Brand new to multisite

Hi, I'm brand new to this community. I'm considering a project and I'd like some input. I'm familiar with single wordpress installs/use, but have never attempted multiuser. Here is my big picture goal if it helps with the questions I will post below.

1. I would like to create a network of sites and allow users to create their own site/blog. (prosites)
2. I want to offer them upgrade options for ecommerce. (marketpress).
3. I'd like to offer them the option of a custom domain name.
4. I'd like to create premium tiers for upgrade that include bundles of plugins.
5. I'd like to offer users a number of themes they can choose from for their site.

I realize the above constitutes a lot, and I'm not asking for a how-to on the whole lot. But I wanted to explain the end goal if it helps your feedback on the below questions.

1. Hosting: I currently use the business plan at hostgator. Can I accomplish the above objective on that plan? (until large # users would cause me to upgrade.)
a. Should I make this my primary domain or can it be an add on?
b. what considerations will be required if grows to over 500 users?

2. Multipress/prosites install: I read the manual on this site, but I missed the abc's of how to install it. Can you please link me to the info that walks me through how to establish the prosite network?

3. I've never setup a database before. Can you steer me to learn how to do this as I understand it is required for multisite/prosites?

4. Other: What other considerations should I make early on to avoid redo's later?

I appreciate your input. Thanks!

  • Gabe

    Hey. I’ll do my best to answer your questions. You probably already know a lot of the below, I’d rather be thorough than miss a few things, so here we go.

    1. I would like to create a network of sites and allow users to create their own site/blog.

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/pro-sites/

    2. I want to offer them upgrade options for ecommerce.

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/e-commerce/

    3. I'd like to offer them the option of a custom domain name.

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/domain-mapping/

    4. I'd like to create premium tiers for upgrade that include bundles of plugins.

    This functionality is built into Pro Sites.

    5. I'd like to offer users a number of themes they can choose from for their site.

    https://premium.wpmudev.org/projects/category/themes/

    I realize the above constitutes a lot, and I'm not asking for a how-to on the whole lot. But I wanted to explain the end goal if it helps your feedback on the below questions.

    I agree, it's a lot to take in at first. I highly recommend first installing Pro Sites, looking through the modules, see the options, etc. Explore it, learn what's there, see what's missing then fill in the gaps.

    Once you understand Pro Sites, you can check out the other plugins like Domain Mapping to see how it works, then MarketPress, etc. Get an understanding of each before moving onto the next. Next check out the themes on WPMU DEV or others if those don't fit your needs. Any theme can be offered as premium upgrades, WPMU DEV or otherwise.

    1. Hosting: I currently use the business plan at hostgator. Can I accomplish the above objective on that plan? (until large # users would cause me to upgrade.)

    If you're just starting out, Host Gator is fine. You don't want to drop a lot of money on a project you're going to be learning on for a few months and may end up ditching. It definitely isn't ideal, but if your budget is limited then it'll work.

    a. Should I make this my primary domain or can it be an add on?

    You can structure it however you want (including multisites in multisites) but to keep things simple make your primary domain your main brand/company site (the site you're selling with, the customer facing site) and your network (customer sites) will be subsites of that. That's the easiest way to do it. Once you're more experienced you can get all sexy with it if you want.

    b. what considerations will be required if grows to over 500 users?

    You’ll likely need to get off of shared hosting to maintain a decent user experience. I’m not a fan of generic VPS or dedicated servers when there are so many reasonable dedicated WordPress hosting services out there like WP Engine, ZippyKid, Page.ly, WebSynthesis, etc. It’s essentially a way of outsourcing server management while getting WordPress specific tuning, expertise, support, etc. I used to manage my own servers, but now I swear by WordPress specific hosting. It’s more expensive, especially WP Engine which I use, but totally worth it…especially if you’re a one-man show.

    You should also look at installing HyperDB or Multi-DB to increase the performance of your database and allow better scalability. This becomes more or less of a necessity after a few hundred users.

    2. Multipress/prosites install: I read the manual on this site, but I missed the abc's of how to install it. Can you please link me to the info that walks me through how to establish the prosite network?

    Pro Sites is just a plugin. Once you setup your multisite network and are sure it’s functioning correctly, just install the Pro Sites plugin. It requires some setup, but as mentioned above just set aside some to go through it and learn it.

    3. I've never setup a database before. Can you steer me to learn how to do this as I understand it is required for multisite/prosites?

    Yep, you need a database (DB) but it uses the same DB as your single site WordPress installation. I haven’t used a host like Host Gator in years, but Host Gator has an automated WordPress install that will mostly take care of the setup of WordPress and the necessary DB. From there, assuming they don’t offer an auto multisite option, use the links I posted at the bottom of this post to help you convert a single site installation to multisite installation. It's not difficult, but you'll need FTP or something similar to modify your wp-config, move sunrise.php for domain-mapping, etc.

    4. Other: What other considerations should I make early on to avoid redo's later?

    Take some time to think about what kind of network you want. With Pro Sites and multisite it’s very easy to create a multisite network, but it’s also very easy to create a mediocre (or worse) multisite network. Think about who your audience is, how you plan to monetize, what their technical level is, etc. Do they even want to hassle with themes and plugins? What decisions should you make for them? Are you serious about this? If so, maybe you should invest more in infrastructure and pay for a specialty WordPress hosting service. Who’s your target audience? What will they use their website for? Are they willing to pay for it? If not, how will you monetize? If so, how are you different? Why should they pay for your service rather than getting a free blog somewhere else?

    Put in a lot of time and thought, particularly into user experience. Just because you can offer an option, doesn’t mean you should. Knowing your audience is key in this. Too many people offer an ‘anything’ platform with 1,000 plugins and themes, a hundred upgrades and poor support. Sure you may still get some paying customers but you can be and do so much more. It just takes a lot of time and a lot of work.

    The most important thing to remember is to keep it simple. Keep it simple for the user, keep it simple for yourself. If it isn't necessary, take it out. If customers want a feature, add it if it makes sense. Too many want to offer many options and themes, but that's the worst thing to do. The more 'stuff' you have in the system, the more opportunities there are for something to break, the more likely something will become out of date, particularly if they're 3rd party unsupported plugins.

    Remember that you'll have to manage support for every customer. You see the kinds of questions that get asked here, even simple questions that could be searched for in Google...and these are well supported plugins with documentation. You'll have to deal with it all. Make things easy, keep things simple. Help your customers, help yourself.

    Managing splogs:
    You can get 500 free users in a week if they're all spam sites, aka splogs (see Anti-Splog). You'll even get splogs before you post a link to your signup page. They'll slow your server down and drain resources if you don't control them.

    It's a good idea to get the site up early with Pro Sites enabled and see how many splogs you get before you even post a link to the signup page. This way, every signup you get during this period, you know it's a splog because no human would have been able to find that link. Keep tweaking your splog/spam/anti-bot settings/plugins until you go a few weeks without any splogs. Just delete the splog users and blogs before officially launching.

    Here’s more info on multisites and multisite + Host Gator:
    https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-build-a-wordpress-multisite-network-with-multiple-domains/
    http://www.themightymo.com/2012/01/09/how-to-set-up-wildcard-domains-on-hostgator-for-wordpress-multi-site/
    http://www.blakeimeson.com/enable-wordpress-multisite-with-subdomains-hostgator/

    Hope this helps, let us know if you have any other questions.

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