As you may have observed, WordPress has updated its features frequently over the years. Recently on its 3.0 version, it unconfined the multisite feature.

WordPress multisite feature is very crucial for content marketers, developers, and bloggers who manage multiple WordPress sites at a time.

However, It’s not only the bloggers who work on multiple WordPress sites. Some developers and organizations utilize this system to manage dozens of clients at a time.

Moreover, you can see, some organizations allow registered individuals to publish blog posts while only the owner or super admin can make changes inside the WordPress admin dashboard. It became possible because of the multisite feature.

The post explains when to use multisite and how to get it all configured. We will go through the step-by-step procedure of launching multiple sites under one WordPress admin dashboard.

Why Multisite?

Before commencing the tutorial, first, we will understand when you should opt for this multisite over a single WordPress installation and when you should not! It is essential because, to some extent, you may think WordPress multisite would be a better option for your online business, but that may not always be the case.

You would prefer to analyze the pros and cons of multisite to make the right choice during WordPress installation. However, it depends on your website standards and its possible requirements.

Advantages of WordPress Multisite:

  • It provides an all-in-one dashboard. The admin gets the control in one place of the entire WordPress site under that network.
  • With one click, you can install themes and plugins for multiple sites under one network.
  • Updating becomes easy since you can simultaneously update all the components of WordPress installations under that multisite network.
  • The multisite feature lets you create unique dashboards for each site and site admin.
  • Website backup is also easy as you can store all site data in a single backup.
  • The use of server resources for multisite is less than individual WordPress installation, and it’s straightforward to optimize as well.

Limitations of WordPress Multisite:

  • Multisite doesn’t support all plugins. Because most of the plugins are designed to work on a single WordPress installation, you may face the possibility of plugin conflict after installing them on multisite.
  • Some plugins/themes limit the power of administrators. Individual site admin can’t install those plugins/themes.
  • Traffic spikes can slow the website’s performance. Eventually, it may raise trouble for the entire network.
  • Hacker or server downtime will affect all the websites under that network.
  • A data breach will involve all the individual WordPress sites.
  • As all sites under that network share the same user data identical, it’s not possible to create user accounts for two different sites.

How to Setup WordPress Multisite:

Step 1: Preliminary Requirements Before Establishing WordPress Multisite

The first step you need to get a qualitative web host. You can set up a smaller multisite network on shared hosting. However, we would suggest managed web hosting or a VPS for better server response and site performance.

The next thing, you need to understand how to install a regular WordPress site and working experience with FTP clients.

For WordPress multisite, another essential step is to pick your domain or URL structure. You will have the option to choose between subdomain and sub-directory.

You need to activate permalinks if you have WordPress installed.

If you already have WordPress installed, then you need to activate permalinks. That means that the permalink structure of your WordPress should be like this:

http://yoursite.com/sample-post rather than http://yoursite.com/?p=123.

Next thing, make sure all plugins are deactivated before you apply the multisite feature. This step is vital because an activated plugin can conflict with multisite as we know, multisite doesn’t support all WordPress plugins/themes. To ensure you do not face any issues during multisite configuration, deactivating installed plugins is a safe choice.

Step 2. Activate WordPress Multisite Feature

As we proceed further, activation of the WordPress multisite feature will be your next task. The multisite feature can be activated on a pre-installed WordPress or during a fresh WordPress installation as well.

Activating multisite on a pre-installed WordPress is a manual process. However, activating multisite on a fresh WordPress installation requires a single click on the” enable multisite” option. 

Now first, we will understand the manual way. It is the process for the condition if you have already installed a WordPress site. And you want to create a backup of your complete site. After creating the backup, you need to access the wp-config file from your cPanel or use any FTP client and open that file for editing.

In the wp-config file, locate this line “/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy publishing. */

Now above this line, you need to add the following:

/* Multisite */
define( ‘WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE’, true );

Check out this example below:

Activate the WordPress multisite feature.

Save this file on your server, and the multisite feature will be activated on your WordPress.

While if you are about to install a fresh copy of WordPress, you need to mark the “enable multisite” option. Once you mark that option, your WordPress will be configured for the multisite feature. This option pre-configures the wp-config file so that you don’t have to do it manually.

Step 3: Configure Your WordPress Network

As your multisite feature is activated now, you need to set up an environment for the WordPress network. First, you need to log in to your WordPress dashboard and find network setup under tools in your left panel.

Create a network of WordPress sites.

Once you get it, a message appears that says Apache’s mod_rewrite module must be installed to multisite feature work. This module should have been already enabled if you have reliable hosting.

You will have to follow your decision whether you choose to use subdomains for your sites in the network (e.g., site1.yoursite.com) or you want to use a subdirectory instead (e.g., yoursite.com/site1).

Select your preferred domain structure and provide a network title, your new WordPress site title. Click on install to initiate the first site in your WordPress network.

Choose to use subdomains or subdirectory for your sites in the network.

Step 4: Complete the Network Configuration

To complete the network setup, you require to follow the guideline provided by WordPress. It will provide you two snippets of codes. These codes must be added in your wp-config file and .htaccess file, respectively. These two files will be available in your root directory.

Before making changes, make sure to back up both of these files. Otherwise, sometimes simple misplacement of the custom codes can break your site.

After having file backup add the following code snippet to your wp-config file above the line “/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy publishing. */“. The codes are mentioned below. It should display on your WordPress network configuration dashboard as well.

define('MULTISITE', true);
define('SUBDOMAIN_INSTALL', false);
define('DOMAIN_CURRENT_SITE', 'gamespec.tech');
define('PATH_CURRENT_SITE', '/');
define('SITE_ID_CURRENT_SITE', 1);
define('BLOG_ID_CURRENT_SITE', 1);

After updating the wp-config file, open the .htaccess file and replace other WordPress rules present with the following code snippet.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]

# add a trailing slash to /wp-admin
RewriteRule ^([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?wp-admin$ $1wp-admin/ [R=301,L]

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f [OR]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -d
RewriteRule ^ - [L]
RewriteRule ^([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?(wp-(content|admin|includes).*) $2 [L]
RewriteRule ^([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?(.*\.php)$ $2 [L]
RewriteRule . index.php [L]

After the modification, make sure to save the .htaccess file on the server. 

Step 5: Network Admin Menu And Network Settings

Once you have altered the wp-config and .htaccess file, login to your WordPress dashboard, you will find the “network admin” and “my sites” options on the top of the WordPress admin bar. Hover on my sites, and the network admin menu will be displayed.

Below the network admin, you will have the list of websites under that network and their respective dashboard, posts, and comments. To enter the backend of these sites, you need to click on their names from the list.

Network admin menu and network settings.

The network admin menu consists of the following menu tabs:

Dashboard: The dashboard has a widget to create a new site or a new user to the network. You can also search for existing sites and users as well.

Sites: On the menu tab, you will see a list of sites in the network. You will have options for edit, visit the site, and a dashboard for each site. You can change site settings, themes, users under the edit option.

Moreover, you can accomplish multiple actions such as deleting sites, active, and deactivate can be done from this page. This list of your network seems similar to a page and post list on a regular WordPress admin panel.

Users: By the user tab, you can assign administrators to your network. Each user who has been added here will have the super admin rule. It means they can control and modify each site of the multisite network.

You can edit admin details, add new, as well as remove admin from your network. If you would like to assign users or admin to a specific site only, you must add a user via the site’s administration panel.

Themes: Here, You will find options such as “Install and Uninstall,” “Activate and Deactivate” themes for your whole WordPress multisite network.

Plugins: Just like themes, you will see the list of installed plugins for the network. You can easily add supported plugins to all the sites, delete a plugin, activate them, and deactivate them whenever required.

Settings: This is the main admin area of the multisite network where you will have the control to modify your network title, administrator email address, allow users to register on the network, allow a logged-in user to create a new site, etc.

Moreover, you can design a custom welcome email to each newly signed user, create custom comments for the first page, or post-edit performed by any user.

The limitation of custom file upload can be edited along with the allowance of the file extension. You can set a default language for the network, which would be the global language setting for all websites simultaneously.

After these settings, your multisite network is quite ready for assigning new websites and configuring themes and plugins for them. Now we will add a new site to the network.

Step 6: Add a New Website to the Network

At the initial stage, you have only one website running under the network that doesn’t make any sense. A multisite is only used when you need to have at least two sites installed under one network.

There is no limitation on installing websites under a multisite network. You can anytime add another site to the list whenever needed. To add a new website, follow the steps mentioned below.

  • Go to My Sites > Network Admin > sites and click on Add New.
Add a new site to the network.
  • For site address (URL), enter the desired website address. According to the domain structure, you have chosen the site address that can be assigned. We have already chosen the subdirectory URL structure in this example, so we need to add the subdirectory after the primary domain.
  • After that, you need to add the site title that will appear in many places on your super admin dashboard, such as under network admin and site list. The site title will appear in metadata such as page title or the front end as well.
For site address URL, enter the desired website address.
  • After adding the site title, you can set the site language upon the network’s global language setting.
  • Next, choose an admin email address for the new site specifically. This email has to be different from any other email address available in the network.
  • Click on the “Add Site” button to create your new site and have it on your site list. You can find the new site on My Sites > Network Admin > Sites.
You can find the new site on My sites

Site contexts such as URL, homepage address, blog title, blog description, and many more can be altered in every site’s settings tab.

Step 7: Install Themes in Multisite

As you have added at least two sites under the network, you need to install themes and plugins. First, We will start by installing a theme for the sites. Make sure you need to install a theme only once, and that specific theme will be applied to all the sites in that network.

Install WordPress themes in Multisite.
  • Next, click on “Network Enable” to activate the theme for all sites on the network.
  • You can manage all installed themes from My Sites > Network Admin > Themes. You can enable and disable the themes for the network from the theme list.
  • A network-enabled theme means the individual site owners can’t control these themes, but they can use them on their websites.
Click on Network enable to activate themes for all sites on the network.

Step 8: Install Plugins on WordPress Multisite

Just like themes, only super admins can install the plugins. Individual site administrators can only activate and deactivate the plugins for their websites. Site admin can activate and deactivate plugins only if the super admin enables the administration menu option.

To enable the administration menu, go to Settings > Network Settings and check the “Enable Administration Menu” box for plugins.

Install plugins on WordPress Multisite.

Now proceed towards My Sites > Network Admin > Plugins and click on the “Add New” button to add a plugin to the network. Find your plugin on the WordPress repository, install the plugin, and click on “Network Active.”

The plugins marked as Network Active" will be applied to all the websites on the Network.

The plugins marked as “Network Active” will be applied to all the websites on Network. The site owner can choose whether his site needs a plugin to remain active or not.

Wrapping Up

Once you complete these step-by-step procedures, the WordPress multisite is ready for regular use. You can now add more sites, themes, and plugins from the super admin dashboard. The procedures are the same as mentioned above.

The individual sites in the network can publish posts and pages like a typical WordPress site. It is possible to do many more with a multisite feature, for example connecting it with Cloudflare. However, that requires a whole new tutorial.

Finally, we hope this guide is clear enough to help you set up your first WordPress multisite.

About the Author

Rupam Krishna Bharali

Blogger and Developer

Rupam Krishna Bharali is a blogger, developer, and article creator. He likes to explore WordPress, SEO techniques, Design and shares them with people in easy to understand language. He has founded two websites WPblogging.in WPblogging.in and Gamespec.tech so far. Besides, he likes to make new connections, especially with developers and bloggers around the world.

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