One of the unique features of WordPress is its ability to create a multisite network. A multisite network “is a type of WordPress installation that allows you to create and manage a network of multiple websites from a single WordPress dashboard. This lets you easily make changes and keep all of your websites updated from one place.” (WPBeginner)
WordPress.com is a multisite network, and the fact that they support millions of sites shows how robust a WordPress multisite network can be. At Webinology, we use the multisite concept to hive off different functions of a site as a way of increasing performance and segregating areas of responsibility.
An overview of WordPress Multisite
A WordPress multisite can use subdomains for its subsites or subdirectories. In a subdomain install, if you create a WordPress multisite using the domain “example.com,” you might have subsites named “support.example.com,” “docs.example.com,” etc. In a subdirectory installation, those same subsites might be “example.com/support” and “example.com/docs.”
The dashboard of a WordPress multisite website – regardless of whether it’s the “top” (or parent) site or a subsite – looks virtually identical to the dashboard of a regular WordPress website.
At least one user has to have the special role of “super-administrator,” and that person has access to a special dashboard, the network dashboard. Here s/he can control which plugins and themes are available to the subsites and grant access to users.
Pros and Cons
WordPress Multisite allows you to have multiple sites that share the same user tables, and when you update a plugin or a theme, it affects all the sites in the network at once. Users can be granted different levels of access to different sites but access all their sites with a single username and password.
However, not all plugins support WordPress Multisite, and while they might still work, you’ll likely get no support from their makers. If you do something to crash the site, there’s a good chance of killing all the others at the same time.
How we use WP Multisite to improve performance
Our team at Webinology has had a lot of experience with WordPress Multisite. One way that we like to use it is to separate major site functions into different subsites.
Let’s say, for example, your business makes plugins for WordPress. You have the part of your site that you use for marketing your product (the main site), a comprehensive knowledge base about your plugins, and a WooCommerce store where people can purchase your premium offerings.
On a single WordPress site, you might have dozens of plugins installed and activated to cover your site design, your knowledge base, download management, and e-commerce. That’s a lot for a single site.
However, with a WordPress subdirectory multisite, example.com (your marketing site) can be lean and mean, while example.com/kb has the knowledge base plugin(s) active and example.com/purchase has WooCommerce. This basically distributes the load, and – when done properly – your site visitors never know what magick is being conducted under the hood.
Could your business benefit from WordPress Multisite?
It’s certainly possible, but WordPress Multisite doesn’t fit every situation. Contact us and let’s talk about it.
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