One of my personality traits that drive people absolutely crazy is that I am never satisfied with anything. If I am building something like a website, I may like the end result but a couple of days later I will look at it, hate the sight of it, and nuke the whole lot.
Let’s just say that my website has seen many incarnations and many Lego models have been unceremoniously smashed to pieces.
But since I use my WordPress website as a business tool, having so much disruption can actually hurt the bottom line. Customers will get turned off with constant “work in progress” signs and it looks unprofessional to have text and images moving around the screen in real-time.
That’s why you need to do all of your changes in a local Wordpress installation first before anything goes live.
What Is a Local Wordpress Installation?
A local installation is when you install the software – in this case WordPress – on your computer instead of a live server. You can then install themes, plugins, and tinker with the code, while your actual site remains unchanged to the public.
Then when you have what you think you need, you can upload the whole new site to your website server. Or if the changes are minor – such as a new theme – you can simply duplicate on the live server what you just did on the local installation.
Usually installing WordPress to your computer can be a complicated affair with MySQL databases, Apache, and then installing and connecting WordPress. But a website called ServerPress has a piece of cross-platform software called DesktopServer which turns the whole process into an amazingly easy click-click-click.
The free edition is limited while the paid $100 edition has a few more bells and whistles. Before we proceed, I should point out that uploading local installations to a live server will require paying for the paid edition.
You can see the feature differences between the two versions here. But for the purposes of tinkering around and testing new plugins and themes, the free version is more than sufficient.
Set Up DesktopServer
The first step is to go here, scroll down to the very bottom, and click the blue download button for the version you want.
Now install the software as usual. This will take a while so don’t get discouraged.
When it is finished, start it up. It will then ask you to restart the software with Administrator privileges. Go ahead and do that.
It will then inform you that Apache and MySQL are not running and need to be started. It will do it for you if you choose the option and click “Next”.
Now everything should be up and running. To create a new locally installed WordPress site, choose “Create a new development site”.
Type in the name of your desired test site, as well as the version of WordPress you want to install (the latest one is obviously best). The “site root” is the location on your computer where the site will be installed.
Now click “Create” to give birth to your test site.
I feel I need to take a moment to explain the whole “dev.cc” domain name thing because that makes it sound as if your site will be online. It isn’t. As the screenshot above explains, having it on a web domain simply allows you to view your test site in your web browser.
But nobody else can access it on another computer because the domain name is restricted. Just go to markoneill.dev.cc in your browser and you will see for yourself.
So after clicking “Create”, the necessary databases and files will be installed on your computer.
You are then given a link to complete the installation. Click on that.
Now you will be asked for a site title, username, password, and your email. Once it has all that, click “Install WordPress”.
And bingo, lo and behold, is your sparkly new WordPress site on your computer.
Being a fully functional WordPress website, you can import in settings from your live site, such as your theme, plugins, code, the whole lot. Then begin tweaking what you want, without running the risk of annoying anyone who might be visiting your site.