WordPress is one of the fastest growing web development tools around, and provides an excellent solution for people who want to manage dozens or even thousands of websites from a single admin panel.
Perhaps the strongest feature of WordPress is the way the content management system keeps the content of the site separate from the functionality and design. Instead of them all being entwined together, functionality is controlled by plugins and the design is controlled by themes. WordPress themes control every aspect of the design from the colours and fonts to the header, footer and layout.
The growth of WordPress has been impressive. Having started out in 2003 as a simple open source blog publishing tool, WordPress is already used by over 14% of the world’s largest websites, as of June 2011.
The last major release of WordPress included WordPress Multisite – a powerful but user-friendly way to manage multiple websites from a single login. While the basics of WordPress Multisite are very simple and a new site can be created in seconds as a subdirectory or sub domain of the parent site, WordPress Multisite has a wealth of other more sophisticated features. For example, WordPress Multisite allows the network manager or “Super Admin” to control what level of access each local site administrator gets to each individual website. The Super Admin also controls which WordPress plugins and themes the local site administrators can access. There is also the option to create sites as independent domains using “domain mapping”. This is even more advanced and requires an advanced user or professional WordPress consultant to set up. Subdirectory
To set up a WordPress Multisite network, a user must first have their own self-hosted WordPress installation, updated to the latest version. As of June 2011, the latest version is 3.1.3, but updates are typically released every few months. There are various ways to install WordPress Multisite, but perhaps the best and most reliable instructions are provided by WordPress.org themselves.
Beware that it can be far from straightforward a user to upgrade from standard WordPress to WordPress multisite and the WordPress creators may even keep it that way purposefully. Not for nasty or commercial reasons, but just to save their less experienced users the extra complication. They do this because the technical requirements of WordPress Multisite are considerably greater and less technical users who are not sure what they are doing can easily cause instability in their sites, especially when they have a lot of plugins installed. Certain plugins work well with WordPress Multisite and other plugins are not compatible. The support provided by the developers of WordPress plugins do not always test their plugins with WordPress multisite, let alone in conjunction with all the other plugins. With the infinite possible combinations of plugins that WordPress users may potentially have installed, this would be impossible anyway.
So if you are a technically advanced WordPress user, the best way to install WordPress Multisite is to
- Backup your current site.
- Check the requirements of your hosting, especially if you are running the sites as sub-domains or independent domains. These are more complex to set up, but carry many benefits, especially for SEO.
- Check which of your current plugins have questionable compatibility with WordPress Multisite. Switch off any plugins that you are unsure of.
- Follow the guidelines WordPress themselves provide and carry out their instructions to the letter.
- If you are running the multiple websites as independent domains, install domain mapping too, or seek the help of a specialist for this.
However, if you are a relatively recent convert to WordPress or just an intermediate user, then it is strongly recommended that you hire a professional WordPress consultant to do this for you. It can take an expert WordPress developer as little as a couple of hours to install multisite for you, saving you a lot of time and a lot of stress.
For more information, please visit the WordPress Consultant, the London-based specialist in WordPress Multisite and SEO.