Imagine for a moment that your single WordPress installation is a robot. It’s pretty simple. You tell your robot to make you a cup of coffee, and it goes and makes you a cup of coffee. So far so good.
But just imagine you had to manage an army of robots, all under the same command. Do you want them all to make you coffee? Or do you want one of them to do your ironing, another one to make your coffee, and another to massage your feet?
As you can see, managing multiples of anything requires a more complex process than managing a single thing. The same thing goes for the amazing Multisite feature you can find under the hood of WordPress.
Multisite makes WordPress more extendable and flexible for distributed sites. Switching into Multisite mode enables you create a network of sites under one single WordPress installation, giving you the ability to administer all of them in one admin panel and maintain one codebase.
The major advantage of running WordPress in Multisite mode is it makes administration easy when you are running multiple sites that either:
- serve a similar function; or
- are under the same purview.
Example scenarios include branch offices, different locations for franchise businesses, and blogs for different initiatives under the same organization.
As cool as WordPress Multisite is, you might need to make some changes to your workflow if you are already familiar with working on a regular WordPress install. Below we’ve listed 8 ways that Multisite will impact your workflow:
1. New Dashboard Interface
Multisite has a different dashboard interface called the Network Admin. This interface enables Super Admins (more on this below) on the network to centrally administer common settings, sites, users, plugins and themes for the entire network of sites running under that WordPress Multisite installation.
2. New User Role
Multisite introduces a new user role called the “Super Admin.” A Super Admin has the ability to manage all the sites under a Multisite installation, make changes to them and update their plugins and/or themes. Super Admins also have the ability manage users across all the sites within the network.
The Super Admin is the only one that can view the Network Admin Dashboard.
3. Plugin & Theme Management
Multisite has a different hierarchical way of managing plugins and themes. Typically, plugins and themes are installed through SFTP or the dashboard of a single WordPress install, and managed from the dashboard for that single site. However, on WordPress Multisite, plugins and themes are managed centrally on the Network Admin dashboard.
Installation for different sites can only be done through the Network Admin dashboard, after which single subsites can activate the plugin for their instance. Also, super admins can “network activate” plugins so that they are enabled by default on all the subsites within the network.
4. The Database
Multisite has a different database structure from your typical WordPress install. It contains additional tables to record each subsite and its data (posts, comments, options and links). As a result, the database for WordPress Multisite installs are typically larger since all the subsites share the same database.
It is not unusual to see new tables like “wp_sites”, “wp_2_posts”, “wp_3_options” etc. depending on the table prefix of the install and blog IDs of the subsites. More information about the database differences between regular WordPress and WordPress Multisite can be seen here:
5. Media Files & Uploads
Multisite stores media files and uploads for different subsites within the same directory structure. By default, media files and uploads for your subsites will have paths that look like this: /wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2013/4/image.gif. In this scenario, the folder ‘2’ refers to the blog ID.
6. Subdomains, or Subdirectories
Multisite gives you the option to have each subsite be a subdomain or subdirectory of the original site. For example:
- Subdomains – Original Site: mydomain.com, Subsite 1: dogs.mydomain.com, Subsite 2: cats.mydomain.com
- Subdirectories – Original Site: mydomain.com, Subsite 1: mydomain.com/dogs, Subsite 2: mydomain.com/cats
It is worth noting here that you have to take a decision on which of the two options you want when you are initially setting up the Multisite. After the Multisite has been set up and has some content in it, it is impossible to change from subdomains to subdirectories or vice-versa.
7. Domain Mapping
Multisite gives you the ability to map different domains to each subsite through the use of plugins available on the WordPress repository. Here is a domain mapping plugin we recommend in the case that you want to do this:
For example you can map http://seconddomain.com to http://subsite2.yourdomain.com. So when users navigate to http://seconddomain.com they will see the content of http://subsite2.yourdomain.com.
8. Is it Multisite Compatible
We have found that some plugins are not compatible and simply will not work with WordPress Multisite. At the very least, most plugins will work with and give you the ability to configure plugin options per subsite. However, there are certain plugins that have purpose-built Multisite capabilities and will enable you set up certain network-wide options. Some plugins even give you the ability to prevent single subsites from changing the options set on the network admin level.
Here are examples of plugins that are compatible with WordPress Multisite from the plugin repository:
Note: Multisite Can Perform Slower than a Single Install
As a side note, we have observed that Multisites sometimes performs a tad slower than regular WordPress installs because of the larger databases. Problems that occur on one subsite can also impact the entire network of sites negatively and cause issues or downtime if not managed properly, since they all run from the same code and database.
Our Support Team Can Help You Switch to Multisite
If you want to start using multisite, our Support Team can help you convert your single site installs to multisite. Please note, we don’t recommend you make this change yourselves, because we need to enable a specific setting on our backend.
Multisite is an amazing feature of WordPress that can give you great flexibility, while making the managing of multiple sites much easier. However, adjusting your workflow according to the eight steps we’ve outlined above can make working with Multisite much easier from your perspective.
If you have any other useful tips on how the typical WordPress user’s workflow could change when they make the switch to Multisite, feel free to share them in the comments section below.