What is a WordPress multisite network?

When WordPress was first created in 2003, its purpose was simple — it was an online blogging platform. Since then, the platform’s versatility has allowed it to expand not only to enable people to create full-scale websites, but also online news outlets, stores, events management, and much more. One of these newer features is a multisite network, allowing one domain to host several distinct, separate websites. Would a multisite network work for you? Here’s a look at several use cases for a multisite network and why you might want one.

Types of multisite networks

Multisite networks take on several different forms based on two different choices you can make:

  1. You can either enable a multisite network to use different subdomains (for example, site1.example.comsite2.example.com, etc. or different paths (for example, example.com/site1example.com/site2, etc.
  2. You can either enable or disable the ability for other people to create a new site on demand.

The first choice simply dictates the URL scheme your multisite network uses. The second one is the most crucial choice you’ll make. Will the multiple sites you host all be sites you manage alone, or will you allow other people to create their own site on your network?

Do you need a multisite network?

A multisite network allows you to create multiple websites that are not interconnected. Each site can have different users with different permissions, although a “super admin” role can manage all of them. Why might you want to create a multisite network?

  • If you want to create a website on a particular topic and allow interested people to create their own blogs on the topic. For example, if you have a network of hobbyists dedicated to a common interest, you could create a site (for example, myhobbywebsite.com) and allow other hobbyists to each create their own personal blog on the topic (for example, bill.myhobbywebsite.comcindy.myhobbywebsite.com, etc.). This would require you to enable end users the ability to create a new site on demand, as seen in question 2 above.
  • If you have several different businesses or hobbies and want to create a separate site for each, you could use a multisite network to manage them all. For example, mywebsite.com/craftsmywebsite.com/music, etc. In this example, you would not want to allow other people to create a new site on demand, because you manage all of the sites.
  • A website developer can use a multisite network for staging sites. For example, we could allow each client to have a website on our domain for them to test their sites, and then we could export them to their own domain once the sites are complete. In this example, we would not allow other users to create a new site on demand, but we would create the sites when necessary, like mpwrdesign.com/client1mpwrdesign.com/client2, etc.

If you’re considering a multisite network, you’ll want to think about whether you actually need to create an entirely separate website rather than simply another page on the same site.

  • Do you simply want to create a different look for one page — like you want yourwebsite.com/videos to look different from yourwebsite.com/books? You might be able to simply create a different layout for each page on one site rather than creating an entirely different, disconnected site.
  • Do you want to have multiple blogs about multiple topics? Consider using categories to separate your blog posts on the same site. For example, we have SEO Tips and Website Design Trends as separate categories on our site, but they’re all on the same site because the site is interconnected and all of them are part of our WordPress tips.
  • Do you want to have different users with different permissions on each site? This is a good use case for a multisite network.
  • Do you want to use different themes on different sites? This is also a good use case for a multisite network.

How do you install a multisite network on your site?

WordPress outlines the steps for creating a multisite network on their site. This detailed walkthrough outlines all of the steps and considerations you need to take.

Have you considered using a multisite network? If so, how do you plan on using it? Let us know in the comments below!