:




For when you want to extend the control over your users further, this is a plugin to use. Members help you gain more control over permissions you assign to users and manage them without having to deal with codes. Not all know and understand coding, so this plugin helps. Ideally, for any kind of membership type of WordPress website.


User Access Manager


Whether you use WordPress, WooCommerce or any other platform and wany to manage the access to your content, you might want to consider this plugin. User Access Manager helps you manage users if you have a private section on your blog, or in need of a member area or you want to restrict people to only one part of your site. If you want, you can even manage your website by creating and managing User groups – how cool and useful is that?

SEO Yoast


SEO Yoast lets you create two other WordPress Users:

  • SEO Editor
  • SEO Manager

This is something very beneficial for site owners and managers. How? Let’s say you want to enable your co-workers to do some SEO-related work without having to track and ask you every time there’s a need for some change. These roles are made just for that! As stated on Yoast’s blog:

„Two new roles, the SEO editor, and SEO manager make for a much more flexible solution when working with multiple people on your site. The administrator can determine who gets to see and do what, while the users get the tools they need to do their work.“

More detailed explanation of SEO User Roles in WordPress is on the Yoast’s blog. And, just in case you’re still not familiar with this awesome SEO plugin, we talked about it in the best SEO plugins for WordPress article.

How to assign or change roles for a WordPress user?

Now that you understand all the WordPress User Roles let us guide you through the process of adding a new User. Remember, you can only do this if you are an Administrator or Super Administrator.

To add a new User in WordPress, you go to the User section in WordPress dashboard and click on Add New.


Ass you can see, the default User Role is Subscriber, and you can change it to any other role depending on the level of access you want to give. Of all the options, only username and Email are required, as well as the password that User needs to login to the site. All that’s left to do is check to Send User Notification so they get an email about their account and that’s it!


You have successfully created a new User and assigned its role in your WordPress site.


Hopefully, after reading this guide, you’ll get a fuller picture of User Roles and permissions each of them gets. You’ll know which role is for what purpose and you’ll learn how to control all of them. And remember, don’t go overboard with Administrator roles, more than two is not necessary. You wouldn’t want to give that much power to too many people who could tamper with your site. You might know what to do, but they don’t. Keep it few and simple, and you’ll sleep better 🙂

Feel free to share this guide with your WordPress friends, help them understand these roles too. And look us up on Social, let’s chat some more!


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Ivana Cirkovic

Ivana is a Digital Marketing, PR and Social Media consultant with over nine years experience in the field. She is also a WordPress enthusiast and an active member of WordPress community who lives online almost 24/7. In love with Twitter, WP, photography and NYC.

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