Download a website

From: william (WILLIAMA) 5 Oct 2021 16:52
To: ALL1 of 10
So, I find myself having volunteered to help with a website I co-founded with a few other peeps. It's a typical Wordpress jobby (with buddypress & bbpress) which serves as a forum for some writery people.

It's basically OK but could do with some tweeks which the current admin, who set it all up, is too busy and/or not confident enough to do. 

I've decided that I need a copy of it that I can play without damaging the real thing until I'm comfortable with changes. 

Essentially, I have no knowledge and no skills to do with webby stuff, but I was a reasonably capable code-monkey so hopefully some of the muscle-memory will be transferable.

I know there are utilities to download whole sites for local browsing. Is this a feasible way to go, or should I be looking to build a test/play site with the webhost (we can have as many as we want)? I like the idea of a local copy because I can break anything safely, even if I need to test on a proper online site in due course. Has anybody used these and know of any gotchas/pitfalls etc? 
From: milko 5 Oct 2021 17:46
To: william (WILLIAMA) 2 of 10
if you do it locally, you'll need to have all the wordpress gubbins locally too, is that easy to set up? I don't really know anything but I'd have thought setting up a 'dev' copy of the site on the same host would be better if you've access to the admin stuff for it.
From: william (WILLIAMA) 5 Oct 2021 20:02
To: milko 3 of 10
Yeah, I don't know how easy it is to set up whatever is needed locally. A quick glance suggests it's not too bad, but quick glances are a notoriously bad way of investigating.

I have got admin access.
From: william (WILLIAMA) 5 Oct 2021 20:18
To: milko 4 of 10
Hmm, a few more quick glances and I think you're probably right, especially as all the stuff to clone the site under a new domain is there on the host for free.
From: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 5 Oct 2021 23:02
To: william (WILLIAMA) 5 of 10
Depends what you want to change, and if the site does anything weird with Wordpress plugin-wise. I've no idea how buddypress/bbpress work - it's possible cloning a site doesn't create a new instance of them. I think that's the case with the themes; the clone will share the same theme, so you might need to create a new theme.

It's not difficult to setup a local VM with LAMP + Wordpress, and should be easy to do an export/download/import to give you a local copy you can safely experiment/screw-up/reset - but the trade-off is that it will be more time consuming to setup, and if you don't get the same versions/config there may be subtle differences that bite you in the bum.

From: william (WILLIAMA) 5 Oct 2021 23:25
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 6 of 10
Thanks Pete.

The problem has been that changes have been done on the live site so far, and although not much has gone wrong, a few things have, including some glitches that have pissed off the members. It just feels horribly WRONG to me to do this.

I'm probably going to try for a local site copy (just out of curiosity) and also one on the host, because that's starting to look like the most straightforward. There's even a tuorial from Nethosted on how to do it.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 8 Oct 2021 16:42
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 7 of 10
For sure replicate the WP,  plugins, MySQL (/whatever), and PHP versions, before trying to import anything. Then you might need to open the exported *.sql in a text editor and search/replace base url to your local, and WordPress is a horrible fucking nightmare. Who knows, it might work.

Is PhpMyAdmin available on the host? Pretty indispensable for this sort of thing (IMO)

"It's basically OK" So leave it alone. Otherwise, chances are excellent you (William) will break it.
EDITED: 8 Oct 2021 16:43 by DSMITHHFX
From: william (WILLIAMA) 9 Oct 2021 10:38
I agree Wordpress is something of a nightmare.  I know nothing about coding for the web, but even a brief search for information on problems we had suggested that version and change control is a bit of a disaster especially in the various plugins. That may be unfair and it may all be firmly under control now, but there's a vast legacy of bugs and issues that simply isn't being addressed.

Unfortunately our installation is not OK and it's one of the reasons we've been losing members lately. Some of it is down to the way the admin set it up with key parts of the site such as blogs and critiques hidden away in unintuitive places and hard to navigate to. Some features are missing such as an easy way for members to chat both publicly and privately. There's a recaptcha thing for login, but she hasn't properly integrated it with the original login, so when people enter correct details on the webpage it bumps them to the recaptcha screen and counts the previous attempt as a fail. Then there are actual bugs. The admin installed a spam filter which was blocking every quoted URL as spam and even though it's disabled now, it seems to have made a permanent change somewhere. There's an activity stream which has a feature where after n number of posts, it hides a proportion and displays a "show all replies" button. Only it doesn't. It just hides the posts so the thread is screwed and meaningless. They are available if you dig into different activity views, but not as the nice ordered conversation they were supposed to be. This is the bug that has probably caused most annoyance. There are other bugs such as posts from a "private" group being sent to the "public" activity stream. Fortunately nothing embarrassing. But I'm hoping I can get some order back over the next few months.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)11 Oct 2021 12:34
To: william (WILLIAMA) 9 of 10
It sounds all kinds of broken, and will probably be easier to start over with a clean install. I spend quite a bit of time persuading clients to not use WordPress (or any other CMS), because the baked-in limitations and problems far outweigh any supposed benefits. Yes it enables 'anyone' to get a website up and running, and start bolting on all kinds of crazy 'features' wily-nily. Therein lie the problems, and they are myriad and frequently unsolvable. For those who insist on forging ahead, I advise them to use the standard configuration without any customizations.
EDITED: 11 Oct 2021 12:36 by DSMITHHFX
From: william (WILLIAMA)11 Oct 2021 14:30
the standard configuration without any customizations
That's just about what I'm aiming at. It looks like it's been constructed without really thinking what the "customers" would expect/want, rather than being heavily customised, so I'm hopeful I can get it better if not perfect.

Some of the things will be easily fixable, such as the Recaptcha problem because that's a classic case of the admin not quite knowing what needed to be put in place before installing it. Others such as the vanishing posts may have been fixed in later releases as the first thing I noticed was how out of date a lot of it is. I'll just have to see how it goes.