A WordPress Multisite is a setting that allows you to create a network of sites which all share the same WordPress installation. To understand the concept, this is more or less like running your own blogging platform where you or other users can create blogs that share – but not necessarily use – available themes, plugins, and network settings.
WordPress Multisite is an option which you can enable during initial installation, via manually editing your wp-config.php and .htaccess files or via using BitNami Mutlisite stack.
Should I Enable the Multisite feature?
Whether you enable this feature or not, should depend on how you plan to use your website. Back in time some bloggers used Multisite to organize the topics in their blog on separate blog pages or to design a part of their website a bit differently.
Today, however, most professional WordPress themes allow for advanced features as multiple blog pages, custom content on pages (as dividing posts by categories or tags), microsite (pages designed differently and using other menu structure, header, etc. than the rest of the website), etc. It’s therefore no longer necessary to go through all the troubles related to setup of WordPress Multisite. Administration of a site network is indeed more complicated and for this reason it’s always a good idea to consider what other options you have – as replacing it with a structure of subdomains for example.
What a WordPress Multisite is really good for, is optimization of resources – you need only one installation of a theme or plugin to enable their use all throughout the network. It gives you also the option to enable users of your site to administrate their own spaces (blogs) without losing control of what is being posted, how the space is being used, etc.This is possible due to your role as a Super Admin and the limited rights of Administrators in a network setting.
The fact that control is retained by the Super Admin makes site networks especially well suited for big organizations that want to enable employees to post either internally or externally, without risking that such posts will go over the line.
WordPress Multisite vs. Subdomains
Many might argue that a WordPress Multisite more or less provides you with the same opportunities as creating multiple subdomains around a main domain. And this is more or less true.
To be able to decide whether you should go for a Multisite or a subdomain structure, be sure that you understand the differences:
- A subdomain is connected to the main domain just as strong as a blog to the main site in a Multisite structure.
- Sites, part of a Multisite, share a WordPress installation, whereas separate installations are necessary for each subdomain hosted site.
- Subdomain hosted sites can’t share installed themes and plugins. In WordPress Multisite the SuperAdmin installs themes and plugins for all sites which can be shared by them.
- The permalinks of the main site in WordPress Multisite structure get modified by the system to avoid duplicated URLs throughout the network and it’s quite difficult to change your permalink settings. In addition, there’s a risk that static pages on the main site become inaccessible if a site with the same slug is created in the network. With subdomains you don’t have these problems.
- The Administrator of a WordPress blog hosted on a subdomain has full control over the installation, whereas only the Super Admin has such control in a network setting. The rights of Administrators in a Multisite setting are limited to managing their own site with the resources enabled by the SuperAdmin. Such Administrators cant’ edit users either (as users are managed on a network level, not site level).
- In a network you can define plugins and themes as default or must-use and you can enable individual sites to use certain plugins or themes, while you keep others from using them. In a subdomain structure you have no control over what is being used. You can, of course manage installations by editing them directly on the server but it’s hardly the same level of control.
- You can create subdomains – or a certain number of them – only if your hosting account allows for it. In a WordPress Multisite setting you can choose between a subdomain and subdirectory structure to beat the system.
So, generally, it all comes down to making decisions about how you’d like to use the available resources in terms of hosting, themes, and plugins; how much control you’d like to have over the network; how much time you’d like to spend on WordPress administration; and whether you’re ready to face some coding and advanced setup in order to make WordPress Multisite work as you want it to.
If you’re still not sure whether you need a network functionality or don’t fully understand how it functions, it’s advisable to find more information about working with WordPress Multisite first and make an informed decision instead of going for what seems to give you more options. The fact is that on main-site level things get just more complicated instead of more flexible.