So I had an interesting synchronization happen last month. I met with a parenting group in Salem about possibly helping them put together a new web site and the site’s administrator asked me if I thought WordPress MU would be a good solution for handling the group discussion feature. I had to ask him to explain what it was, and it sounded interesting, but kind of overkill for something that could probably be handled by comment moderation in WordPress.
But the idea of using multiple blogs on one site was interesting and I thought it might work for another client who wanted to build a web site around the idea of one umbrella corporation and three companies under that corporation. It seemed like the best way to avoid paying for hosting 4 separate web sites was to install WordPress MU and use it to generate subdomains off the main site. After checking into the hosting requirements, I emailed the client’s hosting company and asked about their policy regarding access to Wildcard DNS and the CHMOD rewrites.
After waiting a couple of days, I called the company and it turned into one of those conversations every web designer dreads. It seemed like every question I had was answered with “That’s a question for ‘so and so’ and they’re not here now. Can they call you back?” Granted WordPress MU is a new idea for a lot of people, including me, but shouldn’t a hosting company know what its plans are about?
And of course, the host company’s admin interface was in Plesk, so the instructions I had found for installing WP MU with CPanel were bound to be extra tricky.
Long story short, I got all the way to the last step in the instructions, only to be told that the system admin at the hosting company was trying to decide if it OK to modify the httpd.conf file. After being told by one employee that access to that file was up to me (for the record, I was able to find it in the Plesk panel and it clearly stated that I did not have access), I mentally threw up my hands and said “OK, just let me install WordPress on each of the subdomains then.”
After getting the ftp file path straightened out, Eureka! Three separate WP installs on three subdomains! So, for anyone else out there in the same predicament, here’s some advice to save you some blood, sweat and tears.
1) WordPress MU is really designed to work for people who wish to offer their site’s users the option f setting up their own blog through their site.
2) Really try to nail down the hosting company involved as to what they can and can’t do for you. Make sure you talk to someone who can give you definite answers.
3) If you really want to set up a site with subdomains in WordPress, try to determine if your client wants subdomains that look different than the main one or similar. It was a happy accident when I realized that the theme I had already altered for the main site could be “recycled”, uploaded and activated for the three subdomains without having to tweak the template again.
4) One pitfall for subdomains in WordPress installs is that the Permalinks feature actually generates Error 404’s when you try to go to a page. Others have had this issue, and I have to confess that I was experiencing “Plesk Fatigue” when try to troubleshoot this, so I took the lazy girl route and simply went back to the default in permalinks (i.e. “http://trackcon.ictrfid.com/?page_id=3″ instead of “http://trackcon.ictrfid.com/service-and-repair”)