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How to Show the Author Description on WordPress Watch Overview

How to Show the Author Description on WordPress

When you show an author description or bio at the end of your blog posts, you:

  • Build credibility, authority and influence: by providing some background info—such as who you are and what you do—you raise the status of your content, helping with your organic content marketing by increasing shares and opt-ins.
  • Grow your list: the author description is often used to also offer a free resource to visitors in exchange for their email address.
  • Boost social audiences: some use the space to encourage visitors to connect with them on social media, in addition to other social links provided on the blog.

You may also want to show the author description for other contributors to your blog.

Of course, entering an author description each and every time you create a post is inefficient, cumbersome, and difficult when changes to that description are required.

Instead you need a single place to enter and/or edit it for each author, immediately updating it for all of that author’s posts.

How do you set it up to work that way on WordPress?

There are two ways.

First, some WordPress themes have it built in. I’ll start by showing you how to find out whether your theme is one of them.

Second, you can use a suitable WordPress plugin. In the second section of this post, I review three of the most popular plugins available—and show you where to go to find alternatives.

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How to Check If Your Theme Supports Showing Author Descriptions

Start by navigating to Appearance > Themes on the WordPress menu.

Appearance > Themes

Click on the Customise button for your active theme.

Click the Customize button

Click on Theme Options.

Click Theme Options

Look for something that relates to an author bio or author description.

For example, for a theme I installed on a test site to write this post, there was a link for Author Biography options.

Author Biography options

For your own theme, it’s probably going to say something different, or maybe on a submenu somewhere.

This is down to the theme, rather than WordPress, so each one is likely to be a little different.

You can also of course consult the theme’s documentation. Try googling wordpress theme [theme name] documentation to find it.

For the Inclusive theme, used in this example, that would look like this:

Google for some documentation for the theme

If you can’t see it in the customization options or referenced in the documentation, then it’s unlikely your theme supports it. You’ll need to look at WordPress plugins instead, which are covered in the section below.

Let’s see an example of how our example theme, Inclusive, caters for showing an author description.

After clicking through on Author Biography options, there are some checkboxes available, enabling you to show the author biography on both posts and pages.

Enable author biography on posts

Again, the theme for your own blog will show something different.

In this case, after ticking the checkbox, the preview refreshed, and showed the author bio at the end of each post, as shown here:

Author bio preview

The immediate issue was that it was showing ‘admin’ as my author name.

This wasn’t an issue with the theme itself, but I needed to adjust my nickname within my WordPress profile, and then set the nickname to be displayed rather than the user name.

Change author name wordpress

But what if you didn't want the author name appearing separately above the description, and instead wanted to solely show the author name in the bio?

And what if you wanted the text to appear to the right of the portrait image, rather than below?

For this example theme, there wasn’t an easy way to do this, but you could achieve it via some custom CSS.

It then looked like this:

Author description after custom CSS

The remaining issue was the Visit the author’s website link shown beneath. I wanted a link to instead be incorporated into the author description.

Unchecking the Display the author’s website link option in the theme (shown on one of the images above) did the trick, along with editing the author description from my user profile.

The final version shown at the end of published posts looked like this:

Final author description version for the theme

So I found it was certainly possible, at least with the theme used here, to show the author description through the theme itself. There was no need for a separate plugin.

However, it was a little more complicated than it might otherwise have been by using a plugin. If you go this route too you may need a developer’s help to get it to look the way you need.

So let’s now investigate the alternative, and probably more widely used option—using a WordPress plugin to show the author description at the end of posts...

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Plugins to Show the Author Description on WordPress

The following three plugins were the top three plugins listed on WordPress for ‘author bio’ that:

  • Had at least 1,000 active installations.
  • Were displayed as tested with either the latest WordPress version or the one before, showing they continued to be maintained (at the time of writing, the most recent version had only been released a week previously, and just a couple weeks after the version before that).
  • Could be used with any theme.
  • Were rated at least four and a half stars.

Wordpress plugin search—author bio

1. Simple Author Box

Simple Author Box is designed to “Add a responsive author box with social icons to any post”, with over 50,000 active installations at the time of writing, and rated four and a half stars.

Simple Author Box Plugin

After installing and activating the plugin…

Simple Author Box—installation

… I clicked through on Settings from the Plugins page.

Simple Author Box settings

The settings page looks like this:

Simple Author Box settings page

Before adjusting any settings, I took a look at a test post—the author description was already showing at the bottom as a result of activating the plugin:

Simple Author Box—initial author description

If you want a different profile image to the one supplied to WordPress through Gravatar for your email address, you can do this via your user profile:

Simple Author Box—custom profile image

This is also where you can add social media links to the author description box:

Simple Author Box—add social profile

At least a couple of dozen social platforms are shown, though this still shows some outdated options like StumbleUpon and Google+—perhaps these will be removed in a future update.

Note that, when entering a new social link, you should enter the full link for the platform, not just your handle.

Simple Author Box—add LinkedIn

Back to the test post, the social icons are shown in a separate row at the bottom of the author description:

Simple Author Box with social profiles

Options in the plugin allow you to:

  • Manually insert the author description, using a shortcode or PHP function. Recommended: leave this OFF.
  • Hide the author box if the author description on the user’s profile is empty. Recommended: turn this ON.
  • Show the author’s email address. Recommended: leave this OFF.
  • Open the links from the social profile icons in a new tab. Recommended: turn this ON.
  • Hide the social icons shown beneath the author description. Recommended: personally, I would turn this ON, and thereby potentially increase conversions for a CTA in the author bio—ultimately though, it’s something you’d need to test, and depends on your own goals.
  • Hide the author box on archives. Recommended: leave this OFF.

So, depending on your needs, the final options might look like this:

Simple Author Box—final settings

On the appearance tab, you can adjust:

  • The top and bottom margins of the author box—this is the distance between the top and bottom borders of the author box, and the surrounding content on the page.
  • The padding inside the author box, with separate controls for top, bottom, right and left—so this is the distance between the borders of the author box and the content it contains.
  • The width of the border.
  • The shape of the profile image or avatar—the default is Square, with the other option Circle. With the Circle option, you can add a rotate effect on hover, though I’m not sure why you would want this!
  • Whether to show the author’s website as listed in their profile—this shows a link just beneath the author description, and gives you some other options to make it “nofollow”, open in a new tab, and show the link on the left or right.
  • The social icons type from Symbols to Colored—if set to Colored, you can in addition make them circular or squared, add a rotate effect on hover, add a shadow effect, and show a border around the icons. With those turned on, the icons might look something like this:

Simple Author Box social icon options

The Colors tab provides, as you would expect, various color options for the display of the author description:

Simple Author Box—colors

Via the Typography tab, you can fine-tune the fonts used—both family and size—as well as adjust the size of the social icons.

On the Misc tab, there’s a Load generated inline style to footer option, useful if you have another plugin to optimize the CSS of your website and help with site speed scores. This is on by default, so just leave as-is unless you have a specific reason to change it.

The only aspect missing from the plugin is the ability to show the author description on WordPress pages as well as posts, which for many users would be beneficial.

Simple Author Box does not work on pages

Ultimately however, presuming you don’t need author descriptions on pages, the Simple Author Box plugin seems a very good choice.

It proved to be simple and easy to use, enabling you to show the author description at the bottom of posts within just a few seconds.

The customisation options makes it very easy to adjust the appearance to fit with your website and other requirements.

There’s also an option to upgrade—currently $39 for a single website—giving you some additional options such as the ability to:

  • Change the position of the box to before the content.
  • Link the author’s name to their website.
  • Show a top authors widget.

My own rating for this plugin is four and half stars:

Simple Author Box - four and a half stars

2. Starbox

Starbox, “the Author Box for Humans”, gives you an “Author Box that’s gorgeous to look at and makes your readers click all the way through to see more about the Authors”.

At the time of writing, it had over 20,000 active installations, and was rated four and a half stars.

Starbox plugin for showing the author description

After installing and activating the Starbox plugin, again the author description immediately showed at the bottom of posts.

Starbox author description

As shown above, there was an additional ‘Latest Posts’ tab, which after experimenting with the settings I found you can turn off by selecting a different theme for the author box—more on that soon.

I also noted that there was no indication that the link in the author description was clickable, though this was related to style settings for the blog’s theme rather than the plugin, and would simply need tweaking.

Starbox—clickable link

The initial plugin options let you toggle the following options:

  • Show the author description in posts and/or pages.
  • Show the author avatar and name under the title of each post.
  • Show author information within Open Graph tags in the site’s source code—in other words, this adds the article:author tag, and a link to the author’s Facebook page. For this to work, add the Facebook link to the author’s profile.

Starbox settings

The third option above (Show the Starbox with Top Star theme…)—designed to show the author avatar and name under each post title—didn’t seem to do anything when I tested it.

It was possibly something to do with the theme, or maybe I’d missed something—I couldn’t see anything similar listed on their support page.

Either way, it seemed unclear.

The plugin also provides various theme settings, along with a useful preview:

Starbox theme settings

A number of different theme choices are available, and are worth exploring further.

Starbox theme choices starbox-theme-choices.jpg

For example, with the Fancy theme, the author description looked like this:

Starbox Fancy theme

And Minimal turned off the Latest Posts tab:

Starbox Minimal theme

A couple other options let you change the size of the name and description, but any other visual adjustments would need to be via CSS for which you may need a developer to assist.

Further settings relating to the plugin are available on the author’s profile page.

You can for example:

  • Turn the author description on or off.
  • Change the profile image.
  • Adjust the theme for an individual author, along with the position of the author description (Up or Down).
  • Enter in the job title, company and company URL for the author.
  • Add links for Twitter and Facebook, with further social links available by upgrading.

Starbox author settings

Overall, while the plugin works fine, I found it less comprehensive than Simple Author Box, a little clunkier to use, and the choices less intuitive.

For any visual adjustments beyond the theme settings, you would need knowledge of CSS or the help of a developer.

However, unlike Simple Author Box, it does display the author description on WordPress pages.

My own rating for this plugin is four stars:

Starbox—four stars

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3. About Author

The About Author plugin claims to “display author’s information in style”, with over 1,000 active installations at the time of writing, and rated four and a half stars.

About Author plugin for Wordpress

After installing and activating the plugin, I checked a test post, and there was no author description shown.

On clicking through to the settings from the plugins page after activating it, it’s not shown by default. Instead you have to select whether to show it on pages and/or posts.

About Author—select to show on pages or posts

Despite turning both options on, I still couldn’t see an author description on my test post.

On checking other settings, it invited me to select a template style by choosing a shortcode—but none were shown in the dropdown:

About Author—shortcode dropdown

This was getting a little frustrating, but then I noticed a menu for the plugin showing in the sidebar.

About Author - menu

I guessed I maybe had to add a shortcode, and then return to the Author Settings page to set it.

Before doing this though, I checked back with their plugin page to see if I’d missed some instructions.

According to the description, you need to add a shortcode to a post to get the author description to show.

About Author shortcode instruction

This wasn’t really what I was looking for—rather than have to remember to add a shortcode at the end of each and every post, it was far easier just to have an author box show up automatically as with the first two plugins above—but gave it a go.

About Author - shortcode

Still nothing showed.

So I added a shortcode via the menu link, stuck with all the defaults, saved it, and copied the shortcode provided.

About Author—saved shortcode

On adding this additional shortcode to the post, and selecting the shortcode in the Author Settings, I finally saw something—only now both shortcodes were active.

About Author - shortcodes displayed

After some further experimentation, to be honest, it just become increasingly frustrating to work with.

If I’d been using it for real, rather than trying to do a review, I would have abandoned it long before and moved to another that was easier to work with such as the two above.

As this didn’t do what I was looking for and was poorly designed, I can only give it one star:

About Author - rating one star

Additional Plugins

If the first two plugins above don’t meet what you’re looking for in terms of showing the author description on WordPress, there are others to choose from.

For example, you could try one with a good user base and lots of positive reviews, but has yet to be tested with the latest WordPress version.

To Conclude

As is usually the case with WordPress plugins, some are a lot better than others, and that’s certainly been the case here.

To show the author description on WordPress, if you can’t otherwise show it using your theme (as illustrated towards the start of this post), I'd recommend to:

  • Use the Simple Author Box plugin if you’re happy to just show the author description on posts, and don’t need it for pages.
  • Otherwise, to show it on both posts and pages, use the Starbox plugin.

Either way, adding an author bio helps your organic marketing while also building your relationship with readers.

Finally, take two secs to grab the free cheatsheet on showing the author description on WordPress so you have it to refer back to:

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Steve Shaw is the founder of EverywhereMarketer, and has ran online businesses for over 20 years, serving over 13,000 customers in 137 countries. EverywhereMarketer helps you grow online visibility, attract more customers and grow your business across multiple channels.

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