Understanding User Roles

This How-To covers WordPress Roles for publishing and managing the content on this site. The roles used on this site are used the same as roles would be used on other WordPress sites, so the understanding gained in this module would be useful on other WordPress sites as well.


There are a total of six roles defined by WordPress:

  • Super Admin
  • Admin
  • Editor
  • Author
  • Contributor
  • Subscriber

Overview of Roles

All roles except for the Super Admin are used on this site (Admin is sufficient to perform all relevant tasks on this site).

Users can accept new roles as they demonstrate the knowledge and skills required of the respective role.

The table below shows a general mapping between tasks and the roles used to address those tasks:

Role Add Content Define and Issue Badges Administer Users
Admin X
Editor/Author X X
Contributor/Subscriber X


  • Admins should never post on this site. If you do accidentally post while logged in as Admin, you’ll
    a) invoke the dreaded white-screen-of-death and
    b) generate several hundred unintended posts which you’ll have to delete.
    This is a result of a bug in the integration between BuddyPress and BadgeOS where a post record is generated when triggered by a new post, and then that new post triggers another post which triggers another new post …
  • Anyone can read any published post. You don’t have to be registered or logged in.
  • To be assigned a role, you have to identify yourself to the system. This means registering an account. Need article for registering as a user.
  • Subscriber is the default. New users come into the system with only the ability to modify their profile. This is the only content a Subscriber can modify. This also allows them to earn badges (which technically does modify the content, but it is still only their own personal content).
  • Users who would like to contribute and have covered the training for posting to the site may become Contributors. This role allows submitting posts for review by an Editor (or Admin).
  • With the Author badge, the user has the ability to submit posts which do not have to be reviewed before publishing. They are able to “approve” their own posts, so to speak.
  • With the Editor badge, the user has the ability not only to submit, approve, and edit their own posts, but also the posts of other members. Of course, it’s generally not necessary to edit someone else’s post, but if it is necessary, it’s a good idea to talk to the author first. Editors however will be responsible for reviewing submissions and should either publish them or return them to “Draft” for further work.  (More detail in the “Adding Content” module which hasn’t been written yet.)
  • As mentioned above, the Admin won’t be adding content. If you have an account on this website, you should use that account for posting. However, Admin privileges are given to those who need to maintain the website (maintaining users, updates, structural changes).
  • There are separate modules for the Administrators tasks.  The other roles are concerned with maintaining only the content and — distinct from content — the badges.

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