Track user activity on WordPress, track changes made by users

When something goes wrong with your WordPress website or blog, you want to know the cause. Monitor activity on your WordPress site and see what changes have been made in an activity log.

An activity monitor plugin for WordPress detects changes made in the admin side of your website or blog and writes everything to a log. By viewing the log, you can see what has changed, who did it and when they did it. You can step back through the history and see what happened and when.

Why keep a WordPress activity log?

  • Record recent changes to the site structure like plugins, themes, menus, widgets and so on
  • Check what a virtual assistant is doing
  • See what changes your tech person is making to a site
  • Keep an eye on contributors, authors and editors

There are several reasons to log activity and when something goes wrong with your site, often the cause is whatever you did last, like update a theme, a plugin, template, post, page, widget, menu and so on. If you know what the last thing that was done, or the most recent things, you can set about reversing the changes to solve the problem that occurred.

Some people employ a virtual assistant (VA) to do various tasks on their website and you need to know that the person is actually doing the work they are supposed to be doing, and exactly what they are doing. If they are meant to update a post for example, then an activity monitor can show if and when they did this.

Some site owners are not technical and employ others to do the technical work. An activity monitor logs everything the tech person does and you can see the changes they have made.

You may have contributors or authors that write for your site and an activity monitor plugin will log their posts so you can keep abreast of what is being written, edited and published on your site.

As you can see, there are many reasons for logging activity on your website or blog and there are several plugins to choose from. Let’s take a look at them. To add one of these plugins to your site, click Plugins in the sidebar, click Add New and then type the name into the search box.

Simple History WordPress plugin

Simple History WordPress plugin showing the activity log

Simple History is a free plugin and it is fully functional with no pro or paid version. However, the author would be grateful for donations.

It logs many activities, like creating, updating, or deleting a post or page. See who added, updated or deleted an attachment. See who made changes to tags and categories. See who edited, approved or deleted a comment. Log changes to widgets in the sidebar. Log plugin installation and activation. See when users log in and out, and several more activities.

The most recent changes can be seen in the admin dashboard, but there is also an admin menu to view the full log. Items are kept for 60 days before being deleted. One of the best features is that it shows changes to posts, showing before and after, so you can see what was changed.

Simple History is a very easy-to-use activity monitor plugin that non-technical people can use. You don’t need to be a geek and there are few configuration options. It just works. Some plugins will email you with every change, but this does not. However, it has a secret RSS feed, so if you have a feed reader you can see what’s going on remotely without logging in to the site.

User Activity Log WordPress plugin

User Activity Log WordPress plugin showing the activity log

User Activity Log is available as a free or paid plugin. In free mode it is very simple and straightforward to use. There are few settings, just the length of time you want to keep the activity history for and whether to send a notification email whenever a change is detected.

The plugin is not lacking in features and there are many for those that want the Personal edition costing $69, like hook settings, password settings, role manager, and custom event settings.

In free mode it logs almost everything, such as creating, editing or deleting posts or pages. Changes to tags and categories, comment approval or deletion. Uploaded or deleted media files. User login and profile changes. Install, update or delete plugins, themes, widgets and menus. Changes to various settings. That must be close to everything that can happen on a WordPress site.

Selecting User Activity Log in the admin sidebar shows a list of users, dates, and the changes they made. It is simple and basic, but sufficient for most people. More information is available in the paid Personal plugin.

In free mode, User Activity Log is good enough for most people and is easy to use. The Personal edition is reasonably priced and has more features if you need them.

WP Activity Log WordPress plugin

Activity Log Viewer WordPress plugin showing the activity log

WP Activity Log offers most features for free, but if you need to access advanced features, a subscription is required and the cheapest is $89 a year.

This makes it the most expensive activity logger here, but it also has the most features, in fact, there are pages and pages of settings and configuration options that technical experts will appreciate. However, when the plugin is installed, it asks you to choose between Basic and Geek, so it is up to you what level of detail you see.

The plugin logs the changes to posts, pages, plugins tags, categories, themes, widgets, menus, user login, logout and profile changes, WordPress database changes, WooCommerce store and product changes and more.

There are too many features to list, so here are just a few of the more unusual ones that caught my eye.

A notice can be added to the WordPress login page informing users that their activities are logged. That is useful because it could deter people from doing things they shouldn’t and also in this privacy-focused time, it is useful, maybe essential, to tell people when they are being monitored.

The plugin can be restricted to just yourself and even other admin users cannot access it, such as to turn it off. The plugin can be hidden from other users, again so they cannot turn it off. This is useful if you have other admins, like your tech person, a developer and so on, and you don’t want them to disable the plugin.

All the columns in the activity log view can be enabled or disabled, you can choose how long logs are kept, WordPress background activities can be reported, users and roles can be excluded, so you could exclude yourself for example.

The activity log view is detailed and it shows the date, time, user, event, and a severity icon such as Low, Informational, Critical and so on. This makes it easy to see which events had the most impact on the site. The level of detail is very good.

WP Activity Log is a very comprehensive and detailed activity logger for WordPress. A novice might be confused by the numerous configuration settings and options, but you can just install it and forget it because the default settings are fine for most people.

Summing up

WP Activity Log is definitely the best for users with a bit of technical knowledge. It has a huge range of features, functions and configuration options and it logs more things than the other plugins. It is good for company and commercial websites that have many users that need to be monitored.

However, Simple History is so straightforward that non-technical people can use it and viewing the log reminds me of a conversation in a messenger app. It is very readable and easy to use, and it is recommended for bloggers with a personal website.

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