Easier is not quite right either. Some of the things I have been able to do with WordPress MU would not be possible without the plugins and support of the folks at WPMU DEV.
What is WordPress MU and What is WPMU DEV?
WordPress has become a well known name as one of the best (the best in my opinion) Content Management System available. It allows any site from a simple bog or basic five page site, up to the most complicated site you could imagine to be easily edited by anyone without any knowledge of HTML.
WordPress MU means WordPress Multi-User. It is essentially the software that runs WordPress.com and was developed to allow an entire network of sites. User can visit a WordPress MU site and get there own site by just signing up. No installation, no hosting to worry about, etc.
It has been a branch of WordPress for the last few years – not as well known, not as well documented and not as well supported. One of the only places providing real support has been WPMU DEV. They provide a number of free plugins, as well as a premium membership with some really essential tools for any MU site.
How I Have Improved MU with Premium Plugins
While not officially announced yet, if you read my post about SEO Image Galleries or follow me on Twitter, you may have heard of a major side project I have been developing for some time now – PhotographyBlogSites.com – which was built using WordPress MU as a means to make it easier for photographers to simply sign up and get a new site.
As one of the only sources of reliable MU plugins, I have made use of many of the close to 100 plugins avaialble on the WPMU DEV site. I want to point out a few of my favorites, without which PhotographyBlogSites would not be possible.
New Blog Template
This plugin makes it possible to make an exact copy of any blog and give it to new users. This way, instead of an empty default WordPress site, the new users has the chosen theme, settings, even pages, posts, categories, etc. All in place. It saves you the time of deleting the placeholder content, adding the standard pages, fixing the settings, etc.
This one is absoultely crucial. It allows users to use their own domain name. Without it, they would have something like marty.photographyblogsites.com – similar to the free sites you get at WordPress.com or Blogger. But if you are running a serious business site, you want your domain.
If you think spam comments are bad, try running a site where spammers can create entire sites and usernames through a contact form. One of the toughest aspects of running WordPress MU is dealing with the spam blogs or splogs. This plugin does a great job of preventing those fake sites. In turn, it saves database space and bandwidth for the legitimate users.
These are just three of the developer end plugins I have made use of. I will be doing a post on the PhotographyBlogSites blog about a few that make the user experience better.
As a disclaimer, this is a post I put together as an entry for a contest (http://wpmu.org/100-plugins-wpmu-dev-giveaway-time) where they are giving away a free annual membership ($419). While that would be great, I am currently a paid member and have been meaning to write a post about them anyway. If you are developing a WordPress MU site, definitely check them out.