WordPress is full of exciting and interesting options to tailor your site to your needs. You can install plugins, change the theme, and dive deeply into the code of the site if you have the skills, truly making it your own environment.
But what happens if one of those changes goes awry, and you mess up your live, public site?
A local WordPress development environment ensures that any changes you make are tested before they hit the screens of the rest of the world.
Whether you are a new developer or experienced in this area, having the right setup and good tools on hand for your local environment makes all the difference between having an effective place to test new features and accidentally destroying your live site.
Why Develop Locally?
When you develop locally, you are creating a copy of your WordPress site to access on your local hard drive. This lets you test any themes, plugins, or combinations of these options to make sure they play nicely before you hit the publish button.
Not every item or tool developed for WordPress is compatible with the rest. Sometimes, code is in rough shape from the start, rendering your update or new plugin trial useless. Even updating your WordPress site or its components can be risky if you are doing it live. Testing this out on a local copy of the site prevents a lot of headaches in the event that an update doesn’t hit the mark.
Local development is also ideal for working offline, and working quickly when you want to make changes. Whether you are taking advantage of the fast workflow and load time of a site that doesn’t depend on an online connection, or you simply don’t have access at a particular time, there are advantages to working with a local copy.
Your development environment mirrors your actual live site, so it’s like working with the real thing, only safer.
Options for Local Development
To run your local development copy, you will need a server for your WordPress site, running from your own computer. There are tools that can do this for you easily, some of which are set up with everything you need all in one platform. Some people choose to use a virtual environment instead of a physically local server. The choice is yours, depending on your budget, your needs, and your plans.
To edit the code, use an integrated development environment (IDE) or a text editor. Your choice here often depends on your skill and comfort level with coding.
Those who are experienced coders and developers likely already have a favored platform. Those starting from scratch may need to try a few options to find the right fit. Common choices include PHPStorm, Atom, and Visual Studio Code, which come with development add-ons designed to make coding for WordPress as easy as possible.
Browser development tools are another consideration. They come with most modern internet browsers. These tools let WordPress developers test and debug sites and code through the browser itself. Again, this makes it easy to access and adjust settings without having to go digging.
Spotlight: Local by Flywheel
Local by Flywheel is one of those popular tools for WordPress local development. It offers a fast and simple way to install Wordpress locally.
Its one-click install option takes the work of installation out of a user’s hands, managing all of the details and technical aspects of installation. Security features and support, a commitment to speed, and the ability to share demo URLs take this tool up a notch even further.
If you are handling multiple WordPress sites, that’s not a problem. Local by Flywheel allows users to not only manager multiple local installs, but it also keeps them together in a single dashboard for easy access.
And, best yet, it’s a free standard program, with one-click deployment to Flywheel’s hosting platform. While developers do not need to be Flywheel clients to make this tool work well, those who are can move from coding to deployment in a matter of clicks.
Planning Ahead for Greater Success
It may be tempting to try making a few small changes to your WordPress site without going through the effort of local development and testing. Most of us know, however, how frustrating it is to have to retrace our steps and figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, all with the clock ticking on a site outage.
Save yourself the headache. Plan for greater success by developing locally before you take your WordPress site and its changes live.