Configuring WordPress (Multisite) Settings

My WordPress Website
Just another WordPress site

Changing these two items – Site Title and Tagline, respectively – should be enough a motivation to adjust the Settings, which are often overlooked. Besides, beyond allowing some personalization, the Settings also cover important aspects of your website configuration.

“Wait, I thought you covered the Settings already!”
“Actually, those were the Network Settings, for the network as a whole, not the Settings for each site.”

Confused? Let me recap. After installing WordPress, I turned my regular installation into WordPress Multisite in order to operate several websites with a single WordPress installation (see Multiple installations vs WordPress Multisite?). As the Network Super Admin, I configured the Network Settings – an adventure in itself – before to add this blog to my network. Now, it is time to let the Network Admin dashboard and move to the “normal” dashboard(s) (while keeping my Super Admin hat, though).

Much as the Network Admin dashboard required some walk through, the “normal” dashboard doesn’t need a presentation1. So, let me jump directly to the Settings, which determine how your site behaves, how you interact with your site, and how the rest of the world interacts with your site2.

By default, it contains seven sub-menus, but plugins can add their own settings menu there as well. The wealth of options waiting for you to configure through theses seven screens may be discouraging, still each screen is described in details in articles accessible via the Help link (on the top right of the dashboard).

So, if the configuration process is relatively straightforward, what will this post be about? First, even though most options are self-explanatory, some would benefit from extra explanation. Second, few differences (when using a Multisite installation) are worth mentioning. Without further ado, let see how to configure the WordPress Settings.

General Settings

Out of the eight fields available in this screen, the first two are obviously the most exciting.


My WordPress Website
Just another
WordPress site


The making of CogitActive and beyond

Just to be clear, I will not cover each and every item. Yet, it is good to know that the address you enter [in Email Address] will never be displayed on the site2 and that the Site Language is actually the WordPress dashboard language2. Also, for the Timezone field, it is preferable to choose a city over the UTC timezone offset because of potential Daylight Saving Time issues.

“That’s it? What about the other fields? What about WordPress Address (URL), Site Address (URL), Membership, and New User Default Role?”
“As I said, there will be some differences compared to the dashboard of a ‘normal’ installation. These fields are not in this screen of a Multisite Installation since some items are managed at the network level.”

Writing Settings

Here also, there are some missing fields (as compared to a regular WordPress installation): both the Post via email and the Update Services sections are not available. The two fields remaining are Default Post Category and Default Post Format and the latter will not be present if the current activated theme does not support Post Formats.

Reading Settings

There is no missing field here. However, the (first) item – Your homepage displays – is present if and only if you have already published (publicly) at least a page. It makes sense that WordPress doesn’t offer you to choose between Your latest post and A static page if the latter does not exist. In that situation, it will simply default to displaying your most recent blog posts on the homepage.

As you may imagine, for this blog, I would have opted for Your latest post if WordPress would not have defaulted to it already. However, for my website, I set A Static page and picked a page (from the drop-down list) to be my Homepage. Of note, I didn’t choose any Posts page as I decided to have my blog and my website separate (see A domain-based or path-based network?). Nonetheless, if I end up publishing a post, it would not be displayed on a specific blog page, but would still be accessible via other navigation features.

The next three fields, which are relevant only if you publish posts, can be set as you please. Just keep in mind that opting for Summary instead of Full text can help save bandwidth.

As for Search Engine Visibility, I did check the option to Discourage search engines from indexing this site during the initial set up of both this blog and the website. Indeed, you may not want search engines to index an incomplete site. Just don’t forget to unchecked it!

Discussion Settings

This is where you set the options concerning comments. There are many options to consider, but luckily, most are well explained in the Settings Discussion Screen article from WordPress.

There is one omission, though: Show comments cookies opt-in checkbox, allowing comment author cookies to be set. This is the fourth option in the Other comment settings field and was added recently in relation to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). If you check it, WordPress will add a cookie consent checkbox to the Comment “Leave a Reply” form.

The cookies in question are:

  • comment_author_[hash]
  • comment_author_email_[hash]
  • comment_author_url_[hash]

Thanks to these cookies, when someone comments on a blog post, and comes back later, he or she will not have to fill the related information (Name, E-mail and Website) all over again. If I understand correctly, if you let this option unchecked, not only the cookie consent checkbox will not be displayed on the Comment form, but also these three cookies will be disabled (i.e. not stored).

Pingbacks and trackbacks

There has been an ongoing debate about the use of Pingbacks and/or Trackbacks. Despite drastically different communication technologies3, both are methods for alerting blogs that you have linked them. In theory, these tools sound great. Unfortunately, the downsides far outweigh the upsides.

There’s been a lot of controversy over the years as to whether using pingbacks and trackbacks is worth the downsides. These days, however, it’s widely recommended that you avoid both techniques.John Hughes

The spam factor (apparently, 99% of trackbacks/pingbacks turned out to be spams) is enough an incentive to disable these features, i.e. to uncheck the option Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new articles.

In fact, you’ll want to deselect the first two options4 – that is to uncheck Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article as well. Indeed, enabling this (pingback) option means that linking to your own posts (on your own site) will create what is called a self-ping; an annoying feature. Unchecking this first option, will disable pingbacks completely, including the self-pings. Besides, selecting one option and not the other would not be very neighborly3, according to WordPress.

Finally, keep in mind that since these options may be overridden for individual articles, all your old posts will still have trackbacks and pingbacks enabled.

Media Settings

Here, it is important to understand that when you upload an image, WordPress saves the original image and creates three additional copies of different sizes: thumbnail, medium and large. Hence, you don’t use unnecessary big files, resulting in faster load times. For this reason, some people recommend setting the medium size to about 50% of the theme width and the large size to the maximum width of the theme. Thus, your visitor’s browser will not have to resize the pictures.

While having multiple sizes available can be useful, those extra image files are however taking extra space on your server. If this is an issue, you can just change the width and high numbers to 0 and WordPress will stop producing these extra image files.

Last, you will notice that the Uploading Files field is not present in a Multisite installation.

Permalink Settings

I will not go into detail about this here since it has already been taken care of:

Privacy Settings

Oddly, this screen does not display the Help link and is not (yet) explained in the Administration Screens2. This is indeed a new tool, introduced with WordPress 4.9.6, concerning the GDPR. From here, you can select an existing Privacy Policy page or start building a new one. The tool will provide prompts and headers to kickstart the process.

The new page will include help and suggestions for your Privacy Policy. However, it is your responsibility to use those resources correctly, to provide the information that your Privacy Policy requires, and to keep that information current and accurate.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, it is not possible to set one Privacy Policy page for the entire network (see ticket #43821).

That is it. As long as you have clicked the Save Changes button on each screen, you are all set!

1 Yet, it will differ slightly from the one of a regular installation. In particular, some tasks, such as installing new plugins or themes, are no more accessible to the site administrators in a Multisite installation. Hence, the associated menus (e.g. Plugins) offer very limited options compared to their counterpart in a regular installation. ^
2 See the Settings – Configuration Settings section of the Administration Screens article and the articles for the various screens as well. ^
3 See Introduction to Blogging. ^
4 John Hughes (2018) WordPress Pingbacks and Trackbacks explained, plus why to disable them. Themeisle. ^

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