I Don’t Care If You Use Multisite

Nope. Don't care. La la la! Not listening to you! I care that you think, not if you use.

I love Multisite. I think it’s awesome. It makes my personal life way easier, it helped me write a book and get a job, and it’s a totally cool aspect of WordPress that is still underdeveloped but a very hard worker. Multisite could be so much more, and it’s still that new kid on the block, but it’s growing every day.

Thoughtful statueWhen I tell people over and over again that they shouldn’t use WordPress Multisite, I do so knowing there’s a good time to break every reason I said not to use it. After all, why not use it?

But there’s one big question I don’t answer in the WordPress forums anymore, and that is “Should I use WordPress Multisite?” Oh I may clarify specific moments in what I said in other places (like you can duplicate content, but I don’t believe you should), but I won’t get into conversations of “Is this a good use case?” The reason why is that I cannot tell you, quickly, if you’re a good candidate for being a WP Multisite Admin, nor can I glance and say that your situation and environment is perfect for multisite. And the reason for this is that Multisite is complicated.

Actually that’s wrong. The reason is I don’t know, and neither do you.

Do you remember, way back when you started with websites, and you first looked at WordPress and asked yourself “Is WordPress right for me?” Someone probably said “It can be.” or “Maybe.” Oh I’m sure someone said “Of course!” And another person said “No way!” But the point of all of those answers is that it depends.

When you consider using Multisite, or WordPress (or anything) for that matter, you should take stock of what you want to do. Does the product, natively, support those things out of the box? Do people complain that doing something is really hard? Do people say it’s weird, but works? Do people suggest plugins? None of those things are reasons to not use the product, whatever it is, but it’s getting an understanding as to what world you’re stepping into that is important.

But I know, I just know, one of you will post a comment here “Mika, I just want to know if I should use Multisite! Please tell me!”

No.

It takes me about an hour to determine if you and your current site are a candidate for Multisite (and yes, I have rules). Then there’s another two to three hours going over your specs (and probably pushing to get more details) and making sure this can’t be done easily with a standard WordPress install, that it can be done with WordPress, if there are extant plugins, and if there’s custom work that’s going to be needed.

Basically it’ll be about half a day spent to give you the answer you deserve, and even then, it’s not going to be the full answer because you’ve probably forgotten to tell me something like “I need non-logged in users to be able to upload files.” or “This will be on Windows IIS.”

Hopefully at this point you’re thinking that’s fair of me. Four hours of my time is worth around $1000 USD (my going rate is $250/hour when I’m available, which is rare), and while I’d be happy to do a flat-fee for that sort of thing, no one in the history of ever has come to me with a clean and precise list of what they need and why and how they plan to grow.

Which brings me back to why I just can’t do this anymore. I just don’t know. I don’t know you, I don’t know your skills. I don’t know the skills of your users and I don’t know your future plans. I don’t know if you’ve compared the options yet. I don’t know your feelings about custom code and a lot of plugins. I don’t know your requirements. I don’t know if you want to have multiple sites with no admins, or a network with a hundred super admins (please don’t do either of those things). I don’t know your SSL requirements, your domain mappings, your servers, or your host. And because I don’t know those, I can’t answer the question fairly.

Are You Ready? signI don’t care if you use it or if you use multiple separate sites. I do care that you understand that multisite is complex and I care a great deal that you’ve researched your options. I care that you ask questions like “If my database gets too big, can I split it with Multisite?” (Yes, use HyperDB or SharDB.) I care that you consider “Is a custom post type slower or faster than a separate site on a network?” (Neither, as it happens. They’re about the same.) I get really happy if you ask specific questions, actually. You know, the ones that tell us you’ve looked into this and thought about it.

The answer to “Should I use Multisite is?” is a question.

“Are you prepared to use Multisite?”

12 Comments

  1. I saw you on the recent WPWaterCooler Google Hangout; I had never seen that show before. The topic was WordPress Multisite.

    I have been blogging on WordPress.com for four years, have five blogs (related content but different purposes for different audiences), and have published close to 7k posts and pages in that time. I recently transitioned to WordPress.org (self-hosted) in order to achieve more functionality.

    When I was on WP.com, I enjoyed having one sign-in, and drop-down menus on the dashboard pages, which allowed me to easily toggle from one site to the other. In a self-hosted environment, I’ve been trying to achieve this same environment with the ManageWP plugin, but it does not seem near as convenient.

    I am the only administrator on my five sites, the only user, and the only blogger. Should I stick with ManageWP or go to WP Multisite? Based on your comments on the hangout and your post here, I assume Multisite would be too complex for me to manage because I am not that technically savvy. However, I hope you don’t mind my asking, just in case my type of usage would make it less complex and more like my prior experience with WP.com.

    Your thoughts?

    • @Mike Gantt: Are you willing to learn and open to the idea that bashing your head on your desk may be commonplace for a couple months?

      Honestly, it’s a HELLA hard question to answer, right next to ‘which car do I buy?’ So many variables to consider, and technical ability is actually pretty minor compared to learning-speed.

    • @Mike Gantt: … The what the fucking fuck now?

      O_o

      NO WAY

      Multisite is totally supported by WordPress.org and a fuckton of work was put into it for WP 3.9.

      You go tell that CSR at BlueHost to talk to Bryan Petty and Mike Hansen, because they’re talking out of their ass.

    • Bryan,

      Just e-mailed you transcript of the chat I had with the CSR.

      Mika,

      I could understand the difficulty in answering my question if you knew nothing about me but I tried to give you a profile. I might not know what kind of car someone should buy, but if they tell me they have school-age kids, I can tell them that a four-door will be better for them than a two-door.

    • @Mike Gantt: look, you read the paragraph in this very post where I said this?

      But I know, I just know, one of you will post a comment here “Mika, I just want to know if I should use Multisite! Please tell me!”

      And you read the answer to that where I said clearly “No.”

      I know you think it’s a simple answer, but it’s just not. And asking me to do that much work, for free, out of the kindness of my heart, has become something people abuse. So I’m not doing it anymore. It’s a huge question, it’s a complicated question, and I just don’t have enough time to do it right for everyone and not be the one stuck in the hook for when you come back and need more help.

      So. For your sake and mine, I don’t answer this one. You can use it. You can also use alternatives. Research them, test them, see which one feels natural to you.

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