WordPress Multisite

Technology Example of WordPress Multisite in action

About a year ago or so WordPress merged a very powerful feature into its base install. Multisite is an easy 3-step process to enable in any new or recently upgraded WordPress installation. Once you throw the switch, your WordPress site gains a mutation level superpower: the ability to manage content and users on multiple sites, all from one convenient spot!

This subtle yet powerful shift in WordPress brings to light a whole new level of content management. WordPress is still very much optimized for creating blogs, however it can be coerced into a more enterprise-ready content tool that businesses can utilize to create marketing and informational sites. Oh, and blogs, too!

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not proposing that WordPress with Multisite is going to replace your fancy and very expensive content management system. It can, however, play an important and effective role managing smaller scope properties. With multisite you can manage many, many of these types of sites, as evident by the WordPress site itself.

So enough of the high level stuff, let’s talk about a real world example.

Currently in development here is a suite of learning sites we are updating for a large West coast-based financial institution. We were faced with the creation of yet another new WordPress site, as well as updating two other WordPress sites. The thought of adding another site with a separate install of WordPress was not a favorable one.

In short, we wanted the speed and security of a stagecoach with all the utility of a chuckwagon. Someone mentioned that WordPress had a feature called Multisite, and that it might be helpful. (It is! Thank you!)

We started with a new install of WordPress at the root of the client site. Then began converting the current sites into Multisite as ‘sub-sites’. In doing so we eliminated the need for a lot of custom code—code that makes it difficult to use, maintain, and upgrade WordPress (and you should be updating your WordPress regularly).

One site in particular was a shining example of why Multisite is so Multilicious (it’s not a blog post until you make up a new word). The site was just a mess of custom post types, built with custom code, and handled in the browser by yet more custom code. All done to make things “easier.” The intention was good, and at the time there was no alternative. There was no easy solution to make this very large site—thousands of posts—manageable in a standard WordPress install.

With Multisite, however, we simply replaced all the custom post codebase with Multisite, since each custom post type really represented an entirely separate site. We converted the Posts to Pages by simply exporting them from the old Database, and inserting them into the corresponding table in Multisite.

This is just the beginning, of course. There are many advantages to Multisite, including:

  • Ease of upgrading only one instance of WordPress
  • Security from only having one instance of WordPress
  • Ability to share content between sites
  • Consistency of having global elements and themes
  • Flexibility of customization at the site level
  • Efficiency of having one database optimized for multiple sites

As we move forward in this brave new internet where WordPress powers 20% of all sites, we will continue to push the boundaries of WordPress so it can stand equally (in some situations) with more expensive—and frankly more sophisticated—content management systems.

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