A nice Wordpress development setup

I've been doing quite a few Wordpress sites for people lately, so I spent some time making sure I my development setup is still good to go. I'm mostly writing this for my own documentation, but maybe there's some useful bits in here for you, too.

This setup is all command line based, but once you get used to it's much nicer than the XAMPP-based workflow I had before.


All my projects run on VVV, which (as far as I understand) is a wrapper around Vagrant and Virtualbox. You install those two first, then pull down the VVV repo following these instructions. Once that's done, you can run

vagrant up

which spins up a virtual machine with a special Unix version that has all the stuff Wordpress needs to function - PHP, MySQL and whatever else. Updating VVV can be a bit finicky.

To start a new Wordpress project, you open the vvv-custom.yml file and add an entry like this:

    repo: https://github.com/Varying-Vagrant-Vagrants/custom-site-template.git
    site_title: "My Cool Website"
        - my-cool-site.test

The documentation goes into more detail on this. Then you run vagrant up --provision, which goes through your vvv-custom.yml file and sets up a fresh Wordpress install for each site you've configured.

The default domain extension used to be .dev, but apparently Google has bought that, which leads to all sorts of problems. I have a bunch of sites still configured to .dev domains, but it looks like the migration is non-trivial. So I'm going to leave my existing sites for now until something breaks.


I use Grunt Browsersync so I don't have to refresh the page when I'm working (it also does CSS injection and other neat things). You can point it to the VVV domain in your gruntfile.js using the proxy option:

browserSync: {
    dev: {
        bsFiles: {
            src : 'assets/css/style.css'
        options: {
            proxy: "my-cool-site.test"

Works like a charm.

Updating Wordpress using WP-CLI

Another neat thing you can do is update plugins, themes and Wordpress itself right from the command line using WP-CLI. That feels much nicer to me than clicking around the Wordpress admin.

The first thing you need to do is ssh into your virtual machine:

vagrant ssh

On my Windows machine I have to do this in Git Bash because that comes with an SSH client. Then you cd into the folder that belongs to whichever site you're working on:

cd srv/www/my-cool-site/

Then you can run this and walk away while your site updates itself:

wp core update ; wp plugin update --all; wp theme update --all

How nice is that. WP-CLI has a lot more options to make finer-grained changes if you need to.

Installing plugins with WP-CLI

wp plugin install custom-post-type-ui --activate
wp plugin install timber-library --activate
wp theme install https://github.com/timber/starter-theme/archive/master.zip
wp theme activate starter-theme