How I use Wordpress with Git and Composer

I maintain two Wordpress blogs for my wife and wanted to find a workflow to develop, update, version-contol and maintain them with Git and Composer, like I am used to with everything else that I am working on.

The resulting process is a combination of several blog posts and my own additions, worthy of writing about for the next person interested in this topic.

It turns out this is quite simple if you re-arrange the Wordpress directory layout a little bit and use some fantastic open-source projects to combine Wordpress and Composer.

Initialize Repository

As a first step, create a new directory and git repository for your blog:

$ mkdir myblog
$ cd myblog
$ git init

Create a docroot directory that is publicly available for the webserver:

$ mkdir htdocs

Place the index.php file in it that delegates to Wordpress (installed later):

// htdocs/index.php
// Front to the WordPress application. This file doesn't do anything, but loads
// wp-blog-header.php which does and tells WordPress to load the theme.

define('WP_USE_THEMES', true);
require( dirname( __FILE__ ) . '/wordpress/wp-blog-header.php' );

Create the wp-content directory inside the docroot, it will be configured to live outside the Wordpress installation.

$ mkdir htdocs/wp-content -p

And then create a .gitignore file with the following ignore paths:


If you want to add a custom theme or plugin you need to use git add -f to force the ignored path into Git.

Don’t forget to include the uploads directory in your backup, when deploying this blog to production.

You directory tree should now look like this:

├── .git
├── .gitignore
└── htdocs
    ├── index.php
    └── wp-content

In the next step we will use Composer to install Wordpress and plugins.

Setup Composer

Several people have done amazing work to make Wordpress and all the plugins and themes on available through Composer. To utilize this work we create a composer.json file inside our repository root. There the file is outside of the webservers reach, users of your blog cannot download the composer.json.

    "require": {
        "ext-gd": "*",
        "wpackagist-plugin/easy-media-gallery": "1.3.*",
        "johnpbloch/wordpress-core-installer": "^0.2.1",
        "johnpbloch/wordpress": "^4.4"
    "extra": {
        "installer-paths": {
            "htdocs/wp-content/plugins/{$name}/": ["type:wordpress-plugin"],
            "htdocs/wp-content/themes/{$name}/": ["type:wordpress-theme"]
        "wordpress-install-dir": "htdocs/wordpress"
    "repositories": [
            "type": "composer",
            "url": ""

This Composer.json is using the execellent Wordpress Core Installer by John P. Bloch and the WPackagist project by Outlandish.

The extra configuration in the file configures Composer for placing Wordpress Core and all plugins in the correct directories. As you can see we put core into htdocs/wordpress and plugins into htdocs/wp-content/plugins.

Now run the Composer install command to see the intallation output similar to the next excerpt:

$ composer install
Loading composer repositories with package information
Installing dependencies (including require-dev)
  - Installing composer/installers (v1.0.23)
    Loading from cache

  - Installing johnpbloch/wordpress-core-installer (0.2.1)
    Loading from cache

  - Installing wpackagist-plugin/easy-media-gallery (1.3.93)
    Loading from cache

  - Installing johnpbloch/wordpress (4.4.2)
    Loading from cache

Writing lock file
Generating autoload files

The next step is to get Wordpress running using the Setup Wizard.

Setup Wordpress

Follow the Wordpress documentation to setup your Wordpress blog now, it will create the neccessary database tables and give you wp-config.php file to download. Copy this file to htdocs/wp-config.php and modify it slightly, it is necessary to adjust the WP_CONTENT_DIR, WP_CONTENT_URL and ABSPATH constants:


// generated contents of wp-config.php, salts, database and so on

define('WP_CONTENT_DIR',    __DIR__ . '/wp-content');
define('WP_CONTENT_URL',    WP_HOME . '/wp-content');

/** Absolute path to the WordPress directory. */
if ( !defined('ABSPATH') ) {
    define('ABSPATH', dirname(__FILE__) . '/wordpress');

/** Sets up WordPress vars and included files. */
require_once(ABSPATH . 'wp-settings.php');

Voila. You have Wordpress running from a Git repository and maintain the Wordpress Core and Plugins through Composer.

Different Development and Production Environments

The next step is introducing different environments, to allow using the same codebase in production and development, where the base urls are different, without having to change wp-config.php or the database.

Wordpress relies on the SITEURL and HOME configuration variables from the wp_options database table by default, this means its not easily possible to use the blog under http://myblog.local (development) and` (production).

But working on the blog I want to copy the database from production and have this running on my local development machine without anything more than exporting and importing a MySQL dump.

Luckily there is an easy workaround that allows this: You can overwrite the SITEURL and HOME variables using constants in wp-config.php.

For development I rely on the built-in PHP Webserver that is available since PHP 5.4 with a custom router-script (I found this on a blog a long time ago, but cannot find the source anymore):


$path = '/'.ltrim(parse_url($_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'])['path'],'/');

if(file_exists($root.$path)) {
    if(is_dir($root.$path) && substr($path,strlen($path) - 1, 1) !== '/') {
        $path = rtrim($path,'/').'/index.php';

    if(strpos($path,'.php') === false) {
        return false;
    } else {
        require_once $root.$path;
} else {
    include_once 'index.php';

To make your blog run flawlessly on your dev machine, open up htdocs/wp-config.php and add the following if statement to rewrite SITEURL and HOME config variables:

// htdocs/wp-config.php

// ... salts, DB user, password etc.

if (php_sapi_name() === 'cli-server' || php_sapi_name() === 'srv') {
    define('WP_ENV',        'development');
    define('WP_SITEURL',    'http://localhost:8000/wordpress');
    define('WP_HOME',       'http://localhost:8000');
} else {
    define('WP_ENV',        'production');
    define('WP_SITEURL',    'http://' . $_SERVER['SERVER_NAME'] . '/wordpress');
    define('WP_HOME',       'http://' . $_SERVER['SERVER_NAME']);

define('WP_DEBUG', WP_ENV === 'development');

You can now run your Wordpress blog locally using the following command-line arguments:

$ php -S localhost:8000 -t htdocs/ htdocs/router.php

Keep this command running and visit localhost:8000.

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