WordPress and WooCommerce Multisites: An Overview

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A WordPress or WooCommerce Multisite network can streamline your workflow. But, only if you need them. Here’s how you can decide if they’re the right fit.
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WordPress Multisite and WooCommerce Multisite are powerful pieces of software that you can use in tandem to manage multiple online stores. But, do you need them?

WordPress Multisite and WooCommerce Multisite

They’re incredibly useful in situations where you want to manage a network of online stores in one place.

But, there may be certain features you need that aren’t available. Or, it may not be the right fit for your situation for other reasons.

Not to worry!

Here’s more detail on WordPress and WooCommerce Multisite, what they both are and when you may want to use them.

WordPress Multisite Defined in Detail

WordPress Multisite is a part of the core WordPress software. WordPress is a program you can use to create your own website or blog.

When WordPress is installed on a server, it creates a single website that also includes a blog feature.

WordPress Multisite is an option you can enable within WordPress. It’s been around since version 3.0. It lets you extend the core features to create a network of websites or blogs rather than just one.

Here’s what you can do with WordPress Multisite networks:

  • Create a network on sites or blogs that are organized in one WordPress database and one hosting account.
  • All sites can be managed through the super administrator’s dashboard. This means you don’t need to create multiple single installations that are all managed separately.
  • Create multiple sites or blogs using one domain by default.
  • Site designs, called themes, and extendible features in a separate program, called plugins, can all be shared in a network. Multiple sites can use the same theme or plugins, but with different settings as needed.
  • The administrator account becomes the super admin in a WordPress Multisite. This user can manage all sites within the network without logging into each site separately.
  • An admin account can be created to manage a single site in a network or multiple ones as needed.

With WordPress Multisite, the initial website you had installed becomes the main site in the network. Each site or blog you want to create after that becomes a subsite in the network.

Even if you create subsites, they don’t necessarily have to have the same content as the main site or any other website in the network. The main site and each subsite function as completely separate sites in the network.

What are Subdomains and Subdirectories?

As previously mentioned, the main website and each subsite of a Multisite network uses a single domain.

But, each subsite that’s created adds to the domain to distinguish it from other subsites in the network.

When you’re installing Multisite, you’re presented with the option to choose either a subdomain or subdirectory installation.

If you choose subdomains, the main domain is set up as subsite1.your-domain.com, subsite2.your-domain.com and so on.

On the other hand, if the subdirectories option is selected instead, the domains are set up like your-domain.com/subsite1, your-domain.com/subsite2 and it continues with this pattern for each subsite.

The “Create a Network of WordPress Sites” page
You can choose how to set up Multisite from the network setup page.

How to Use Multisite in Practical Ways

Whether you’re running a business or need to effortlessly manage multiple sites for other reasons, Multisite could be beneficial.

Here are situations where Multisite is useful:

  • You want a website for multiple countries that use different languages or where each site has slightly differing content.
  • You need your main site to be managed separately from your landing pages, but you still want to be able to do that through the same dashboard.
  • You want users to sign up to create their own website or blog in your network.
  • A support, ticketing system or documentation site is necessary and should be separate from the main site.
  • Your organization’s team needs an internal network where each department or project needs its own site with different variations of features, settings, content, and users.
  • It’s essential to manage multiple sites in one area. From updating all plugins and themes or updating the WordPress core in a couple of clicks, it can be done with Multisite.
  • You only want to log in once as an administrator, but be able to manage all your sites. This saves you from logging into each site separately.
  • A staging site needs to be created for testing and updating purposes. You also want to manage it in the same dashboard as your original site.

All these are merely suggestions for common uses for WordPress Multisite. That means you’re not limited to these and you can find your own uses.

WooCommerce Multisite Defined

To understand what WooCommerce Multisite is, it’s essential to first explore WooCommerce and what it does for WordPress.

WooCommerce is a WordPress eCommerce plugin. It’s free software that extends WordPress. You can use it to turn a WordPress site into an online store.

The WooCommerce plugin
Use the WooCommerce plugin to turn WordPress into an online store.

Will WooCommerce Work with Multisite?

WooCommerce is compatible with WordPress Multisite which means you can install WooCommerce on a Multisite network.

This means you can create a network of online stores collectively called WooCommerce Multisite.

WooCommerce works on the network-level meaning plugins and themes can be installed once and are available for use in the network. The main site and each subsite can choose to enable these plugins and themes as needed with one click.

This also means some sites within a network can use WooCommerce while others don’t.

But, keep in mind that each online store created with WooCommerce in a network must be managed separately.

If you want to be able to share the same settings and features across multiple online stores, you can’t do it by default. It will require custom coding to achieve it or you can use an existing plugin or WooCommerce extension.

Should You Use WooCommerce Multisite?

WooCommerce Multisite is similar to WordPress Multisite with the notable exception that you’re creating a network of online stores instead of sites or blogs.

You can create and manage multiple online stores under one roof for different reasons without having to log into each site separately.

For example, you can have many online stores for multiple countries and currencies, entirely different product lines or whatever you need.

Using WooCommerce Multisite in Practical Ways

Beyond these examples, there are many other situations where WooCommerce Multisite is a great fit:

  • You want to make a digital mall like Amazon. Each store carries different kinds of products, but they’re also connected so customers can efficiently search for what they want.
  • A site similar to Etsy can be set up where users sign up to create their own online store.
  • You have sets of products for different audiences so you want to sell them on separate stores. That way, you can better manage marketing efforts and view relevant reports.
  • There are multiple brands you want to manage independently. For example, if you’re a film company that wants to sell merchandise and tickets for different films. But, you want each film to have its own uniquely branded storefront.
  • There are so many products in your existing store and categories just aren’t enough.
  • You’re a developer who wants to access and manage all your clients’ stores from one dashboard.

While these are common uses for WooCommerce Multisite, it’s by no means a complete list. You’re certainly not limited to any of these options.

It’s important to note that each sub-store in a network will share the same database. This is a potential security risk. If you do want to set up WooCommerce Multisite, be sure to take the appropriate steps to secure the network.

Installing WordPress and WooCommerce Multisite

Now that you have been introduced to WordPress Multisite and WooCommerce Multisite, you’re ready to set them up if you want.

Wrapping Up

WordPress and WooCommerce Multisite networks are powerful programs to create a network of sites, blogs or online stores. But, they don’t fit every situation. When they’re the best fit, they can streamline your workflow.

Alternatively, you can take a look at multi-tenancy, which is another great solution that’s picking up speed in the industry, as well as microsites compared to multisites.

Have you decided to create a WordPress or WooCommerce online store? Are you still undecided? Let me know in the comments below.

Shadi Manna

Shadi is the founder of Progressus, he’s an entrepreneur, WooCommerce developer and Conversion Rate Optimization specialist.

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One Response

  1. Worth mentioning there are few extensions which adds some great features when using WooCommerce on MultiSite ( global Product management, global order management, global cart, global check-out, global search etc ), for example WP Global Cart

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