Are you are interested in WordPress development but are not ready to practice your skills on a live version of a WordPress website? Your fear is justified. It’s better to practice your skills offline before you are ready to go live, as you’ll avoid making disastrous mistakes.
Don’t worry, you can go from zero to hero locally, as WordPress is really easy to configure and launch on a local server. Stay with us as we go over the best practices of local WordPress development for beginners one step at a time.
Install Local Server
Before you can start working on your WordPress skills, you will have to install a local server as WordPress needs it to run. Setting one up on your computer is really easy. You should also know that WordPress requires PHP and MySQL to work.
For the last couple of years, my go-to option is XAMPP – Cross-platform, Apache, MariaDB, PHP, Perl. This software is very easy to install and use. More importantly, it contains everything WordPress needs to run. XAMPP is also a convenient choice because it can run on Linux, Mac, and Windows computers.
After you download and install it, you will have to start it. Once the XAMPP is up, you will get access to the control panel. If the OS firewall asks you for permissions, make sure to allow XAMPP or otherwise it won’t work at all. Start the Apache and MySQL services by clicking the Start button.
To make sure everything works as intended, open your favorite internet browser and type in http://localhost. If you are able to see the following screen, you’ve done a marvelous job.
Install WordPress Locally
Now that you have a local server up and running, you should install WordPress. The process is quite similar to the one when you are installing it on a live web server. This time WordPress won’t be on a remote server but on your own hard drive.
Start by creating a database for your WordPress installation. Enter http://localhost/phpmyadmin, create a database, user, and password. Download the latest version of WordPress, create a new directory inside the XAMPP htdocs folder.
Unpack the WordPress archive to the folder you’ve created. To start setting up WordPress, type http:/localhost/yourdirectoryname inside your browser. There you go, you have a WordPress website running on your local server.
Choosing and setting up a Theme
As you might already know, WordPress is very attractive because it allows users to apply different themes to their websites. You can either go with a free or paid theme, that’s entirely up to you, as long as it’s built according to the latest essential web design trends. After you pick a theme, download it and access your WordPress Admin dashboard – http://localhost/yourdirectoryname.
On the left side, you will see “Appearance”, click on it, select “Themes” and click on “Add New”. At the top of the screen, there is an “Upload” option. Click on the “Browse” button, navigate to the folder where your downloaded theme is and select the theme file.
Since you are going to play with your new theme, it’s a good time to extend your WP knowledge and learn what WordPress Child themes are. By creating a child WordPress theme, you will be able to update your theme safely without losing any customizations you’ve done so far.
Not to mention the risk of messing things up when you are editing the parent theme directly. With a child theme, you can play as long as you want. Quite a neat option for young developers!
WordPress plugins are the next thing that should interest you. Don’t worry, you will have time to pick your favorite choices. For a start, you should know that plugins can extend the functionality of your WordPress dashboard, offer you more control over specific aspects of your website, and even improve your standing in the search engine results pages.
The first thing you want to make sure is to only go with plugins that support your current version of WordPress. The most popular WordPress plugins are regularly updated, so you won’t have to worry about whether they will be supported for the years to come. However, you should be mindful of those that are not too popular, as they might become discontinued, causing you all sorts of problems.
Since you are going to play with WordPress while you learn, we suggest that you install any of the free backup plugins so that you can restore your website to a previous stable and working version should you hit a wall.
There you have it. You have a local server up and running, a working WordPress website, a theme, and plugins to experiment with. When you start feeling comfortable in your new WordPress developer role, you can move WordPress from a local server to a live site.