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What is: User Role

In WordPress, a “user” is someone who has login access to your website. “User role” is a term describing the different levels of access people have on your site.

You can think of user roles like the levels of access people have at a school.

For example, if you’re a visiting parent, you may not be allowed to go beyond the lobby. If you’re a teacher, you have access to your own classroom, but not other classrooms or the principal’s office.

However, if you’re the principal, or a maintenance worker, you can go anywhere in the building you need to.

What is User Role

What are the User Roles in WordPress?

Before we talk about user roles, let’s clarify what we mean by “user”.

In WordPress, a user is someone who is registered on your site, and can log in with a username and password. Someone who’s just viewing your site doesn’t have to be a registered user.

As the owner of your WordPress site, you’re a registered user. You can also add other people as users with their own login credentials.

You might want to give people access to log in to your site so they can:

But what if you want to limit their access, like in our school analogy? You wouldn’t want to let parents into the principal’s office where they could change their child’s grades, for example.

It’s the same idea for your WordPress site. Giving people access to everything on your site can be risky. As a site owner, you need to know how to keep your WordPress website secure.

Luckily, WordPress has a built-in way to control what your users can access, with user roles.

WordPress automatically gives you the user role of admin when you first create a website. As an admin, you get to decide who gets access to your WordPress website and define what they can and cannot do.

WordPress comes with 6 user roles, along with a set of permissions and restrictions:

  • Super Admins have access to multi-site and single site administration features.
  • Admins have access to all the administration features on a single WordPress installation.
  • Editors can publish and manage their own posts and posts others have created.
  • Authors can only publish and manage their own posts.
  • Contributors can create and edit their own posts but cannot publish them.
  • Subscribers can only manage their own profiles.

For more details, see our ultimate guide to WordPress user roles.

These are the default user roles and their permissions. As with anything in WordPress, you can also customize their permissions if you like. Let’s take a look at how to do that.

How to Create a Custom User Role

Although WordPress has a default set of user roles, you can still customize the permissions of each role, or even create a new role.

One of the easiest ways to change a user role on your WordPress site is to install the PublishPress Capabilities plugin.

PublishPress Capabilities lets you modify and create your own user roles

Before you make any changes, make sure you understand what each permission level means, so you can keep your site secure.

What if you want certain users to be able to access restricted content on your site? For example, you might want to create a membership site and only allow paying members to access your courses, videos, or other premium content.

In that case, you’ll want to use a plugin that’s created just for that purpose. Let’s take a look at a few good options.

How to Restrict Content Based on User Role

WordPress isn’t just a blogging platform anymore. You can use it to create all kinds of websites, including membership sites.

It used to be that creating a membership website took a long time, and it required a lot of work. Back then, you had to figure out how to manage users, set up memberships, decide how to receive payments, and more.

Thankfully, there are some impressive membership plugins for WordPress that make setting up your membership site super easy.

One of the most popular WordPress membership plugins is MemberPress. It has a powerful set of features that makes setting up a membership site a breeze.

You can use the MemberPress plugin to add different membership plans, set up pricing, create custom user accounts, and more.


MemberPress also has built-in support for PayPal and Stripe payment gateways, so your members can make secure payments online.

You can see our ultimate guide to creating a WordPress membership site for step-by-step instructions.

We hope this article helped you learn more about user roles in WordPress. You may also want to see our Additional Reading list below for related articles on useful WordPress tips, tricks, and ideas.

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Additional Reading

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