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WordPress Multisite Manage Themes

In WordPress Multisite everything is different because the Network Admin's account has super admin privileges.

Network Admin delegates privileges and resources across the multisite network.

In this article we will show you how to manage WordPress Multisite themes.

The Test Multisite Network consists of three sites and all sites share the same theme:

wordpress multisite themes

wordpress multisite themes

There are two added users with different roles:

  • newadmin - administrator in site Two
  • newauthor - author in site Three

wordpress multisite themes

Click My Sites > Network Admin > Themes:

wordpress multisite themes

to see all installed themes:

wordpress multisite themes

Click Add New button.

The Add Theme screen loads many templates that can be sorted by different filters.

In the top left corner we see the only installed theme whose design makes it easy to distinguish from other themes.

We want to download two new themes for our Two and Three sites.

We can use search box to get all themes containing a keyword – in our case we search for twenty because we want to choose between WordPress's default themes.

wordpress multisite themes

When you find an appropriate theme, roll over with the mouse and click the Install button:

wordpress multisite themes

After installation, the theme is marked as installed and a new Network Enable button appears. If we click on this button, the theme will be enabled on the network.

We will not activate the theme for the moment because we also want to show you another way to enable newly installed themes.

wordpress multisite themes

We repeat above steps installing one more theme.

Click Themes again - the two new themes are added to the list of installed themes.

wordpress multisite themes

Enable themes across network

There are two ways to enable the new themes in Theme screen:

  1. by clicking on each Network Enable link
  2. by checking the box next to the theme name, selecting Network Enable option from the drop-down menu and clicking Apply button

wordpress multisite themes

wordpress multisite themes

Let's log in to site Two dashboard and check if the enabled themes are available for activation because our goal is to activate new themes for sites Two and Three.

wordpress multisite themes

wordpress multisite themes

wordpress multisite themes

The new themes have been successfully enabled and can be activated.

We are logged in as Network Admin, but it is recommended each site to have a separate user with an administrator role to manage the site's functionalities and resources.

So log out from the Network Admin (multiadmin) account and log in with newadmin user account:

wordpress multisite themes

This user newadmin is added to site Two only with the role of administrator.

Click Appearance > Themes:

wordpress multisite themes

Activate new theme:

wordpress multisite themes

Notice, that in the theme screen there is not Add New Theme neither button nor link.

Only network admin can download and enable/disable themes on the network.

Site administrators can choose which of the enabled themes to activate.

Let's log out from newadmin account and log in with our third user newauthor which is added to site Three with role of author.

This user has access only to content publishing tools in WordPress without access to themes and plugins screens.

wordpress multisite themes

You can change site Three theme if:

  • Change the role of newauthor user from author to administrator – this change can be made only from the network admin account.
  • The network admin can add another user with administrator role to site Three to manage the themes.

We return to the network admin account and activate a new theme:

wordpress multisite themes

Enable site specific themes

Themes can be enabled on a site by site basis by the network admin on the Edit Site screen.

This functionality will only work for disabled themes - network enabled themes are not shown on this screen.

Let's disable all themes on the network from My Sites > Network Admin > Themes:

wordpress multisite themes

Click My Sites > Network Admin > Sites:

wordpress multisite themes

Hover over URL and click Edit link:

wordpress multisite themes

Click Themes tab:

wordpress multisite themes

From this screen the network admin can distribute themes for each individual site – in this case for site Three.

wordpress multisite themes

Let's enable the available themes following this scheme:

  • site One - all three themes
  • site Two - 2011 and 2017 themes
  • site Three – only 2013 theme

If we check Appearance > Themes for each individual site we'll find:

wordpress multisite themes

wordpress multisite themes

wordpress multisite themes

Let's network enable all themes again from My Sites > Network Admin > Themes:

Disable an active theme

Let's disable the installed theme 2011 and visit the site (Two) where the theme has been active:

wordpress multisite themes

We log in site Two and find all themes available in Appearance > Themes:

wordpress multisite themes

We log in site Three – the disabled theme 2011 is not available.

wordpress multisite themes

We get back to the site Two dashboard and activate different theme 2017:

wordpress multisite themes

Right after new theme activation the disabled theme 2011 disappeared from Themes screen.

Disable and Delete an active theme

What happens if we disable and also delete an installed theme:

wordpress multisite themes

Let's visit site Three – white screen with error message:

wordpress multisite themes

A brief summary of everything that has been said so far

  • Only network admin can download and install new themes
  • Network admin can enable all themes across the network or to enable specific themes on per site basis
  • User with administrator role can only activate one from the already enabled themes
  • If the network admin disables a theme that is in use, it can still remain selected on that site.
  • If the network admin disables and deletes a theme that is in use, the site will show an error message.

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