Admin 2020 Reimagines WordPress Admin and Media Library

Unless I’m trying to be aware of it, I don’t see the WordPress admin anymore. When you work inside it every day, it becomes a means to an end, like a subway ride to work. You scan your ticket (log in) and you’re on your way to whatever admin business is the order of the day. After awhile, you accept its appearance and no longer spend conscious thoughts critiquing it.

WordPress doesn’t overhaul its admin design very often, since it requires a massive effort from contributors. The beauty of this pluggable system is that anyone with the skills can change the design to suit their own aesthetic. That is what WordPress developer Mark Ashton has done with Admin 2020, a plugin that completely reskins the admin to give it a different look.

Browsing the Admin 2020 demo, you might not even know you were using WordPress. The design is built on top of UIkit, a lightweight UI framework that has a softer, rounder look to it. Users can switch between light and dark mode. Admin 2020 features white labeling, allowing users to upload their own logos and brand the dashboard for themselves. The admin area can also be radically simplified based on user role. The plugin allows for admin menu items to be renamed or toggled for visibility.

Admin 2020 dashboard overview dark mode

Admin 2020 has an Overview page that can sync with Google Analytics to show reports that can be filtered by date, including Users, Page Views, Sessions, and device breakdown. It also displays summaries of recent comments, popular pages, system info, new users, and other content-related data.

The plugin gives WordPress’ media library a new look, along with folders and filters for an alternative way to organize images. Ashton claims it is up to 50% faster than the classic WordPress media library. The gallery editor also adds filters, free draw, icons/shapes, text and other mask filters for enhancing images.

Admin 2020 media library

“A lot of what admin 2020 does is built on existing WordPress functions, it just uses them in a different way,” Ashton said. “Instant search for example leverages AJAX and you can search all of your content from one place.”

The Admin 2020 plugin started out as a personal passion project. After building everything from plugins to themes to a hospitality reservation management system using WordPress, Ashton thought he would try his hand at making an admin theme he would enjoy using.

“It was something I have always wanted and basically got tired of waiting for,” he said. “I’ve been using WordPress for my projects for many years and while I love the platform I have never enjoyed using the backend. I wanted to create something with a strong emphasis on modern UI but also something that brought useful features that would speed up my workflow.”

Ashton said supporting third-party extensions is one of the most challenging aspects of maintaining the plugin. Admin 2020 includes full support for popular plugins like Jetpack, WooCommerce, Elementor, Yoast SEO, and Divi Builder, but there are thousands of others that have not been tested.

“The process of supporting a plugin usually isn’t that difficult but it’s more the case of there are so many plugins out there,” Ashton said. “Some plugins rely heavily on their own CSS in which case they usually work fine in light mode but don’t look right in dark mode. Then you have plugins that use WP components and they usually work great right out of the box. Some plugins actually disable all custom backend styling, though – they are a real challenge to get around!”

Ashton launched Admin 2020 in April, so it is still relatively new to the commercial plugin scene. It is sold as a single plugin but is built in a modular way so that most parts of it can be disabled. The plugin’s tiered pricing begins at $15 for a single site license. He opted to pursue a fully commercial model as opposed to releasing a free plugin with paid upgrades.

“In short, I wanted the plugin to stay as streamlined as possible,” Ashton said. “I didn’t want to add yet more plugin notices at the top of admin pages bugging you to upgrade. I wanted people to experience the full version of Admin 2020.”

His strategy has been successful so far, as Admin 2020 has become a full-time project after just three months. The London-based company is a one-person effort at the moment, but Ashton is looking to bring another developer on.

“Active installs are around 2,000 now, and as a result I am very busy and Admin 2020 is a full time project,” he said. “I love working on the plugin though, there is a lot of scope on where this can go and the feedback has been great!”

When asked if he worries about the name becoming outdated in the coming years, Ashton said he is happy with the name but if he thinks of something more suitable it may change in the future. He believes there is a market for all kinds of different themes to transform the WordPress admin but isn’t currently planning to add more designs.

“Not everyone is the same, and good design looks different to everybody,” Ashton said. “I am not looking at other designs at the moment – more offering the ability to customize the design yourself through Admin 2020.”


31 responses to “Admin 2020 Reimagines WordPress Admin and Media Library”

  1. Actually, I have to say I like this. Modern and very clean style; well laid out admin. I also like to see some plugins 100% ready for it. However, there is one I would love to see and I would get this…EDD (Easy Digital Downloads) and it’s add-on plugins too.

  2. Hats off to the developers for the work they put into this. Apart from the clean sophistication of the UI, it looks like the organisation of where everything is located is well thought out.

    It does though highlight the rather crummy way the backend of WordPress has been left for far too long. While a great addition to WordPress, the block editor development is obsessed with too many features beyond the need of many users and things that seem to be rushed and I’ll conceived and rather rudimentary in look, such as full site editing.

    WordPress could do with some internal housekeeping to tidy things up.

  3. Both the site and the WP admin are looking outdated.

    Not to mention that neumorphism looks like a trend again and WP was so slow to implement a modern design that they implemented something which will soon be already obsolete – I am that minimal high-contrast flat theme.

  4. Looks nice and it is certainly a fresh approach!

    BUT: It means I’d have a plugin more to look after and since I want all backends of all my WordPress installations (be it my own ones or those maintained for friends, customers etc.) to look identical, I’d have to buy the Unlimited Sites LifeTime Licence for $ 100.

    I’m not saying that this is too much for what I’d be getting, but I’m saying that this is more than I personally am willing to spend for backend cosmetics. Yes, the default backend out of the box does look somwhat outdated, however I know by heart where I can access which feature and I can live with a “vintage”, yet very functional user interface…

  5. Admin 2020 looks amazing. I’m getting ready to buy. Then I think, “Ok, who are these guys, exactly? What else have they done?”

    I notice their email address in their footer and decide to take a look at their website. Here’s what I get:

    Error establishing a database connection.

    …and it’s been like that since yesterday. Doesn’t exactly instill confidence.

  6. I have it and I love it. Looking forward to the next release especially. I had made a request a few months ago with him on from Facebook messenger, if I could change the color of the dark mode. After some back and forth he explained why it at the time was really hard. I replied with “so it’s like you need to create an admin child-theme” He said yeah something like that. A few days later It popped up on in an anouncement as being on the roadmap. I’m sure it was already, but it made me feel like I was heard.

  7. I am surprised that this isn’t something on the table already. After using other systems, the dashboard is feeling very outdated. Other platforms have been switching over to using reactJS or catching up to the fact that responsive design is needed in this area.

    Maybe the idea is when blocks become more of the standard or when the community pushes for change. IDK.

    WordPress can still fight for its position, till then props to these developers.

  8. That looks amazing! One thing that seems to be missing in the demo is the “Screen Options” pulldown (where you can check the boxes of what columns you would like to see) .. Anyone else notice this? Is this something you can toggle via settings perhaps?

  9. Looks nice, but the effort I would really see on the WP admin is to improve accessibility. Why bother redoing the backend but not addressing the existing contrast and other accessibility issues? Contrast feels like low-hanging fruit that could have easily been resolved with Admin 2020’s color modes but the same errors persist, which is disappointing.

    As an agency I don’t really see this useful unless we were whitelabeling WordPress and limiting client access. In our current model, clients know they’re using WordPress and many are brave enough to try their hand at making changes to the site. We also use WP101 training videos to help them lean how to use the site. As a result, we would never change the way the admin looks because it would no longer match what people see when they Google or watch a training video (which would only cause confusion).

    • But the idea that it shouldn’t be changed because old videos on the internet wouldn’t be valid anymore is silly. Look at all the videos that became irrelevant when WordPress added the block editor. You eventually need to take a plunge when it comes to progress and sure somethings will be left behind but at the end of the day if it creates a better product that’s better for everyone.

      Also, so long as WordPress remains a popular platform video creators will create new videos to fill the void.

      • True, lots of random tutorials have not been updated for Gutenberg. Luckily, with WP101 that is not the case. They rerecord videos with every update of WordPress and it saves us lots of time that would otherwise be spent teaching clients how to do basic things.

      • I should clarify that I’m not against up daating admin in core – because theoretically the tutorials on the web would be updated to reflect that. I just wouldn’t use a plugin like this that makes the admin dashboard significantly different from core.

        • I can agree with this I personally was never a fan of these admin styling plugins either. They often times have very limited compatibility with third-party plugins. Those plugins of course have no incentive to add support for another developer’s reskin of the admin panel.

          I am still waiting for the Admin Panel dark mode plugin to fix its Gutenberg issues but I have lost all hope at this point. Proper dark mode is just a pipe dream in WordPress Core for the admin panel it seems :/

  10. In my first comment above I stated that installing such a plugin would be an “all or none” decision for me since I wouldn’t want the admin areas of different WordPress installations to look different. Totally different.

    I have to admit that all of my backends (16 installations as of this writing) already DO look quite different from WordPress “out of the box”. It has become so normal for me that I wasn’t aware of it anymore!

    I’m talking about the plugin “W2O Admin Dropdown Menu” which is one of the first plugins that I install on every new WordPress website I’m responsible for. It has no user configurable options at all it does is transforming the vertical admin menu on the left hand side of the screen into a horizontal drop down menu on top of the screen.

    For me, this is absolutely fantastic. It saves time (most menus of most programmes I work with are designed this way), it saves screen space, it increases clarity and comprehensibility.

    Yes, my admin areas still look somewhat “vintage” and not really fancy. But that’s exactly what I want my backends to be! Fancyness would result in more white space and thus in more scrolling, more searching on more subscreens etc. I admit that his may be a matter of taste, and my taste may be “old school”… ;-)

  11. I’m guessing we’re going to start seeing some movement here, one of the first things I do is build a ‘welcome’ page that centralises all of the elements clients want to work on. If this is well coded, get it in core immediately, of not lets get some WordPress community love spread all over it and then get it into core 👍


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