Local vs. Server Website Development
There are lot of opinions on what constitutes the “best” environment for website development. The two main choices are local development or server development. So what does that mean? And why would one be better than the other?
Server development is just that — developing your website on a remote server. Developing on your live website — that’s a no-no. It’s called cowboy coding and is definitely not a best practice. (Confession time: everybody still does it a little.) A better alternative is to have a development site set up on your web server. Oftentimes it’s done either through a subdomain or a subdirectory tied to the main site — meaning, if your URL is www.mysite.com then dev.mysite.com or www.mysite.com/dev/ are possible places to park your playground.
One pro of server development is that it is in the same environment that the site will be deployed on eventually. Each server can be set up slightly differently and occasionally something that works just fine in one environment can break when moved to the final server. Developing right on that server precludes this last-minute mishap.
Another pro of server development is that it’s visible to other people. If you need feedback from clients, customers, team members, or family you’ll have to get your under-development site on a server so they can take a peek. You can use something like the Ultimate Coming Soon Page plugin to keep it under wraps until it’s ready.
Many developers swear by local development. It can be much faster as there’s no network connection speeds to slow you down plus you have direct access to the files as needed. Being able to work offline allows for developing on the go too, such as places like airplanes and the passenger seats of cars. And there are times when it is preferable to NOT have your site on a server. Whether for security reasons or just because you’re doing some funky stuff, sometimes it’s better to limit the exposure. There are many tools available, such as MAMP, LAMP, WAMP, and XAMPP to set up your computer to do local development, and there are many tutorials across the web to help you get set up.
What’s the right environment for your development? Like many things, the answer is “it depends.”