WordPress is a popular platform for anything from personal blogs to full-fledged eCommerce stores. It is also equipped with the tools you need to create and manage a multisite network.
First of all, remember that a multisite network is different from running different websites with individual WordPress installations. With a multisite network, you run multiple sites from a single WordPress dashboard.
For example, if you are running an online publication, then using the multisite functionality allows different teams to manage specific sections such as sports, technology, and business. A multisite network also makes sense for businesses or blogs that tailor experiences according to the audience’s region or language.
Setting Up a Multisite Network
The first thing you need to do to setup a multisite network is to enable the feature in your wp-config.php file. Take note that this file can be accessed using the “File Manager” or a similar feature from your web hosting account.
To enable multisite networks for WordPress, paste the following code in your wp-config.php file:
/* Multisite */
define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );
To check if you’ve successfully enabled the multisite functionality, go to Tools > Network Setup if the option becomes available.
If you are working on an existing WordPress website, be sure to deactivate all plugins first to avoid possible conflicts.
You can do this by going to your Dashboard > Plugins > Installed Plugins, clicking the “Select All” checkbox (next to the word “Plugin”) and then selecting “Deactivate” from the “Bulk Actions” dropdown menu.
Going to Tools > Network Setup should bring up the “Create a Network of WordPress Sites” page. If your web URL has the “www” prefix, then you may be notified to change it. This step is meant to prevent subdomain links from having the “www” prefix.
Before you proceed with the installation, specify a network title as well as an admin email. Also look for a warning message under “Network Details” to see if you need either subdirectories or subdomains for your network. This message will appear if your site is running for more than one month. Click “Install” to proceed with the next step.
By enabling multisite on a fresh WordPress installation, you can choose whether to use subdomains or subdirectories for your network. If your WordPress is installed in a directory other than the root of your domain, then you should use subdirectories. Otherwise, you should use subdomains as long as your WordPress hosting solution supports them. Keep in mind that you cannot change this decision later!
Enabling the Network
At this stage, you will be asked to modify your wp-config.php and .htaccess files from your hosting account. Take note that you should copy and paste the exact codes shown in this window. As a precautionary measure, create backups of the original wp-config.php and .htaccess files before proceeding.
After updating the files, refresh your website and log in again. After this step, you've successfully activated your multisite network!
Adding New Sites
After successfully enabling your WordPress multisite network, you should now be able to access the “My Sites” menu from your WordPress dashboard. To add new sites to your network, go to My Sites > Network Admin > Sites > Add New.
Here, you can specify the subdomain or subdirectory address along with the site title and admin email. Once created, click on the site's name to manage its individual information, users, themes, and settings:
- In the Info tab, you can update the domain or status of a particular site.
- In the Users tab, you can view and manage all the users of a specific site. You can also grant admin privileges to other users.
- Just like in a regular WordPress installation, you can install and activate themes under the Themes
- In the Settings tab, you as well as other site admins can access all settings – including the site’s title, description, and theme.
Creating Subdomains from the cPanel
If you created a multisite network using subdomains, you could also configure them from your hosting account's cPanel. Simply log in using your credentials and look for the “Subdomains” option under “Domains” or a similar section.
In this section, you can pick a name for new subdomains as well as pinpoint the “Document Root.” However, most hosting platforms automatically detect the correct path for the home directory, so you rarely need to change what's in the document root field.
One Last Tip: Use a Good Host
Since you are running two or more sites on a single WordPress installation, a multisite network can exhaust server resources and cause sluggish performance. That's why it is important to pick a capable web hosting solution.
At the very least, you should go for VPS hosting to make your site impervious to the usage of other site owners. Also, consider using a dedicated host in case each of your subdomains receives a substantial amount of traffic.
Following the steps above should help you setup your WordPress multisite network correctly. Just remember that multisite networks are best handled by a team. You might want to manage your users and their privileges first before working on the design and functionality of each site.