So, I have a site that I'm currently designing, and I'm struggling to find a good way for a user to Administer multiple accounts.

Basically, the situation looks like this:

  • User "John Doe" has a need to administer multiple different campus accounts (That's why it has to be multiple, these are real, physical locations, with any number of people who have access to various admin tools to handle their day-to-day tasks)
  • John Doe will log into the system with a single username/password combo (I don't want to force them to remember multiple sets of credentials)
  • John Doe will have various tool sets for each campus, but there will likely be a great deal of overlap. For example, the tool used to add a new user would likely be available across the board.

What is a good way for the UI to allow John to select the account he wants to add a user to when he gets to the add user tool? Should John's entire session be locked to one account at a time?

In the past, I've varied between a universal account selection page that gets shown for any tool that requires the context, and just a simple drop down menu on the tool itself. I'm not particularly enthused about either however, as my users have had confusion with them.

Are there any good ideas out there that I'm missing?

2 Answers 2


I would base the decision on the actions John will be taking. Is he/she adding users to multiple campuses in one session?

If he/she will be performing batch actions on, or viewing/using data from multiple campuses, then you might just want a campus selector on each tool/data. (Or, make it tags/filters if data is shared for multiple campuses...)

If John will be focused on one campus at a time, then I would think a high-level context switch would be preferable (think how you switch between multiple "Properties" in Google Analytics, or how you switch between Stack Exchange communities at the top-left of this page).

Also, regarding this:

I'm not particularly enthused about either however, as my users have had confusion with them.

I would try to dig deeper and find out what led to the confusion. The answer could either tell you a better way to do the selection, or tell you to use a different solution!

  • I ended up going with the high level context switch. A user can still move between accounts in a single session, but it actually requires a page reload to get all of the new information. Thanks!
    – anick
    Feb 9, 2015 at 15:14

I would not mix accounts because of confusion leading to unintended consequences.

What if Google let you log in as multiple gmail accounts at the same time? I don't know about you but I would feel like I was walking on egg shells the entire time worried about doing something intended for one account but accidentally spilling over to the other accounts.

Facebook lets a user create multiple page accounts but always lets you know which one you are posting as using a drop down in the upper right corner showing the currently selected account. I would use this design pattern in your situation.

  • Erm, Google DOES allow you to log in to multiple accounts at the same time. Possibly not the best analogy... Although they also have a good UI for switching between them
    – Jon Story
    Jan 24, 2015 at 14:46

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