When you manage a website, either for yourself or for a client, you are in a privileged position. You are effectively a god with permission to do everything. This can give you a very skewed view of your website. It can sometimes hide an issue which is obvious to a visitor or member and you may be the last to know. The answer is testing and for this you may need an alter ego.
First of all, test your website without logging in. That way, you will see what “Joe Public” sees. You can then can pick up issues first, before clients and potential customers. For the best results, you need to use a clean browser unsullied by cached files and cookies. If you are doing it properly, you should try as many browsers and devices as you can. This is just good testing practice.
Introducing the alter ego
Testing the site as a casual visitor will not be enough if your site has users. This will be the case if you allow members to log in or customers to register. This is where your alter ego comes in: a separate account you can use to log in and test the website. This is a far better option than messing around with the permissions on your main user as you will not accidently lock yourself out.
There are a few points to bear in mind:
- Your alter ego needs to be easily identifiable, both by yourself and by any other administrators on the site. Select the user name with care, particularly if you are managing the site for a client. They may not share your interests or sense of humour!
- Give the user a proper password: after all, they have privileges on the site and these could be abused in the wrong hands.
- Be prepared to expire or disable your user or you may find yourself being chased for subscriptions or other payments!
- On platforms such as WordPress, you will need a distinct email address for your alter ego. Make this a real one which reaches you so you can check email output as well as how the website works.
Once you have an alter ego, you can then check how the site works for a member/ customer. Again, you want to do this in different browsers and on different devices.
An alter ego is useful, but should not replace using a separate copy of the website just for testing. Depending on the functionality of the site, you may have to unpick orders or posts. Their use may also affect stock control or statistics. Bearing this in mind, an alter ego can play a useful part in an administrator’s toolbox.