Building a WordPress Multisite

WordCamp 2009 - WordPress Cupcakes by planetc1
WordCamp 2009 – WordPress Cupcakes by planetc1

We have started a project to create a wordpress multisite environment so that we can better manage the sites we create for the council, whether they are traditional microsites (for example,

or core parts of the council’s website (for example,

One possible scenario might be that the councils website is powered

entirely by WordPress, although we are still likely to commission some sites externally, so that might not be the whole site. However we are planning on moving the majority of our site across to wordpress as we go through a huge content review. As you can imagine this is going to be a challenge.

I have worked with WordPress now for almost 2 years day in day out so I do know my way around templates and themes and even a couple of widgets and simple plugins. The more I learn the more I know i need to learn and action hooks and filters are a mystery to me!

So how do we make this new monster of a multisite. Well I would be lying if I said I had not had a bit of past experience with it. I have created a multisite for 3 schools and used 4 different themes on it, but as for a council site of around 150 sites, well that is something completely different and not to mention the amount of traffic the site will get.


I thought to start with the first thing to think about is security. We contacted Philip John for his advice and he gave us a list of must have plugins for security.

These were:

Now I have used the first 2 before but not the third. So that was somewhere to start.

I have created the multisite and that is just sitting in the internet with these 3 plugins in and some other plugins that we use generally on all our WordPress sites.

Designing and Creating

As I said before we have been using WordPress for quite a while creating and designing standalone sites.

For our multisite we have decided to use the parent and child the me layout. We have also created a customised theme over a core of the Twitter Bootstrap responsive framework.


We are currently hosting the beta multisite on shared hosting, I read on the internet that you need a compatible server to run WordPress but there is never any minimum specifications for this. So do we need dedicated server or cloud hosting for the above mentioned size site? Or is a shared hosting server with enough bandwidth enough? Would very much welcome your thoughts…


Within WordPress there are a number of caching plugins WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache to name but a few. I have used W3 Total cache on standalone sites in shared hosting but only with the basic settings but not multisite. So do we need a connection to a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to speed up the site?

So when it comes to website optimisation there is a so many options to think about to get the best performance!

So what next

So the big question is how do we create a large scale content environment on a WordPress Multisite for the council?

There are a number of questions still to be answered and many questions we haven’t yet considered.

We have not even started to think about user management and of course the biggest question is migration from the existing website and microsites – In fact we have recently answered this as we won’t be migrating the content, we will essentially be starting a fresh.

If you have any ideas feel free to leave them below.

Thank you.

Tim Barrett

I am a frontend developer for Devon County Council. I work mainly on WordPress and PHP.

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5 thoughts on “Building a WordPress Multisite

  1. Philip John

    Hi Tim, glad those links were useful! Don’t be too scared of action hooks and filters – they’re simple once you get started 🙂 Happy to do some training for you in that area too if it helps.

    Where hosting is concerned you’ll be okay with shared until you’re really relying on the site. At that point you should at least be looking at a VPS. Try Bytemark, who can also help with the caching & performance side of things.

    Note that Multisite is great but if you use one multitude for lots of sites that are very different it can cause problems. Theme and plugin conflicts are more likely and fixing any ‘breakages’ can be a much more difficult process.

    Will be following your progress – I’m very keen on WordPress in local gov!

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