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Understanding Website Subdomains & Subfolders

Please read the dialogue

The dialogue below is between me (a novice – Ramesh Mehay and an expert Mariya).  It will help you understand the differences between subdomains and folders, how to set them up and what to be aware of.

What's is a subdomain/subfolder & when would I need one?

  • Ramesh Mehay: I’ve just read on the internet that if I have a good site, why would I create a forum or courses page on a separate website.   Instead, they suggest a subdomain or a root subfolder. 
  • Ramesh Mehay: But I want to install the forum or courses with a new theme… so I suppose I need a subdomain over a subfolder.  Does a subfolder still use the main website’s theme?
  • Mariya T.: For what you need, you can use both methods – subdomain or a subfolder and in both cases, you can have separate WordPress installations with a different theme, plugins, etc.
  • Mariya T.: The difference is that the subdomain would load as and the subfolder would load as
  • Mariya T.: also for the subdomains you have a bit more freedom when it comes to the dns – you can connect the subdomain to different servers, have email addresses for it
  • Mariya T.: for the subfolder, this is not possible – it will always follow the connection of the main domain
  • Mariya T.: this is why, I would recommend you to use a subdomain
  • Mariya T.: the wordpress installation on the subdomain is completely separate than the one for the main domain and any plug in/theme you want to use for it must be installed on the subdomain separately

Does it cost to have a subdomain/folder?

  • Ramesh Mehay: so unlike domains, i don’t have to pay my host (SiteGround) to create a subdomain?
  • Mariya T.: Absolutely – the subdomain is a part of the main domain you already have and there is no need to pay for it

How do I create a subdomain?

  • Ramesh Mehay: and how do i create a subdomain
  • Mariya T.: You can create it from your cpanel->domains section->subdomains
  • Ramesh Mehay: I’m just having a go now. where it says “what is the document root” do, i leave it blank or add public_html
  • Mariya T.: leave it blank – it will be automatically set

And how do I install WordPress?

  • Ramesh Mehay: and get WP to install automatically?
  • Mariya T.: Please, go to your cpanel->softaculous tool->wordpress->install button
  • Mariya T.: select the subdomain from the drop-down menu
  • Mariya T.: set username pass and email address for the logins and click on the install button
  • Ramesh Mehay: i always use username rammy
  • Ramesh Mehay: what do i put for “in directory” for the install – just leave it blank?
  • Mariya T.: just leave it blank
  • Ramesh Mehay: (for the WP access from say

What about wp-admin and FTP access?

  • Ramesh Mehay: to access it would be ;
  • Mariya T.: The site will be accessed from indeed
  • Ramesh Mehay:  but what about for FTP access, create new access via control panel to ? Is that about right
  • Mariya T.: create a new ftp account for it from the cpanel->ftp accounts tab

And what about SSL?

  • Ramesh: I take it, because it is kind of separate from the main site, I still have to set SSL independently?
  • Mariya T.:  Yes, absolutely right, set the ssl from the cpanel->lets encrypt tool
  • Ramesh Mehay: oh sugar, i forgot all about that. so everytime i create a new website or subdomain, i have to set up lets encrypt? why isn’t it an automated process as part of WP?
  • Mariya T.: The ssl install goes pretty much automatically but has to be initiated from the lets encrypt tool manually – this is because not all clients want to set ssl for their sites

Please leave a comment if you have a tip, spot an error, spot something missing or have a suggestion for a web resource. And of course, if you have developed a resource of your own, please email it to me to share with others.

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