What Is WordPress Multisite? – WPQuickies

In this lunchtime #WPQuickies, I take a quick look at WordPress Multisites AKA WPMU.

What Is WordPress Multisite? #WPQuickies webinar

In this webinar I cover the following topics.

What Is Multisite?

It’s a special installation of WordPress allowing you to create a network of sites all controlled from a single dashboard.

You can create a network of sites for yourself or allow others to create their own sites within the network.

Sites in the network share themes, plugins and by default users, however they have a separate media uploads folder.  This means that you can’t share uploaded media between network sites – those are private.

As a network admin, you can control which sites get access to network installed plugins and themes.

You can also restrict what other users can do within the network if you need greater control.

When To Use Multisite?

Multisite is useful if you need to create a collection of sites that will have similar functionality (themes and plugins).

For example, if your industry niche is Real Estates, you could create a multisite to host all your real estate websites in one place. 

Multisite works very well for industry/niche verticals.

Another example is the school industry.  I know many local authorities who manage their school websites using a multisite – they pretty much all need the same functionality right?

When Not To Use Multisite?

It’s pretty much the opposite of what I’ve just said.

Don’t use multisite if you know that each site is going to need a completely different set of functionality.

By that I mean, don’t create a multisite for: a blog, an ecommerce shop, a membership site and a business website.  Don’t do that – you’ll hate multisite and yourself if you do that!

Also, consider the frequency of having to move or relocate sites to elsewhere. 

Getting a single site out of a multisite installation is a pain in the rear so if you know that’s going to happen frequently, perhaps multisite is not for you.

Can Multisite Scale?

WordPress can scale out beautifully so multisite can as well.

The best example of multisite working at scale is wordpress.com.

It hosts millions of sites on the WordPress VIP network.

Subdomain vs Subdirectory

There are two ways to set up a multisite, on a subdomain or in a subdirectory.

It’s important to understand the differences as it’s a mare to change later on.

I’m going to cut to the chase here and tell you that subdirectories are the best choice.

Subdomains are: time-consuming, difficult to work with, can take longer for Google to index, require wildcard DNS entries and SSL Certificates.

In fact a multisite on a subdomain can install separate plugins  – so really where’s the benefit of using multisite if your sites all have different plugins.

Let’s look at  how a subdomain vs subdirectory affects site URLs.

Subdomain: site1.mywebsite.com/about-me

Subdirectory: mywebsite.com/site1/about-me

If you or your client is using an external domain name for each site, you can use the multisite built-in domain mapping feature and then you don’t really have to worry about subdomain vs subdirectory as the end-user and searchbots will never know the real file paths.

How To Setup Multisite

In wp-config.php, add the following to line:

/* Multisite */
define('WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true);

Then navigate to Tools > Network Setup

Plugins To Help You Manage Your Network Of Sites

User Registration

By default registered users can access all sites in the network.

Use the Network Subsite User Registration plugin to allow registrations per site within the network.

User Synchronisation

If you need to have users access multiple sites within the network with individual site registrations enabled, use the WP Multisite User Sync plugin

User Roles

Watch More #WPQuickies

You can watch more #WPQuickies from the playlist on our WordPress Sydney YouTube channel.

The playlist is also embedded below, click the hamburger menu in the top right of the video to see the others in the series.

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Wil is a dad, WordPress consultant, WordPress developer, business coach and mentor. He co-organizes the WordPress Sydney meetup group and has been on the organising committee for WordCamp Sydney since 2014. He speaks at many special events and contributes to the WordPress open source project. His likes are chillies, craft beer and electrogravitics.