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.
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!”
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.
I 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?”