Beginner WordPress Developer

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A brief overview of how WordPress works

Admin page request

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The functionality of the WordPress administration interface is handled by all the files in the wp-admin directory.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the code that runs on a typical WordPress admin request, and understand how it differs from a front end request.

What is an admin request?

Unlike the typical front end request, different PHP files are executed depending on the functionality being used. Additionally, permalinks are not used in the dashboard, and instead, query strings are used to pass data to these locations.

For example, the default URL of the admin dashboard is

This will load the index.php file in the wp-admin directory.

However, if you want to view the posts in your site, the URL is

This will load the edit.php file in the wp-admin directory.

If you click on the Edit post button, the requested URL is

This will load the post.php file in the wp-admin directory, passing it the edit action and the post ID of 1. These query string variables are then used to determine what content to display.

There are however a lot of commonalities in how each of these different admin files work.

  1. The wp-admin/admin.php file is included, which sets up the WordPress environment
    1. This file sets up any admin-specific constants, and then includes the same wp-load.php file that is used on the front end, which in turn includes wp-config.php to include all the configuration settings for the WordPress install, and wp-settings.php which sets up the WordPress environment.
  2. The file will then load any specific internal functionality, but only for the purposes of this specific section of the admin interface.
    1. In the case of the dashboard, it will include the WordPress Dashboard API which is located at wp-admin/includes/dashboard.php
    2. It will then set up any specific content and variables required for the dashboard functionality
  3. Next, it will include the wp-admin/admin-header.php file, which performs things like setting up and rendering the header area of the admin interface as well as rendering the admin menu.
  4. After that, it will generate and render the content for the specific admin page
  5. Finally, it will include the wp-admin/admin-footer.php file, which sets up and renders the footer of the admin interface