Who Should Use It?
Multisite has quite a lot of benefits to it and can be extremely useful in certain cases while leading to administrative complication in others. So which cases is Multisite best for?
WordPress Multisite is ideal for building a network of sites with analogous functionality; either via plugins, server settings or custom applications. It is also ideal for networks that use a limited number of themes for the whole network vs. enabling members of the network to use custom themes.
If your network has a hugely diverse set of WordPress sites using various plugins, themes and other customizations, WordPress Multisite isn’t the solution you’re looking for.
Popular Sites Using WordPress Multisite
WordPress.com from Automattic is the ultimate example of a Multisite Network. It hosts millions of sites and is free to use (premium themes and plugins are an additional cost).
Universities are another good example of organizations that use Multisite Networks. They typically set up multiple sites on the network for various departments within the institution and for internal blogs.
The New York Times Blogs is another good example. It’s a network of multiple blogs (about 60) that use a single WordPress Multisite installation.
How to Install WordPress Multisite
You only need two things to set up a Multisite Network:
- You need be an admin and have access to your server’s files; and
- Have permissions to make changes to the files and to create a directory
No knowledge of code is required.
If you’re looking to activate it on a new installation, you can just delete your data and re-install WordPress.
Multisite can also be installed on your current WordPress installation. However, it does not use the default permalink structure as WordPress needs to be able to assign correct names to sub-directories and sub-domains.
Speaking of which, you need to decide whether you want to create files as sub-domains or sub-directories. This decision cannot be reversed in the future so choose carefully.
- The sub-domain structure is as follows: site1.mydomain.com, site2.mydomain.com, site3.mydomain.com, etc.
- The sub-folder structure is as follows: mydomain.com/site1, mydomain.com/site2, mydomain.com/site3 etc.
Keep in mind that sub-directories cannot be created on an established site as it could interfere with active or already created URLs.
You can also use domains like mydomain1.com, mydomain2.com, mydomain3.com, etc., but you need to utilize plugins and have some technical knowledge in order to do so.
Let’s walk step-by-step through the installation.
- Install WordPress the usual way: download the ZIP file and install it on your server
- Locate the wp-config file (in the folder you installed WordPress)
- Find the phrase “/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */” towards the bottom of the file
- Add a new line right above the phrase. Copy and paste the following code on the new line:
/* Multisite */
define( ‘WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE’, true );
- Save your wp-config.php file and reload the website
- Head to the WordPress admin dashboard and go to Tools > Network Setup. You will be asked to choose between sub-domains or sub-directories. (Note: If you choose to use sub-domains, you need to confirm that your web hosting service provider allows sub-domains. They will need to create wild card DNS for your network)
- Update the title of your Multisite Network and the email address of the Network admin. You can leave everything as is if no changes need to be made
- Click the Install button. WordPress will generate a code to copy into your wp-config.php and .htaccess files
- You will be automatically directed to the Network Install screen. Paste the code as instructed
- Save the files
- Multisite will be successfully installed. You will need to log in again to access your Network Admin Dashboard
Et voila! Your Multisite installation should now function like any standard WordPress site. You can start adding new sites, plugins, themes and other functionality onto the Network.
You can follow the same steps above to convert your existing site into a Multisite Network. The only difference will be that you’ll be forced to use sub-domains if your site has been active for more than one month.