If you ever need a hand in running multiple websites for your project, the WordPress multisite feature can help you with that.
The function will provide you with the tools for managing a network of websites. Additionally, you will also have the ability to customize the functionality of each site in your network.
So, in this article, we’re going to talk about the WordPress multisite feature, when to use it, and how to set one up.
What is a WordPress Multisite Network?
Multisite is a feature that allows you to run and manage multiple WordPress sites from a single installation. Those sites can be managed from a single admin dashboard.
Although it’s a part of WordPress core, the feature is kept out of sight. To reveal WordPress multisite, you need to make a few modifications.
Enabling it requires several extra steps because it’s not something an average WordPress user would use. Considering the complexity it presents to your setup, you need to actively take care of the security and performance of the websites in the network.
First of all, I would like to mention that compromised security might lead to a much larger impact. If your website gets hacked, all of the sites in your network would also be jeopardized.
Multisite also doesn’t allow the sites’ admins in your network (your clients) to use any plugin or themes. They don’t get the same full access to other WordPress’ features as the super admin. More on that soon.
However, if you’re not bothered by the extra effort, then WordPress multisite can certainly level up your website management experience, giving you the ability to:
- Run multiple blogs/sites on a single WP installation. You can do everything you could think of from just a single dashboard. It’s probably hard to keep track of login credentials if you manage over ten different websites. But with multisite, you only need one ID to handle the rest.
- Use directories or subdomains. You can use a unique subdomain and let other people join and use the URL, such as awesome1.domainnetwork.com. Or, you can use directories for each website with a URL like domainnetwork.com/awesome1. And another cool thing is, you can also set a different domain name for each site using the Multiple Domain Mapping plugin.
- Get super admin privileges. When you activate multisite, you’ll get a personal dashboard with some extra screens for managing the network. You’re also the only person who can install themes, plugins, create websites, and add users. In other words, you’re in control of every aspect of your network.
- Launch a site for different locales in different languages. If you want to develop a website tailored for a different locale, you can do so with multisite. With this feature, managing multiple locales is much easier.
How to Enable a WordPress Multisite Network?
Now that you understand the benefits of a WordPress multisite network, we can start building one:
Step 1. Enable Multisite In wp-config.php
Before activating the multisite feature, you have to enable the function first.
To do that, open the wp-config.php file — which resides in the WordPress installation folder — using your hosting file manager or an FTP client. After that, add the following constant:
/* Multisite */ define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );
You need to add that code right above this line:
/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */
Save & close the wp-config.php file.
Step 2. Install the WordPress Multisite Tools
After refreshing your WordPress dashboard, you should have the tools available in the panel. Go to Tools -> Network Setup. But before proceeding further, you need to deactivate all plugins first.
To install multisite, name the network, and assign the super admin role to the appropriate person (if it’s not you). You can do so by entering their email address. And when you’re done, click Install.
If your hosting provider or control panel software asks you to create a wildcard subdomain, you can follow this helpful guide to do that.
Important: Always back up your WordPress site before installing multisite feature. Right after you click Install, you will see a new screen that contains the following two code snippets. We’re going to use them for the next step:
Step 3. Paste The Multisite Code
Return to your file manager or FTP client and add the code snippet you just got to your wp-config.php and .htaccess files, respectively.
The first one goes to the wp-config.php file. Insert it right below the multisite line you previously wrote. Once you fill that out, save & close the file. Do the same with your .htaccess file by adding the second code between the <IfModule> tags. If you don’t have the file to begin with, create and upload a new one.
Once you write the new rule, save & close the file. Now, you need to re-login to your WordPress site to see the changes.
Step 4. Add a New Site
Once you log in again, you’ll notice the My Sites menu appears on your WordPress toolbar. This means that your network is running. Now, you can create new websites and users from this new super admin dashboard.
I also want to mention that you have the option to use either sub-category (path-based) or subdomain networks if your WordPress installation has not been running for longer than one month. Otherwise, it is suggested that you use the subdomain-based network due to issues with existing permalinks.
But, if you insist and understand the risk, WordPress also provides the solution for you. Creating a new network website is a straightforward process. Just click the Create a New Site and fill out the details. And once you’re ready, hit the Add Site button.
WordPress Multisite Themes and Plugins
While the installation process is practically the same as usual, there’s a slight difference in activating both themes and plugins. I also want to remind you that only the super admin can install themes and plugins.
You install a theme for the entire WordPress multisite network. So if you want everyone on the network to use the same design, it is incredibly convenient.
But remember, when you code the theme, you will also alter all sites using that theme. To avoid that, you can install the WP Add Custom CSS plugin to tweak each of their CSS without affecting the other sites.
After a theme has been activated in a dashboard, you can Network Disable it without affecting that site.
As for plugins, the process is slightly different from themes because you have several options: you can activate them on either a per-site basis or for all the websites.
For site-specific plugins, you can activate them from the member’s site plugin dashboard. For example, a contact form plugin may work best when it’s activated individually by the member site, so it will only store the data and settings in a database table instead of creating tables for the whole network.
There’s also the Network Activate plugin. When triggered, it will be active for all the sites in the network. And of course, some plugins may only be functioning if you use this option.
There’s something called must-use plugins – ones that by default activate for all sites in the network, for example, if you use the WP Staging plugin.
And Now You Have a WordPress Multisite Network
Now you can create a network, which gives you the ability to run and manage multiple sites from a single admin dashboard.
And as a super admin, you can create websites, grant roles to users, and streamline maintenance tasks. This feature is definitely a saving grace for anyone that needs to run or manage multiple sites.
To enable the WordPress multisite feature, you can do the following:
- Enable multisite in wp-config.php
- Install WordPress multisite tools
- Copy and paste the code in wp-config.php and .htaccess
- Add new sites and users
Do you have any experience with using this feature? Don’t be shy and share in the comments section below.