When building a new WordPress website, it is best practice to do so on a development server (such as your local desktop machine), rather than on a live web server. For seasoned developers there are numerous tools, plugins and scripts to employ for building, deploying and testing WordPress installations — but for the less technically savvy it can be a bit tricky.
There are a few reasons why developing on a local server is best, which we’ll briefly cover.
Firstly, working on a local machine is going to be a lot faster, and editing your theme files is going to be much easier, as you won’t need to upload to your server each time you make an edit — as you’re working directly on the server any changes are active as soon as you save the file. Secondly, when you’re working on your local machine there’s no chance that any search engines are going to inadvertently index your site before your site is ready to “go live”. Thirdly, you probably don’t want to build your site under your live domain name — you might have a site already running or maybe you’ve set up a holding page, so you’ll need some other domain to use for development. It’s pretty straight forward to set up a subdomain and build your site there, but again — some users find this difficult.
Setting up a local development server can be a bit complicated and many WordPress users simply find it too difficult. For quite some time we have recommended the XAMPP server software, which includes all the server software you need to run WordPress on your local machine. The install is pretty straight forward, and there’s even an add-on module for you to install a fresh copy of WordPress (courtesy of Bitnami.com) onto the server once it’s set up. However, some users still find installing and using XAMPP a bit too daunting.
Instant WordPress is a Windows application that aims to make running WordPress on your local machine as easy as possible. From the Instant WordPress website:
Instant WordPress is a complete standalone, portable WordPress development environment. It turns any Windows machine into a WordPress development server. It will even run from a USB key*.
Install and set up of Instant WordPress is about as simple as it could possibly be, there are easy to follow instructions so you’ll be running WordPress in no time. Instant WordPress only works on Windows, so if you’re on Mac then XAMPP is still your best option.
The next question that usually comes up is: How do I move my site from my local machine to my live web server, once it’s ready to go?
Again, there are many different options available to migrate your site to your live server, and many users already have a favourite. If migrating WordPress is new to you, here are our suggested options.
- BackupBuddy — this WordPress plugin is easy to use and offers robust backup and migration tools. It is a paid, premium plugin however.
- WP Migrate DB — assuming you’ve already copied your WordPress files up to your live server, all you need to do is migrate the database. WP Migrate DB is one of the best tools available to accomplish this task. There is also a paid ‘Pro’ version with some extra features. If you do lots of migrations, WP Migrate DB is an indispensable tool.
There are loads of other excellent WordPress plugins to help you backup and migrate your WordPress website, and there’s no doubt we are omitting many favourites that you may already know about, but they all essentially do the same thing. Rather than overwhelm you with options, we have decided to list just two of our favourites which we have a lot of direct experience with.
* For the XAMPP fans out there — yes, you can run XAMPP from a USB key or portable drive too. Note that the PortableApps version of XAMPP hasn’t been updated in a while, so if you want the latest and greatest, grab the installer from the XAMPP site.
If you’re a WP NET hosting customer, check out our KnowledgeBase for other helpful articles on developing and migrating WordPress installations.