Customizing the Django Admin

Django's automatically generated admin site is one of the biggest strengths of the framework. The centralized admin interface lets you easily view and manipulate your models' data. This can save you a lot of time while developing and managing content.

Even though the admin site is highly customizable, many developers aren't aware of its full capabilities. This results in developers creating views and functions for things that could be easily implemented with a bit of admin site tweaking.

In this article, we'll look at how to customize Django's admin site through practical examples. We'll cover the built-in customization options as well as customization via third-party packages such as DjangoQLdjango-import-export, and django-admin-interface.


By the end of this article, you'll be able to:

  1. Perform basic Django admin site configuration
  2. Explain how Django model attributes affect the admin site
  3. Use list_display to control which model fields are displayed
  4. Add custom fields to list_display and format existing ones
  5. Add links to related model objects in list_display
  6. Enable search and filters via search_fields and list_filter
  7. Handle model inlines for both N:1 and M:M relationships
  8. Use Django admin actions and create custom ones
  9. Override Django admin forms and templates
  10. Utilize DjangoQL for advanced searching functionality
  11. Import data in and export data to different formats using django-import-export
  12. Modify the appearance of your admin site via django-admin-interface

Project Setup

To demonstrate the different admin site customization options, I've prepared a simple web app. The web app serves as an event ticket sales system. It allows you to manage venues, concerts, concert categories, and tickets.

It has the following entity-relationship model:

Tickets ERD Model

I highly recommend you first follow along with this web app. After reading, you can then apply the gained knowledge to your Django projects.

First, grab the source code from the repository on GitHub:

$ git clone --branch base
$ cd django-admin-customization

Create a virtual environment and activate it:

$ python3.11 -m venv env && source env/bin/activate

Install the requirements and migrate the database:

(venv)$ pip install -r requirements.txt
(venv)$ python migrate

Create a superuser and populate the database:

(venv)$ python createsuperuser
(venv)$ python populate_db

Run the development server:

(venv)$ python runserver

Open your favorite web browser and navigate to http://localhost:8000/admin. Try using your superuser credentials to access the Django admin site. After that, ensure the database is populated with a few venues, concert categories, concerts, and tickets.

Before continuing, I suggest you check the models in tickets/ Pay attention to what fields a model has and how the models are connected.

Basic Admin Site Customization

The Django admin site provides some basic configuration options. These options allow you to change the site's title, header, site URL, and more. The site_header setting can be especially convenient if you have multiple environments and want to differentiate between them easily.

The settings are usually modified in your project's main file.

Rename the Django admin to "TicketPlus" and tag the current environment as dev:

# core/ = "TicketsPlus site admin (DEV)" = "TicketsPlus administration" = "Site administration"

All the settings can be viewed by checking Django's contrib/admin/ file.

Another thing you should do is change the default /admin URL. This'll make it more difficult for malicious actors to find your admin panel.

Change your core/ like so:

# core/

urlpatterns = [

Your admin site should now be accessible at http://localhost:8000/secretadmin.

Django Model and Admin

Some Django model attributes directly affect the Django admin site. Most importantly:

  1. __str__() is used to define object's display name
  2. Meta class is used to set various metadata options (e.g., ordering and verbose_name)

Here's an example of how these attributes are used in practice:

# tickets/

class ConcertCategory(models.Model):
    name = models.CharField(max_length=64)
    description = models.TextField(max_length=256, blank=True, null=True)

    class Meta:
        verbose_name = "concert category"
        verbose_name_plural = "concert categories"
        ordering = ["-name"]

    def __str__(self):
        return f"{}"
  1. We provided the plural form since the plural of "concert category" isn't "concert categorys".
  2. By providing the ordering attribute the categories are now ordered by name.

For all the Meta class options, check out Model Meta options.

Customize Admin Site with ModelAdmin Class

In this section, we'll take a look at how to use the ModelAdmin class to customize the admin site.

Control List Display

The list_display attribute allows you to control which model fields are displayed on the model list page. Another great thing about it is that it can display related model fields using the __ operator.

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