Building a network of websites for a company can have it's advantages when it comes to franchises and other distributed locations. Working with WordPress multisite can be very complex and requires a lot of skill to achieve.
Our current project is working with a real estate franchise to build a network of websites for all their broker offices. The idea formed after meeting with a broker owner and showing the new technology that is available today. The current state of their websites and technology is at least eight years behind today's web standards.
And so the story goes...
It's fairly easy to build a WordPress website these days. There are so many built features from developers worldwide it's staggering what you can put together in a very short time. Leveraging the platform gives us the tools to build robust applications without the cost of custom development.
WordPress comes with a pre-built configuration that allows us to create a network of websites. These all exist within the same installation of WordPress. You can set it up as a subdomain network like site1.mydomain.com, site2.mydomain.com, ....etc. Or you can set it up under directories like mydomain.com/site1, mydomain.com/site2, ...etc. Setting it up is fairly simple and can be done in 15 minutes if you know what you're doing.
Most people have been exposed to WordPress but I'll go through a quick explanation of the admin. When you log into the admin you'll see a bunch of links in the left hand navigation like Pages, Posts, Appearance, ...etc. These give you access to the configurations of the website.
With a multisite network there's an additional option that only superadmins have access to. These are the features you can configure and control over the network. Things like Sites, Themes, Plugins, are all controlled by the network superadmin. It's like another layer of control above each site on the network. There also exists the ability to build or use plugins that work with the network.
This application of using a WordPress network is a good fit for our project. The core objectives can be handled be each website but with the additional ability to add more features for each franchise by network plugins.
We like to use subdomains for our network as it tends to separate things a little better. When you think of other things in the website folders it blends more with the directory configuration.
Once the network is installed and configured we start with the first websites. There is one main website for the whole network which is the umbrella for all the other websites. That website is for information about the whole company and should be outlined in addition to each franchise website.
Out of the box the network allows a lot of configuration options. For example, themes, which are the design of the website, can be setup with one parent and each subsite have a child theme that works with the parent theme. This is how we can updated the theme and not lose all the customization's within each site. We can restrict what's available within each franchise site that way.
Next is how we want to add and configure plugins. These are extra features that are the biggest benefit to using WordPress. There are thousands available for practically any use. Some are very robust such as ecommerce or event management. The key is to use only well supported plugins to avoid problems with security and bugs. We also need to balance plugins with performance as too many can cause the site to load slower.
There are many more advantages to using a WordPress network than just a simple website. The possibilities are endless really and require a lot of skill to execute properly.