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How to Quickly Switch Between User Roles on WordPress

Last Updated on January 29th, 2021

Published on September 19th, 2017

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If you’re like most WordPress webmasters, you only experience your WordPress site as an Administrator. If you’re not familiar with what that means, it basically means that you have all of the power. That is, you can make every single possible change on your WordPress site.

Most of the time, that’s fine. But if you’re testing or developing a site, it can be helpful to switch between user roles on WordPress. This allows you to test how your site looks to different types of user accounts, as well as visitors who don’t even have an account.

In this post, I’ll show you how to use a simple, and free, plugin to quickly switch between user roles on WordPress. By the end, you’ll be zipping around your site without wasting a second!

How to Switch Between Users Roles on WordPress the Easy Way

Ok, there’s nothing stopping you from manually creating multiple WordPress accounts and actually logging in and out of each account to test it. Additionally, there are some overall development tools, like the Ghost Browser, that are built to help you test multiple different roles at one time, among other things.

With that being said, it’s far easier to use the plugin I’m about to show you because it lets you switch between user roles on WordPress without having to leave your dashboard.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

  • You install and activate the plugin
  • Then, you get a new role switcher drop-down that lets you switch to any user account on your site

That’s it! Yes, if you don’t already have multiple user accounts on your site, you’ll need to perform a one-time setup to create those accounts. But if you’re running a site that already has tons of users with different roles (like a membership site), then you can jump to those existing accounts.

Isn’t That a Privacy Violation to Switch to Someone Else’s WordPress Account?

I think it would be…if the plugin didn’t put some hardcoded safeguards in place to prevent abuse.

Here’s what the plugin does to keep everything above board:

  • You can’t reveal passwords for user accounts you switch to
  • Only admin accounts (or custom user roles with the ability to edit users) can switch between user accounts

So, basically, the only people who can switch between user accounts are people who already have permission to edit user accounts (which means you’re really just getting more convenience, not more power).

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Does This Let You Switch Between User Accounts on WordPress Multisite?

You betcha! I actually featured this plugin in my list of helpful WordPress Multisite plugins because User Switching makes it way easier to administrate WordPress Multisite networks.

On WordPress Multisite networks, only Super Admins have the ability to switch between user accounts. Regular single site admins won’t be able to.

Beyond WordPress Multisite, User Switching is also compatible with:

Ok, ready to switch between user roles on WordPress? Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Install the Free User Switching Plugin

User Switching is 100% free and available at WordPress.org, so you can install it directly from your WordPress dashboard by going to Plugins → Add New and searching for User Switching:

user switching plugin

Once you install and activate the plugin, there’s nothing more that you need to do configuration wise.

Step 2: Go To Your Users Menu and Switch Users

Once you activate the plugin, head to the Users menu in your dashboard.

Now, when you hover over any user in the list, you’ll get a new Switch To option:

how to switch between user roles on WordPress

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When you click that button, you’ll be instantly switched to that user role. You can browse both the front-end and backend of your site like normal to see how that specific user role perceives your site.

You can also see how your site looks to an anonymous guest by simulating logging out of your account (without actually logging out, of course).

To do this, hover over the Howdy, “name” option in the top right of your WordPress dashboard and click Switch Off:

Step 3: Return to Your Original Account

Once you’re finished what you need to do, the plugin makes it easy to switch back to your original account.

If you switched to a different role (rather than simulating logging out), you’ll always see a message when you’re in the backend of your site. To switch back to your actual account, all you need to do is click Switch back to…

If you’re on the front-end of your site, you can also use the admin bar to switch back to your original account without leaving the front-end:

If you used the Switch Off feature to simulate logging out of your account, you obviously won’t have access to the dashboard or admin bar because you’re logged out.

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But you can still quickly regain access to your account by trying to log in to your dashboard. When you do that, you’ll see a new addition to the login page that lets you get back to your account without needing to enter your password again:

And that’s pretty much all there is to it!

Taking Things Further: Admin Bar User Switching

If you want to make things even more convenient, you can install the free Admin Bar User Switching plugin. This plugin is an extension to the User Switching plugin featured above, not a standalone plugin.

That is, you’ll still need to install the regular User Switching plugin to use this one.

Assuming you have both plugins installed, Admin Bar User Switching simply adds a new drop-down to your WordPress admin bar that lets you switch between user roles from anywhere on your site:

Once you switch to a user, you can similarly switch back directly from your admin bar (though you can still do this part in the regular User Switching plugin, you just have to use the drop-down menu):

Now It’s Easy to Switch Between Accounts on WordPress

Thanks to User Switching and, potentially, Admin Bar User Switching, you can easily switch between different users and user roles on your WordPress site.

Whether you’re using it to develop something new or just keep an eye on how your active site looks, it’s a good thing to do if your WordPress site relies on different user roles to display different content.

By testing how different users experience your site, you can ensure that everyone, not just admin users, has a great experience.

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Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer and long-time Internet marketer. He specializes in digital marketing, WordPress and B2B writing. He lives a life of danger, riding a scooter through the chaos of Hanoi. You can also follow his travel blog.