I am heading up a project to use WordPress multi-site as a Content Management System (CMS) for faculty websites on campus. We have been running WordPress for our Blogs@UCI system since 2009 with great success.

The reason we are doing a different installation for faculty sites is that we want to do further customization and make it easier for faculty to get a website up quickly. WordPress is still by default a blogging system. It is possible and fairly easy to configure WordPress to function as a website, but we wanted to make that the default.

While free plugins and themes are plentiful, I couldn’t find anything that met our needs until I came across WPMU DEV. This site is devoted to WordPress Multi-site installations and had many plugins that would allow us to do what we needed with ease. The cost was very reasonable, but working at a California University during these bleak budget times made even the low cost a hurdle. We even joked about having a bake sale to raise the funds. I wrote up a project proposal and gave it to my director. She saw the value and the cost savings in going this route and we were able to fund an initial three months to try it out.

So far, it has proven a valuable investment. We are able to use not only the following plugins, but get some premium themes that will make our site look great.

Plugins We Find Useful

  • New Blog Template – This plugin has proven critical. I am now able to create a sample faculty web site with all the needed pages, widgets, etc. and then clone it. All the faculty member will have to do is edit the pages with his or her own content.
  • Domain Mapping – This plugin is also proven to be quite an asset. We have been able to use WordPress to host sites, yet have the domain map to a different URL that is custom to the site owner. We are already hosting a Faculty Lab site and have moved our own IT News site from a stand alone version of WordPress to our multi-site saving resources and time.
  • Blogs Directory – Currently we use a basic plugin that lists all public blogs. Now we will be able to customize our list further including searching across all sites/blogs.
  • Terms Of Service – Currently we have a disclaimer when people sign up for a blog. This will add a click through ensuring we have the person acknowledge our terms of service.
  • Admin Message and Tips – This plugin will allow us to send our site owners messages on their dashboard. We used to use blog entries and the Site RSS feed, but this seems to have been deprecated in WordPress 3.1. (By the way, this plugin is now free if you want to try it!)

I hope that we can continue to find the financial resources to continue this subscription. It has made our installations much more robust and my job a lot easier. We are able to use these plugins and will be using this awesome theme, WP-Nelo, as the theme for our main site.