7 Plugins For Easier WordPress Multisite User Management

Getting your head around how user accounts work on WordPress multisite can be a little difficult not least because at times it seems to be counter-intuitive.

In this article, I’ll walk-through how a default installation of multisite handles users across a network and look at a number of plugins that will make managing users easier and more logical for you, your site owners and the users themselves.

Photo of a large crowd
Managing users in a Multisite install requires additional help

One User Table To Rule Them All

The most important concept to keep in mind when thinking about multisite’s handling of users is that all users are members of the network, not a particular site. In fact, in a plain install, the default behavior is for any site’s register / sign-up form to redirect to the primary site, enforcing this idea of joining the network.

When the user completes the registration process, they are “network subscribers” and have no actual role on any site, not even a default role. To be given a specific role in a specific site, they need to be added to that site. Then, and only then, do they appear in the user list for that site (as well as being in the network list).

Out-of-the-box, new and existing users can be added to a site, one at a time, via each site’s dashboard.

This behavior is the same for both sub-domain and sub-folder multisite set-ups and was something of a surprise to me (despite my testing).

Clearly then, both the network admin and the site admins need help to make user management more flexible and less time consuming. I’ve picked out seven plugins that will provide that help.

Saved By The Magnificent Seven

  • Unconfirmed

    Unconfirmed brings management of unactivated users to the network dashboard.

    The plugin shows a list of unactivated accounts and allows the account to be manually activated or the activation email to be resent.

    Why You Want It: Because sometimes you want to manually activate users (for testing, for example) and users can get email addresses wrong.

    Cost: Free

  • User Activation Keys

    Similar to Unconfirmed but with a focus on allowing network owners to manage activation keys and remove the annoying wait for a username or email to become available for registration.

    The plugin will show a list of incomplete activations and allow the manual approval or the deletion of a key.

    Why You Want It: Gets around the annoyance of having to wait for the activation key to expire before a username and email can be used again for registration.

    Cost: Free

  • Multisite User Management

    Multisite User Management automatically adds new users with specified roles to all the sites in your network.

    The plugin displays a list of all the sites on your network and allows you to set a default role for each site.

    Existing users will also get added and assigned the default role if they are not already a member of the site.

    Only issue for this plugin is that it could get cumbersome if you have a large number of sites in your network.

    Why You Want It: Automates the adding of the new users to your network sites.

    Cost: Free

    Interested in Multisite User Management?

  • Join My Multisite

    This is a great plugin that creates a hierarchy of options for adding users to a site:

    • Auto-load: will add any logged-in user to a site
    • Join My Site widget: displays a “join” button (for logged-in users) that adds the user to the site with a single click, or a “register” button for guests
    • Registration form: displays a site-specific registration form

    This plugin is about as close to must-have as it gets.

    Why You Want It: Adds the flexibility and functionality for adding / registering users to a site that you want. The auto-add alone is worth installing the plugin.

    Cost: Free

  • Add New Users

    The first of two plugins from WPMU DEV for adding users to an individual site in your multisite install.

    This plugin allows you to add new users in batches of 15 to a site (and therefore the network). For each user you can specify the username, email, password and role.

    If you leave the password blank, a random password will be generated.

    The plugin will automatically email each user with their credentials.

    Why You Want It: Save plenty of time by bulk adding new users to a site with a specified role.

    Cost: $19

  • Add Existing Users

    The sister plugin to Add New Users, this plugin handles adding of existing users to an individual site in your multisite install.

    Users are added in batches of 15 simply by specifying their email address and their role.

    Why You Want It: Another time saver for adding users to a site with a specified role.

    Cost: $19

  • User Switching

    Multisite compatible rather than multisite specific this is an invaluable plugin for troubleshooting.

    This seemingly simple plugin allows an admin to impersonate any user on a site or network by clicking on a link in the Edit User screen.

    A link to switch back to the admin account is inserted in the footer of the public facing site.

    Why You Want It: Sometimes the only way to troubleshoot a user’s issue, to actually use a site as them.

    Cost: Free

Final Thoughts

Every network admin will find Unconfirmed and User Activation Keys invaluable for managing users who get stuck in the registration process, or for the creation of test accounts. User switching is also worth installing just so you can truly walk in the shoes of a user who might be having issues.

For the remaining plugins, their relevance will depend on how the network is set-up and operates:

  • If users need to be automatically added to multiple sites after they join the network, then Multisite User Management is the way to go, especially as it will also process existing users.
  • If the preference is to let each site decide how membership works, then Join My Multisite is the plugin of choice. This plugin is an absolute gem, taking the hassle out of joining a site and making registration function in a much more logical manner.
  • If only add certain users need to be added to sites then Add New Users and Add Existing Users are the most appropriate tools.

The default treatment of users by multisite means that help is definitely required when it comes to managing users and their membership of the various sites on the network.

The good news is that there are some excellent plugins out there, predominantly free, that will make that management easier, less time consuming and ultimately far more friendly for the users themselves.

Do you have a favorite multisite user management plugin that I haven’t listed? If so, share it in the comments below.

Photo credit: James Cridland