Setting up an efficient WordPress Development Environment is no easy task. It is possibly the most important thing you can do to make your development process robust and maintainable. So lets not neglect it and get started building the perfect setup.
Tools of the Trade
No matter what your process is, the first thing that you need to settle on is how you are going to run your WordPress install locally. Why run locally? Well, only complete amateurs work on a live website. WordPress Development is pretty easy to learn but you can also make some pretty big mistakes fairly easily. You can work on the live site if you want but WHEN, (not IF but WHEN), you totally hose the site beyond repair, you can come back to this article and do it the right way. So go ahead and bookmark this page for future reference…go ahead…I’ll wait.
Seriously, though. Even if you have a solid backup in place, if you hose the live site it will be down for a minimum of an hour. A website that is down is a bad thing, (understatement of the century). You can potentially lose a customer forever. If they search “Bob’s Flower Emporium” and click on the link to your site and it is down, they may never come back.
This isn’t such a big deal if you are building a new site that has no traffic yet but as they say in sports, “You play how you practice“, meaning that if you work on a live site before it is live then you won’t know this process I’m about to teach you to edit the site when the website is live with thousands of hits per day.
Working locally has the added benefit that you don’t need an internet connection. So if you are at that coffee shop trying to knock out a few pages and the wifi is slow or down, you can keep working.
Here are the local environments that I recommend:
- AMPPS – This has been my goto local WP environment. It’s free, robust, and easy to use. I did a video about it on YouTube.
- Local by Flywheel – I’ve been looking at this one lately and I think eventually I’ll switch to using it. Its free, easy to use, has some nice features, (like local SSL certificates)
- MAMP – MAMP is on that a lot of developers use. I believe it’s not currently in active development. I never really liked it, it was clunky and never seemed to work flawlessly. If you have been using MAMP for years then by all means, continue to use it. If you are just starting out you should probably choose one of the first two.
Next we need to move on to the IDE or Integrated Development Environment. You may also hear the term “Code Editor”. They are similar concepts but there are subtle differences between them that I will cover now.
IDEs and Code Editors
WordPress Development doesn’t require the latest and greatest IDE on the market. My preferred IDE is PHPStorm from JetBrains, but really any code editor will do.