When I started my career as a web developer, we would use a text editor to write HTML in local files, and then use File Transfer Protocol to copy them to a web server on the internet, and then refresh the browser and wait for the changes to be visible.
We’ve come a long way since then. These days it’s becoming more and more common to run a web server right on your own computer, and not upload anything until the entire site is complete. I recently did a video series for OSTraining, "An Introduction To Local WordPress Development With LocalWP", which not only sets up a local web server, but also helps get WordPress itself setup and configured, as well as providing a number of other tools. Here’s some of what I covered.
It’s easier than it used to be
For years now it’s been possible to run the world’s leading web server software on your own computer, but it hasn’t always been easy. Not only has it gotten easier over time, we’re to the point where local hosting is being greatly extended to include other features.
For example, the video series covers a piece of software that not only installs the server environment, but also installs and configures WordPress for you, provides database tools, and even makes it possible for people on the internet to view your local web site.
Long gone are the days when you had to install each individual piece of the web server platform. These days it’s a single installer and everything works when you’re done.
You may be wondering why you would bother running a web server on your own computer. Here are just three.
Since the server is on your machine, when your browser requests a web page it doesn’t need to go out to the internet to get that page. It’s nearly instantaneous.
You don’t need an internet connection to build locally. This means you can work on an airplane, in an RV, or at a quiet coffee shop that doesn’t have WiFi. Working while offline can provide a great deal of focus, and freedom from distraction.
Many IDEs like PhpStorm can integrate with a local web server, and run debug tools that help resolve problems much more quickly. This can greatly improve both the quality of your code, but how quickly you can produce it.
What about when you’re done?
If you build a website on your own machine, what do you do when you’re done? At the bare minimum you could still use FTP to upload the files, and a database tool to copy the database, but I don’t recommend it. There are many “site moving” tools for WordPress, and many of them work great to copy your site from local to production.
Additionally, most local development tools like LocalWP and DesktopServer have built-in tools to help you copy your site to a production server.
If you’re interested in seeing a full demonstration of all the features in LocalWP check out the video series. The more I use local development, the more I love the power and flexibility it offers. I hope you find just as much benefit.