I just finished up a project that involved an impromptu introduction to WordPress MU – THE mother of all blog-related projects for Absolute (so far). In about one month, we set up 27 blog sites (one of which is a site to rule them all), developed 3 unique themes (with 16 different customizations for each = 48 total) and modified one existing theme to integrate it with an existing site. In 25 business days, that calculates out to more than one blog site per day. Add in a dash of – we need to incorporate 16 different languages (being able to post and display in those languages), and we got a lot of great experience out of this project. Whew!
Setting up that many WordPress blogs on their own individual .org setups/databases would have been fairly easy, but installing and configuring plugins and maintaining each would have been a nightmare. Thus, the implementation of WordPress MU to control the chaos (as much as possible, that is).
I have to admit – the server-side work was done for us by the client, so I can’t attest to the ease of installation/server configuration specific to WordPress MU’s requirements personally – although they told us it wasn’t that big of a deal. But I can attest to the ease of use of the WordPress MU system and setting up and configuring all 27 blog sites.
I can also attest to the usefulness of the plugins found on wpmudev.org and on premium.wpmudev.org – and although I had a few problems with some of the plugins I tried, I was either able to just not use them or find a workaround of some sort or another. And when I hit a few walls, the forums on premium.wpmudev.org are really reliable, or a google search seems to work as well.
A great side-effect of working on this project was that I found a few new favorite plugins, including:
and Widgets Reloaded
I also found Advanced Excerpt, which helped me solve an issue with allowing HTML markup in the_excerpt (thus allowing images and video to display in the_excerpt).
MU-specific plugins that rock include:
Remove Permalinks (in the Rebranding WordPress MU plugin pack)
Allow Embedded Videos
Admin Help Content (also in theRebranding WordPress MU plugin pack)
and the Sitewide Multi Widget
I also got a chance to write a very in-depth step-by-step guide (with screenshots) to adding media (images, galleries, embedded video, embedded audio and document downloads) and to some WordPress MU functions specific for our client’s admin. I can guarantee you that we’ll re-purpose that document for use with WordPress sites in the future.
Personally, I also got a lot of experience with the Thematic framework. I’ve been using the Sandbox framework with Blueprint CSS tacked on for awhile now, but I did find some limitations (couldn’t get the dropdown menu to work when adding a flash area below it, for instance). The Thematic framework has definitely opened my mind to new possibilities (I now know how to widgetize whatever area I want and override and add new functions, among many other things). Add in a dash of IE7-js, and Thematic is my new favorite WordPress framework for creating custom themes.
And although I couldn’t create child-themes on this project (due to one specific limitation imposed by a client-specific request and the code I nabbed from another free theme that conflicted/refused to work), I’m going to try that on upcoming projects.
This project had a VERY quick turnaround time, and we had to hustle to learn the quirks and differences between a WordPress.org and a WordPress MU setup. There are things I’d do differently in the future, and there is definitely room for improvement (especially when it comes to consistency between certain theme elements to make development run more smoothly), but given the timeframe, I’m very happy with the results. This was an exciting project from beginning to end (and my favorite web development project I’ve ever worked on), so I’m really itching to take on another WordPress MU challenge.