If you have a WordPress blog or website, be careful when installing plugins and themes, they can cause problems. Test them by running WordPress on your Windows PC or Apple Mac computer.
Running WordPress on your computer enables you to try new plugins, tweaks and coding in a safe environment. It does not matter if they don’t work, or if it takes hours to configure them. A test site on your computer can only be seen by you. It is much better and safer than trying things on a live website with real visitors or even customers buying goods.
You can try that plugin you heard was good or was mentioned in a forum or on social media on your local copy of WordPress. You can try one you think may be useful, but you are not 100% sure about. If a plugin has not yet been tested on your version of WordPress, you can try it and see.
Do you cross your fingers and hope for the best when updates for plugins are installed? What if something goes wrong? Test updates on a local version of WordPress and see if everything is OK.
If you are not sure what theme to use on your website or blog, run WordPress locally and you can try as many as you like in a test site on your computer. Hands-on with a new theme before you install it on a real live website is an invaluable experience.
If you want to learn to use WordPress, customize the settings or even create your own themes and plugins, a test site is essential. Don’t experiment on a real website.
Which is best, Divi or Elementor? Try them on a test site. Will PHP 8.0 work with your plugins and themes? Try them on a test site. Want to build a new site? Create it on your computer then move it to a real web host when it is finished using a plugin for moving sites.
There are several ways to set up a test website and a staging site could be used if your web host provides this feature. There are also apps that enable you to run WordPress on Windows or macOS. I looked at Local by Flywheel here and that is a great app, but this time I will look at an alternative.
Install DevKinsta and run WordPress
DevKinsta enables you to run WordPress on your PC or Mac. Kinsta is a web hosting company that offers WordPress hosting and this utility can be used with Kinsta hosting. However, it is free and it can be used by anyone and you don’t need a Kinsta account. DevKinsta can be installed and used on your computer no matter who your hosting company is, although there are extra features for Kinsta.
Go to the website, download it and install it. I tried it on macOS, but there is a Windows version. It takes a long time to install because it downloads extra components from the web, so make sure you have the time. Several minutes later, you should be able to start DevKinsta.
Create a WordPress website
The home screen offers three options, New WordPress site, Import from Kinsta, and Custom site. The easiest way to get started is to click New WordPress site. The information required is minimal, just enter the website title and think of a username and password. The site is then created.
If you use Kinsta for web hosting, the option to import your site is useful and it means you have an exact copy on your computer, which is great for testing and development. You don’t have to have a Kinsa account though. The Custom site option provides a few extras that are not in the New WordPress site option, such as choosing the version of PHP like 7.x to 8.x, database name and multi-site option.
An information panel appears when you create a website or open an existing one and there is a switch to enable or disable https. Scroll up and there is another switch to enable wp_debug, but that is mostly for theme and plugin developers.
Buttons across the top enable the site to be opened in the default web browser, pushed to staging (only for Kinsta), access a database manager that enables import, export and other advanced features, and WP Admin, which opens a browser to log into the WordPress admin back end.
The WordPress site works just like it does on the web and there is no difference. You can customize it, install plugins and themes, create posts and pages and so on. It is very useful for learning, testing and development.
The DevKinsta app supports email so that if your site emails you, such as when someone leaves a comment, or uses a form, you can check that it works. Open the site’s email inbox in DevKinsta and you can see and read the emails. This is useful when checking if forms like contact forms work on your site.
It is good, it works well and it has some useful features for people with Kinsta hosting accounts. If I was a Kinsta customer, I would definitely use the facility to download my site, customize it and upload it to staging. However, I prefer Local for running WordPress on my computer.
DevKinsta uses Docker and this makes it a more complicated than Local. Wikipedia says: “Docker is a set of platform as a service (PaaS) products that use OS-level virtualization to deliver software in packages called containers.” See what I mean?
Local hides whatever it is doing to run WordPress whereas DevKinsta puts Docker in front of you. On the Mac for example, it adds a menu bar icon which displays a menu when clicked with its own preferences, updates, troubleshooting and so on.
DevKinsta and Docker also use more system resources, mainly memory. With a website up and running on my computer, RAM usage is around 68% to 70% with DevKinsta and only 48% to 50% with Local. CPU usage seems more too, but only slightly. It runs fine on my Mac with 8 GB of RAM, so long as I am not doing much else, but I recommend 16 GB if you want to run other apps at the same time, like Photoshop for example. It won’t bother you if you have a high spec computer.