If you have ever dreamt of owning several related websites that run on WordPress, then the idea of having all of them under one installation may have crossed your mind. Worry no more because WordPress Multisite will answer all your questions.
WordPress multisite is a setup that allows you to run different sites under a single installation. In this article, I will introduce you to WordPress multisite, describe how it works, illustrate the cases that fit WordPress multisite, how to set it up, and how to manage themes and plugins on this setup:
What is WordPress Multisite?
WordPress multisite is a setup that allows users to run multiple websites on a single installation. All the sites in a multisite setup share core files. As such, the administrators can manage and update files from a central location. WordPress multisite is not a new feature, as it was introduced with WordPress 3.0.
This feature allows you to create a network of related websites. For instance, you can have the first domain as example.com. You can create a subdomain/directory like example.com/shop from the first domain. You can also have different domains on the multisite that you can control from your first installation.
When to Consider Using WordPress Multisite
Most people who own multiple websites install each site individually. However, there are some instances where a multisite setup can be a good choice. These are some of the instances to consider this setup:
When you want centralized management: A WordPress multisite allows you to manage all your websites from one dashboard. Such an approach ensures you don’t waste time shifting from one website to another as you post or update.
Different sites with similar functionality: In this scenario, a college has a website and wants to create sub-sites for various departments. The main website can have the main domain, while the rest of the departments are categorized as subdomains of the main website.
Resource efficiency: The cost of managing websites is an important consideration for every entrepreneur. Luckily, some web hosts give discounts when customers buy high-tier packages. You can buy a premium package, run all your sites under one installation, and save money.
Unified updates: A typical WordPress site will have a theme and different plugins for different functions. If your websites share themes and plugins, you can then set up a multisite that ensures all the sites are up-to-date with themes and plugins. Just update the core site, and the updates will reflect on the others.
Shared roles and users: You could have a team and several websites where these members perform similar duties. A multisite setup can make it easy for members to replicate their tasks across the network from a central point.
How to Setup WordPress Multisite
A WordPress multisite works like the regular WordPress software. You can have different users, upload content, customize themes, and use various plugins to do different things in your multisite setup. These are some of the important areas in a multisite setup:
#1. Hosting Requirements
Unfortunately, not all hosting packages will suit a multisite network. You must first ensure that the hosting package can accommodate a network of sites. The storage available, RAM, and bandwidth are some things you must consider before you opt for this route.
All the sites in your network will share the same resources under the same hosting. Getting a VPS can be a good option to get the best from your hosting provider.
#2. User Roles and permissions
A regular WordPress site has five users: Admin, Editor, Author, Contributor, and Subscriber. These users have different roles, but the administrator is the highest. The Admin decides what tasks that other users can perform. A multisite setup adds a Super Admin.
The Super Admin is like a company’s CEO with various branches. This Super Admin can access all the files of different subsites (branches). However, an Admin can only access a certain domain (branch) on the network. The Super Admin can make network-level installations and updates at a single click.
#3. Domain & Domain mapping
WordPress multisite can have two forms: subdomains or independent domains.
Subdomains: If I create a website named example.com, I can create various subdomains linked to the main domain. For instance, I can have a shop, blog, and forum all under the same domain. I can have them as shop.example.com, blog.example.com and forum.example.com.
Independent domains: You can have unique domains that will appear like any other website to visitors. However, the extra domains will be mapped to the multisite network. For instance, domains like mysite.com and example.com can run on the same network. Mapping unique domains to your network will vary from one provider to another.
#4. Themes and plugins
When running on a WordPress multisite setup, you can skip the pain of installing themes and plugins on individual sites. Websites in such a setting share files, and you can thus use one installation to control the entire network.
As a Super Admin, you can install themes and plugins on all the websites on the network. On the other hand, such users can opt to install plugins or themes on specific sites on the network.
WordPress Multisite Use Cases
You may consider WordPress multisite network in the following instances:
#1. Personal blogs
You could be a person who wears many hats. For instance, I write web development articles and also code.
I can showcase my different skills through a network of blogs through the same WordPress installation. Such a setup allows me to access all my sites from the dashboard. I can also install plugins or change the theme of my sites through a single click.
A typical organization can have different departments with different websites. However, you can combine all the departments through a multisite setup.
For example, you can have a school with an intranet for teachers, directors, parents, and students. Such a setup makes it easy to personalize data displayed to every user based on the category.
#3. Hosting client sites
Most clients want to follow along as you work on their projects. For instance, you could be a web developer who works for different clients. You can have a WordPress multisite network where you host clients’ work and allow them to follow along as you code.
Clients can then switch to their preferred hosts once they are certain everything works as expected.
How to Create a WordPress Multisite
You may have decided to set up one since you now understand instances where a multisite might be a good option. Let us dive into the process.
Be an administrator of a WordPress site: Being an Author, Editor, or Contributor to a WordPress site does not permit you to create a multisite. An administrator is the highest level role in such a setting, allowing you to create multisite.
Access to the site’s core files: The assumption is that you already have a WordPress site running and want to create a network. You can access the files through cPanel or an SFTP like FileZilla.
A good hosting package: As already stated, not all hosting packages can support multisite. Research the target packages before you sign up to ensure you get the right one. Assess your current and future needs and get a package that suits your needs.
Edit wp-config.php file
WordPress is, by default, designed to support a single website per installation. However, you can change this and allow multiple websites on the same installation. After accessing the files either through cPanel or an FTP, locate the wp-config.php file and open it.
Look at its contents, and you will find a line that says:
/* That's all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */.
You now add this line of code before this comment:
Refresh your browser after the previous step, and you now have a new item on your “Tools” in the menu section. You can follow this path: Administration >Tools > Network Setup (your setup could be different).
At this point, you can select either:
Subdomains: A good example is a shop within example.com (shop.example.com)
Subdirectories: It is a path-based network. For instance, you must use the example.com domain to get to its shop (example.com/shop)
Select what suits you best, click Install, and move to the next step.
Activate the network
The WordPress multisite screen will display instructions for you to follow to activate the network. The instructions may differ based on your configurations. However, ensure you have backed up your website before you activate your network. Check that everything is in place and activate the network.
After you have activated the network, you will see all your sites listed on the left-top corner of your dashboard. The number of sites you can have on a network will differ based on the hosting package purchased.
How to Manage Themes and Plugins in a WordPress Multisite
The themes and plugins in a WordPress multisite setting are stored once. As such, you can save on storage space and time needed to update them. All the themes and plugins are stored in your WordPress installation’s wp-content directory.
A theme or a plugin in a network is only stored once, irrespective of the number of times it is used. Only the network admin/ super admin can install a theme/ plugin to a website.
How to install a theme
Use the network admin screen to enable a theme. As a network admin, you can enable a theme for a single site or the entire network. However, it is worth noting that there is a difference between enabling a theme and activating it in a WordPress multisite.
If you want to activate a theme for an individual site, go to the sites screen and click ‘Edit’ for the individual site. Click ‘Themes’ and ‘Enable’ under your selected theme.
To enable a theme for the entire network, go to the Themes dashboard, find a theme, and then click “Network Enable,” and all changes will be reflected across the network.
How to install a plugin
Installing a plugin starts on the network admin screen. Go to ‘Plugins’, then ‘Add New,’ and select a plugin.
You can activate this plugin across the network. If not, the plugin will be available for individual site admins to activate on individual sites.
Best Practices for WordPress Multisite Network
Use backups: Backup your sites before activating your WordPress multisite to avoid losing all your work if something goes wrong.
Invest in a good hosting package: If you go the multisite way, your network will likely have loads of content. Ensure your hosting package can hold the load of a WordPress multisite.
Create a network for related sites: You may want to bring all your sites to a central location. However, ensure that your subdomains on your network relate to the main website.
Check for theme and plugin compatibility: Themes and plugins in the WordPress directory are created for different needs. Ensure that the plugins and themes you select support the WordPress multisite feature.
We now hope you understand what a WordPress multisite is, how it works, and how to set it up. Even though it looks like a shiny gem, it is not a setup every website owner should adopt.
For instance, a WordPress multisite might not be a good option if you build websites solely for flipping. However, if you are building a network of related sites, you can do more with a multisite and reduce your time on redundant tasks like installing new plugins.
WordPress is leading the market when it comes to a content management system that offers unmatchable flexibility. Millions of websites around the globe depend on this platform since it offers features to personalize it the way they prefer.
You have had a website built by a design agency. They used WordPress. There are a few things you might change, but overall the website works well. However, a new bug has started occurring, or perhaps WordPress is pressuring you for updates? Maybe an automatic update has broken some functionality. Your design agency is busy or wants to charge you large fees for new work.