Docker Compose for Local WordPress Development

| devops | php | programming |

Using Docker Compose for Local WordPress development is an excellent way to get up and running with WordPress development as quickly as possible.

Benefits of Using Docker Compose for WordPress Development

Traditionally, developing WordPress locally means that you must have PHP, MySQL, and Apache (or some other web server) installed on your local workstation. The complexity of installing and configuring these tools varies by the operating system. Furthermore, you may quickly find yourself in configuration hell attempting to configure new releases of WordPress, PHP, MySQL, or Apache.

Luckily, Docker and Docker Compose remove all of the guesswork from installing, configuring, and upgrading these tools. For example, upgrading to a new version of MySQL with Docker Compose is as simple as changing a single value in a single configuration file.

image: mysql:5.7

image: mysql:8.0

Getting Started with Docker Compose

You can start using Docker Compose for local WordPress development with four steps.

Install Docker Locally

First, make sure that you have Docker installed on your workstation. You can verify that everything is working properly by opening up a terminal and running a few commands.

Note for Windows Users

By default docker and docker-compose are not in the Windows PATH variable. For these commands to work, be sure to add C:\Program Files\Docker\Docker\resources\bin to the PATH.

Executing docker version should produce output that looks like this:

Windows Terminal
PS C:\Users\Lev Lazinskiy> docker version
Client: Docker Engine - Community
Version: 19.03.8
API version: 1.40
Go version: go1.12.17
Git commit: afacb8b
Built: Wed Mar 11 01:23:10 2020
OS/Arch: windows/amd64
Experimental: false

Server: Docker Engine - Community
Version: 19.03.8
API version: 1.40 (minimum version 1.12)
Go version: go1.12.17
Git commit: afacb8b
Built: Wed Mar 11 01:29:16 2020
OS/Arch: linux/amd64
Experimental: false
Version: v1.2.13
GitCommit: 7ad184331fa3e55e52b890ea95e65ba581ae3429
Version: 1.0.0-rc10
GitCommit: dc9208a3303feef5b3839f4323d9beb36df0a9dd
Version: 0.18.0
GitCommit: fec3683

Executing docker-compose version should produce output that looks like this:

Windows Terminal
PS C:\Users\Lev Lazinskiy> docker-compose version
docker-compose version 1.25.4, build 8d51620a
docker-py version: 4.1.0
CPython version: 3.7.4
OpenSSL version: OpenSSL 1.1.1c 28 May 2019

Create a Project Directory Structure

Next, create an appropriate project directory structure. We’re going to mount our local project directory to a running instance of a WordPress docker container. To keep things simple, create a new directory called wordpress with the following directory structure.

PS C:\Users\Lev Lazinskiy\git\wordpress> tree
Folder PATH listing

    │   └───my_new_plugin

As illustrated above, if you’re making a new plugin, the code for your plugin would go into the wordpress\plugins\my_new_plugin directory. Likewise, if you’re making a new theme, then the code for your theme would go into the wordpress\themes\my_new_theme directory.

Create a Docker Compose for Local WordPress Configuration File

The last step is to create a Docker Compose configuration file. In the wordpress directory from the previous step, create a new file called docker-compose.yml. This file should have the following contents:

version: "3"


    image: wordpress:latest
    restart: always
        WORDPRESS_DB_PASSWORD: wordpress
        - "8080:80"
      - "./wp-content:/var/www/html/wp-content"
        - mysql

    image: mysql:5.7
    restart: always
        MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD: wordpress
        MYSQL_DATABASE: wordpress
        - "13306:3306"
        - "./mysql-data:/var/lib/mysql"

A couple of things worth highlighting in this configuration are the ports and volumes directives on the mysql container. We’re exposing port 13306 so you can use a MySQL client to connect to the running docker instance. Since we’re mounting a local volume called mysql-data any changes you make will persist across reboots.

Lastly, since we’re mounting wp-content in the wordpress container, any changes that you make to your new theme or plugin will be immediately available in your local WordPress instance.

Note for Windows Users

In order for volume mounting to work correctly on Windows, you must enable File Sharing in the Docker settings.

Open the Docker app, navigate to Resources and then File Sharing. Make sure that your primary drive is selected. Select Apply & Restart.

Screenshot of Docker Desktop for Windows configuration settings for sharing volumes.

Run Docker Compose

You should now be able to run docker-compose up and navigate to https://localhost:8080 to see your new WordPress site running locally.

Screenshot of WordPress installation wizard.

If you see the page shown above, complete the installation as you would any other WordPress site. When you log in, you will see your new theme and plugin available to install.

The first time you run Docker Compose it will take some time to download the WordPress and MySQL base images. Subsequent restarts will be quicker since Docker Compose will use a locally cached image.


In summary, using Docker Compose for local WordPress development is a quick and easy way to hack on WordPress themes and plugins. This approach has the added bonus of not needing to deal with the complexity of installing PHP, MySQL, or Apache on your local machine.

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