Local WordPress Development Environment in MacOS with Docker

Are you looking to know how a local WordPress development environment works on MacOS with Docker? Look no further; here in this article, you’ll learn how the local setup works with WordPress using Docker technology.

Setting up a local development environment for WordPress on MacOS using Docker is a powerful way to streamline your development process. Docker allows you to create isolated containers for your applications, ensuring a consistent environment across different stages of development.

By using Docker, you can easily replicate your local machine’s production environment, which helps identify and fix issues early in the development cycle. This blog will guide you through the steps to set up a local WordPress development environment using Docker on macOS, leveraging the power of Docker Compose to manage multi-container applications.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced developer, this blog will guide you in creating a robust and scalable development environment. By the end of this blog, you’ll have a complete local WordPress setup running on Docker, enabling you to confidently develop, test, and deploy WordPress sites.

What is a Docker, and how does it work?

Docker is an open-source platform that enables developers to automate the deployment, scaling, and management of applications using containerization. Containers are lightweight, standalone, and executable packages that include everything needed to run a piece of software, including the code, runtime, libraries, and system tools. This ensures that the application runs consistently across different environments.

To understand Docker’s functionality, it’s essential to look at its core components and concepts. Here’s a breakdown of how Docker operates:

  • Containers: At the core of Docker is the concept of containers. Containers package an application and its dependencies together, ensuring that it runs the same regardless of where it is deployed. This eliminates the “it works on my machine” problem.
  • Docker engine: Docker Engine is the runtime that manages containers. It allows you to build, run, and manage containers on your host operating system.
  • Docker images: Docker images are read-only templates used to create containers. They contain the application code, libraries, and dependencies needed to run the application. Images are stored in repositories such as Docker Hub.
  • Dockerfile: A Dockerfile is a script that contains a series of commands to assemble a Docker image. It specifies the base image, application code, environment variables, and other configurations needed to build the image.
  • Docker compose: Docker Compose is a tool that allows you to define and manage multi-container Docker applications. Using a docker-compose.yml file, you can specify the services, networks, and volumes that your application requires, simplifying the management of complex applications.

By using Docker, developers can create a consistent development environment that mirrors production, making it easier to develop, test, and deploy applications efficiently.

You can also read the details of Docker-based server management

Advantages of using Docker for WordPress development

Leveraging Docker for WordPress development provides a multitude of benefits that can significantly improve efficiency and productivity. Docker’s containerization technology offers a consistent and isolated environment for your development, ensuring that your applications run seamlessly across different stages of the development lifecycle.

Here are the key advantages:

  • Consistency across environments: Docker ensures that your development, staging, and production environments are identical. This eliminates the common “it works on my machine” problem, making it easier to debug and deploy applications.
  • Simplified setup and maintenance: Docker simplifies the setup of your WordPress environment. With Docker Compose, you can define and manage multi-container applications with a single configuration file, reducing the time and effort required to set up and maintain your development environment.
  • Isolation of services: Each service in your application runs in its container, isolated from the others. This isolation prevents conflicts between different services and their dependencies, ensuring a more stable and reliable development environment.
  • Portability: Docker containers can run on any system that supports Docker, providing a portable environment that can be easily moved between different machines or servers. This portability ensures that your development environment can be replicated across various platforms without compatibility issues.
  • Scalability: Docker makes it easy to scale your applications. You can quickly spin up additional containers to handle the increased load, ensuring that your WordPress site can scale efficiently as traffic grows.
  • Resource efficiency: Docker containers are lightweight and use fewer resources compared to traditional virtual machines. This efficiency allows you to run more containers on the same hardware, optimizing resource usage and reducing costs.

By incorporating Docker into your WordPress development workflow, you can achieve a more consistent, portable, and efficient development environment that simplifies setup, enhances scalability, and improves resource utilization.

Prerequisites for local WordPress development environment in macOS with Docker

Before we start, make sure you have the following:

  • macOS 10.15 (Catalina) or later
  • Docker Desktop for Mac installed
  • Basic knowledge of terminal commands

Local WordPress development environment in macOS with Docker: step-by-step

Creating a local WordPress development environment on macOS using Docker streamlines your workflow and ensures consistency across different stages of development.

Follow these steps to set up your environment efficiently:

  1. Install Docker
  2. Create a Docker compose file
  3. Run the Docker compose file
  4. Access WordPress
  5. Configure WordPress
  6. Update and manage

Step one: install Docker

First, you need to install Docker Desktop for Mac. This will allow you to run Docker containers on your macOS.

  • Download Docker desktop: Visit the Docker website and download Docker Desktop for Mac.
  • Install Docker desktop: Follow the installation instructions provided on the website. Open the downloaded file and drag the Docker icon to your Applications folder.
  • Run Docker desktop: Open Docker Desktop from your Applications folder. Docker will start and run in the background. You can verify the installation by opening a terminal and typing:

Docker Version

Step two: create a Docker compose file

Docker Compose is a tool for defining and running multi-container Docker applications. We will use it to set up our WordPress environment.

  • Create a project directory: Open your terminal and create a new directory for your project:

Create A New Directory For Project

  • Create ‘docker-compose.yml’: Inside your project directory, create a ‘docker-compose.yml’ file with the following content:

Docker Compose yml

Step three: Run the Docker compose file (starting the WordPress environment)

With Docker Compose, you can start all the services defined in your docker-compose.yml file with a single command.

  • Start Docker containers: In your terminal, run:

Start Docker Containers

The ‘-d’ flag runs the containers in detached mode, allowing you to continue using your terminal.

  • Verify the containers: Check if the containers are running with:

Verify Containers

Step four: access WordPress

Now that your containers are running, you can access your WordPress site.

  • Open browser: Open your web browser and navigate to ‘http://localhost:8000’. You will see the WordPress installation screen.

Step five: configure WordPress

Follow the prompts on the WordPress installation screen to set up your site.

  • Language selection: Choose your preferred language.
  • Site configuration: Enter your site title, admin username, password, and email address. Click “Install WordPress” to complete the setup.

Step six: update and manage

After setting up WordPress, you can manage and update your local development environment as needed.

  • Stop containers: To stop your containers, run:

Stop Containers

  • Start containers: To restart your containers, run:

Start Containers

  • View logs: To view the logs for your containers, use:

View Logs

  • Updating Docker images: To update the Docker images defined in your docker-compose.yml file, run:

Updating Docker Images

By following the steps, you will create a perfect Local WordPress Development Environment in macOS with Docker. This setup ensures consistency across different stages of development, streamlines the process of managing dependencies, and simplifies the setup and maintenance of your development environment.

Use Docker for your WordPress projects to enjoy a more efficient, scalable, and reliable development process. With Docker, you can focus on building and improving your WordPress sites while leaving the complexities of environment management behind.

Customizing your development environment

Customizing your Docker-based WordPress development environment allows you to tailor the setup to meet your specific needs and preferences. Here are some ways to customize your environment effectively:

Adding custom configurations

You can add custom configurations to your Docker setup to enhance its functionality and performance.

  • Custom PHP configurations: You can create a custom ‘php.ini’ file with your desired PHP settings and mount it to the container:

Custom Php Configuration

  • Custom Dockerfile: If you need to install additional software or make other changes to the WordPress container, create a custom ‘Dockerfile’:

Custom Docker File

  • Custom themes and plugins: Mount your custom themes and plugins to the WordPress container:

Custom Theme Plugins

Using volumes for persistent storage

Docker volumes allow you to persist data even when containers are stopped or removed. This is crucial for databases and any other data that should not be lost.

  • Define volumes in Docker compose: In your ‘docker-compose.yml’, ensure volumes are defined for data persistence:

Define Volumes In Docker Compose

  • Backup and restore volumes: Use Docker commands to backup and restore volumes as needed:


docker run –rm –volumes-from CONTAINER_NAME -v $(pwd):/backup ubuntu tar cvf /backup/backup.tar /path/to/volume


docker run –rm –volumes-from CONTAINER_NAME -v $(pwd):/backup ubuntu tar xvf /backup/backup.tar -C /

Connecting to a database

Connecting your WordPress site to a MySQL database is essential for a functional environment.

  • Environment variables: Ensure the environment variables in your ‘docker-compose.yml’ file are correctly set to connect WordPress to the MySQL database:

Environment Variables

  • Database management tools: You can use tools like phpMyAdmin to manage your database. Add phpMyAdmin to your ‘docker-compose.yml’ file:

Database Mangement Tools

Debugging and troubleshooting

Debugging and troubleshooting are critical parts of developing with Docker. Here are some strategies to help you effectively diagnose and resolve issues:

Common issues and solutions

  • Containers not starting: If your containers are not starting, use the docker-compose logs command to view the logs and identify the issue.

Containers Not Starting

  • Port conflicts: Ensure that the ports defined in your ‘docker-compose.yml’ file are not being used by other applications on your host machine. Change the port mapping if necessary.

Port Conflicts

  • Database connection errors: Verify that the environment variables for the database connection are correctly set and that the database service is running.
Database Connection Errors

  • Permission issues: Sometimes, permission issues can cause problems with file mounts. Ensure that the Docker container user has the appropriate permissions to access the files.

Using Docker logs for debugging

Docker logs provide valuable information for troubleshooting issues.

  • View logs: Use the ‘docker logs’ command to view the logs for a specific container.

View Logs 1

  • Follow logs: To continuously monitor the logs, use the ‘-f‘ flag.

Follow Logs
  • Filter logs: Use ‘grep’ to filter log output for specific keywords.

Filter Logs

Restarting and rebuilding containers

Sometimes, restarting or rebuilding your containers can resolve issues.

  • Restart containers: Use the ‘docker-compose restart’ command to restart your containers.

Restart Containers

  • Rebuild containers: If you have made changes to your Dockerfile or ‘docker-compose.yml’, use the ‘docker-compose up –build’ command to rebuild the containers.

Rebuild Containers

Network troubleshooting

If you experience network-related issues, ensure that your containers are correctly configured to communicate with each other.

  • Inspect network configuration: Use the ‘docker network inspect’ command to view the configuration of your Docker network.

Inspect Network Configuration

  • Test connectivity: Use the ‘docker exec’ command to run network tests from within a container.

Test Connectivity

Following these debugging and troubleshooting tips, you can easily and efficiently identify and resolve issues in your Docker-based WordPress development environment.


Setting up a local WordPress development environment on macOS with Docker offers a reliable, efficient, and consistent workflow. By using Docker, you can avoid the “it works on my machine” issue, ensuring that your development, staging, and production environments are all the same.

Docker streamlines the setup and maintenance process through user-friendly configuration files, making it accessible even for those with limited technical knowledge. Additionally, Docker’s isolation of services, portability, scalability, and resource efficiency make it an ideal solution for WordPress development.

Following the steps in this blog, you will have a powerful local development environment that enhances your productivity and streamlines your workflow. You can use Docker to focus more on developing great features for your WordPress site and less on managing the complexities of your development environment.

Optimize your WordPress development with FlyWP’s Docker-powered solutions. Enhance productivity and streamline your workflow effortlessly.

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