Be careful when deleting users in WordPress

For the third time, we’ve had to restore a backup from the previous night because an intranet lost a big bunch of pages, images and documents.

The first time this happened, the problem wasn’t spotted until months later. A total restore from backup wasn’t practical. And so a painstaking operation of knitting back images and documents was the only solution.

In all cases, the cause of the missing content has been due to a user being deleted.

Let me set the scene. You’ve spent months working on your new intranet, probably with a small team of editors and publishers. You’ve created pages, uploaded images and documents and everything is looking good.

Months or years down the line, people move on. The original content publishers get new jobs and new people take over intranet publishing. As part of good intranet management, old user accounts should be deleted or archived.

It’s easy to delete a user in WordPress. You click delete on the user profile. You then need to make one decision and click another button to confirm. You can’t click the final button until you’ve made a choice between two options;

  1. Delete all content
  2. Attribute all content to [another user]

So why do people choose to delete all content? They obviously don’t realise that “all content” means all the pages, posts, images and documents that have been assigned to the user. I *think* they think it means all user profile content such as bio, avatar etc. Maybe comments or forums posts.

Do we need to make these options clearer? Instead of “all content” could we say “all pages, posts and media“?

In the meantime, be careful! Especially if you plan to delete a user account of someone who was responsible for creating lots of content before an intranet launch. You take the blue pill, the story ends.

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