How To Automate Wordpress Deployments with DigitalOcean and Buddy

Published on October 9, 2020
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By Buddy

How To Automate Wordpress Deployments with DigitalOcean and Buddy


In this tutorial, you will automate WordPress deployments using Buddy CI/CD, a user-friendly tool offering continuous integration and continuous deployment solutions.

Compared to many other CI/CD tools, Buddy requires less DevOps experience. It allows developers to create delivery pipelines with drag-and-drop actions in a visual GUI. This GUI leverages pre-configured actions (builds, test, deployments, etc.) in an approach similar to DigitalOcean’s interactive Droplet configuration. This means newcomers and expert developers alike can use Buddy to release more software, all while making fewer errors.

Once you’ve completed this tutorial, you will be able to perform a WordPress deployment with a single command from your local terminal. For better insight, you will build a more advanced Sage-based WordPress theme that requires multiple build steps before you can deploy it to the WordPress server.


Note: This tutorial was tested on Node.js version 14.13.0, npm version 6.14.8, and PHP version 7.4.10.

Step 1 — Installing WordPress with Docker

In this step you will pull the WordPress image from Docker and start your build.

First, verify that Docker is running with the following command:

  1. docker info

You will receive an output like this:

Client: Debug Mode: false Server: Containers: 0 Running: 0 Paused: 0 Stopped: 0 Images: 0 Server Version: 19.03.12 Storage Driver: overlay2 Backing Filesystem: extfs Supports d_type: true Native Overlay Diff: true Logging Driver: json-file Cgroup Driver: cgroupfs Plugins: Volume: local Network: bridge host ipvlan macvlan null overlay Log: awslogs fluentd gcplogs gelf journald json-file local logentries splunk syslog Swarm: inactive ...

Now that you’ve verified that Docker is running, download the latest version of the WordPress image:

  1. docker pull wordpress

Next, create a folder for your project in your workspace:

  1. mkdir docker-wordpress-theme

Navigate inside your new project folder:

  1. cd docker-wordpress-theme

Now you need to define your build. Use nano or your preferred text editor to open and create a file called docker-compose.yml:

  1. nano docker-compose.yml

Add the following definitions to the file. These describe the version of Docker Compose and the services to be launched. In this case, you are launching WordPress and MySQL database. Make sure to replace the highlighted fields with your credentials:

version: "3.1"

    image: wordpress
    restart: always
      - 8080:80
      WORDPRESS_DB_USER: exampleuser
      WORDPRESS_DB_PASSWORD: examplepass
      WORDPRESS_DB_NAME: exampledb
      - wordpress:/var/www/html
      - ./sage:/var/www/html/wp-content/themes/sage/
    image: mysql:5.7
    restart: always
      MYSQL_DATABASE: exampledb
      MYSQL_USER: exampleuser
      MYSQL_PASSWORD: examplepass
      - db:/var/lib/mysql


Here you are defining the images that Docker will launch in the service and then setting ports and environment variables

Take note that you are mounting a folder called sage that you haven’t created yet. This will be your custom theme, which you will now create.

Step 2 — Creating a Custom WordPress Theme

In this step you will create a custom wordpress theme. You will then create a CI/CD pipeline so that you can push changes you make locally to your Wordpress server with one command.

Let’s start building our custom theme by installing the Sage framework on our local WordPress installation. This theme uses Node.js and Gulp to perform development and build functions. There won’t be any build dependencies installed on the production server – instead, all production build tasks will be performed on Buddy, the remote Continuous Integration server.

Make sure you are in your project folder:

  1. cd docker-wordpress-theme

Use Composer to create a new Sage theme:

  1. composer create-project roots/sage

With everything properly configured, the following output will appear:

Installing roots/sage (9.0.9) - Installing roots/sage (9.0.9): Loading from cache Created project in /home/mike/Projects/buddy/github/sage Loading composer repositories with package information Installing dependencies (including require-dev) from lock file Package operations: 29 installs, 0 updates, 0 removals - Installing composer/installers (v1.6.0): Downloading (100%) - Installing symfony/polyfill-mbstring (v1.10.0): Downloading (100%) - Installing symfony/contracts (v1.0.2): Downloading (100%) - ..........

The installer will then ask you to select the framework to load:

- Theme Name > Sage Starter Theme - Theme URI > https://roots.io/sage/ - Theme Name [Sage Starter Theme]: - Theme Description > Sage is a WordPress starter theme. - Theme Version > 9.0.9 - Theme Author > Roots - Theme Author URI > https://roots.io/ - Local development URL of WP site > http://localhost:8080 - Path to theme directory > /wp-content/themes/sage - Which framework would you like to load? [Bootstrap]: [0] None [1] Bootstrap [2] Bulma [3] Foundation [4] Tachyons [5] Tailwind

Note: Make sure sure that the local development URL matches the port.

Press 1 to select the Bootstrap framework. You will be asked for permission to overwrite a couple of files. Type y to confirm and proceed:

Are you sure you want to overwrite the following files? - scripts/autoload/_bootstrap.js - styles/autoload/_bootstrap.scss - styles/common/_variables.scss - styles/components/_comments.scss - styles/components/_forms.scss - styles/components/_wp-classes.scss - styles/layouts/_header.scss (yes/no) [no]:

You now have the foundations of a custom WordPress theme. In the next step you will build and launch the theme, and then you will version it using Git.

Step 3 — Building and Launching a Custom WordPress Theme

In this step you will install all your build dependencies, create a production build, and lauch WordPress in a local Docker container.

Navigate to the Sage folder:

  1. cd ./sage

Install the node-sass binary to prevent installation failure (the rest of package.json will be installed, too):

  1. yarn add node-sass -D

Run a production build that will compile all Sass/SCSS files and minify CSS and JS:

  1. yarn build:production

With the build generated, exit the theme folder and launch your WordPress instance using Docker Compose:

  1. cd ..
  2. docker-compose up -d

Launching WordPress in the Docker environment should only take a few seconds. Now open the URL http://localhost:8080 in a web browser to access your local WordPress site. Since this is the first time you are launching WordPress, you will be prompted to create an Admin account. Create one now.

Once you have created an account and are logged in, head over to Appearance > Themes page on the dashboard. You will find several pre-installed themes including the Sage theme we’ve just created. Click the Activate button to set it as the current theme. Your home page will look something like this:

Sage theme preview

You have now built and activated a custom theme. In the next step, you will put your project under version control.

Step 4 — Uploading a WordPress Project to a Remote Repository

Version control is a cornerstone of the CI/CD workflow. In this step, you will upload your project to a remote Git repository that the Buddy platform can access. Buddy integrates with many popular Git providers, including:

  • GitHub
  • GitLab
  • Bitbucket
  • Privately-hosted Git repositories

Create a remote repository on the platform of your choice. For the purpose of this guide we’ll use GitHub. Click here to read how you can create a new repo using the Github UI.

Then, in your terminal, initialize Git in your project’s remote directory:

  1. git init

Add the newly created remote repository. Replace the highlighted section with your own repository’s URL:

git add remote https://github.com/user-name/your-repo-name.git

Before you push your project, there are some files that you want to exclude from version control.

Create a file called .gitignore:

  1. nano .gitignore

Add the following filenames:


Save and close the file.

Now you are ready to add your project under version control and commit the files to your repository on GitHub:

  1. git add .
  2. git commit -m 'my sage project'
  3. git push

You have now built a custom WordPress theme using the Sage framework and then pushed the code to a remote repository. Now you will automate the deployment of this theme to your WordPress server using Buddy.

Step 5 — Automating WordPress Deployment with Buddy

If you haven’t used Buddy before, sign up with your Git provider credentials or email address. There’s a 14-day trial with no limit on resources, and a free plan with 5 projects and 120 executions/month once it’s over, which is more than enough for our needs.

Start by synchronizing Buddy with your repository. In the Buddy UI, click Create a new project, select your Git provider, and choose the repository that you created in the first section of this article.

Next, you will be prompted to create your delivery pipeline. A pipeline is a set of actions that perform tasks on your repository code, like builds, tests, or deployments.

The key settings to configure are:

  • Branch from which Buddy will deploy your code – in this case, set it to master
  • Pipeline trigger mode – set it to On push to automatically execute the pipeline on every push to the selected branch.

Once you add the pipeline, you’ll need to create four actions:

  1. A PHP action that will install the required PHP packages
  2. A Node action that will download the dependencies and prepare a build for deployment
  3. A Droplet action that will upload the build code directly to your DO Droplet
  4. An SSH action with a script that will activate your theme.

Based on the contents of your repository, Buddy will automatically suggest the actions to perform. Select PHP from the list.

Action selection screen

Clicking the action will open its configuration panel. Enter the following commands in the terminal section:

# navigate to theme directory
cd sage

# install php packages
composer validate
composer install

Save and run the pipeline to ensure it works:

Pipeline execution

Note: Buddy uses isolated containers with preinstalled frameworks for builds. The downloaded dependencies are cached in the container, meaning you don’t have to download them again. Think of it as a local development environment that remains consistent for everybody on the team.

Next, add the Node.js action. In order for the theme to display properly, we’ll need to compile and minify assets, i.e. SCSS/SASS and JavaScript files.

First, set Environment to node latest.

Now you must add several commands. These commands will install the necessary dependencies and perform your build.

Add them to the terminal box just like before:

# navigate to theme directory
cd sage

# install packages
yarn install

# Create production build
yarn build:production

Once again, save and run the action to ensure it works.

Next, add the Droplet action right after the Node.js build. If you’ve never used DigitalOcean with Buddy before, a wizard will appear that will guide you through the integration. Once you’ve completed this step, define the authentication details as follows:

  • Set the Source path to sage.

  • Choose Buddy’s SSH key authentication mode as that is the easiest one to set up. Just log in to your Droplet server via SSH and execute the commands displayed in Buddy’s key code snippet.

After you execute those commands, go back to the browser and click the Remote path browse button – you will be able to navigate your Droplet’s filesystem and access the correct deployment folder. The default path will be /var/www/html/wp-content/themes/sage.

You will also need to visit the Ignore paths section and provide the following to prevent uploading of Node.js dependencies:


When done, click the Test action button to verify that everything’s been properly configured.

Last, you’ll add one more action to activate your theme on the WordPress Droplet with a WP-CLI command. On your pipeline page, add the SSH action and input the following command in the commands section:

  1. sudo -u www-data -- wp theme activate sage/resources

Ensure you have set the correct Working directory setting – otherwise, the command won’t work.

Since you already configured Buddy’s SSH key in the previous setup, you don’t need to do anything else. Alternatively, you can select private SSH key and then you can upload your DigitalOcean private key and use that to connect to your Droplet. Buddy’s SSH key is simpler and just as secure.

Your complete pipeline will now contain 4 actions: PHP > Node > Droplet > SSH. Click the Run Pipeline button to test out all the actions at once. You will receive a green check mark for each stage:

Pipeline execution screen

On the first execution, Buddy will deploy all files from the repository to the selected revision. Future deployments will only update files that have changed or were deleted. This feature significantly reduces upload time because you don’t have to deploy everything from scratch on every update.

Go to your hosted WordPress dashboard and refresh the Themes page. You will see your Sage theme. Activate it now.

Your hosted home page will now match your local home page.

Our pipeline is built and our local and remote machines are synced. Now, let’s test the entire workflow.

Step 6 — Testing Buddy’s Auto-Deployment Workflow

In this step you will make a small change to your theme and then deploy those changes to your WordPress server.

Go back to your local terminal and run this yarn command:

  1. yarn start

This will start a live proxy development server at localhost:3000. Any changes you make to your theme will get automatically reflected in this window. The page on localhost:8080 will remain unchanged until you run the production build script.

Let’s test out our pipeline by making some minor changes to our CSS.

Open the main.scss file for your Sage theme:

  1. nano ./sage/resources/assets/styles/main.scss

Insert the following code to introduce some subtle green color and an underline to the website’s font:

.brand {
  @extend .display-3;

  color: #013d30;

.entry-title {
  @extend .display-4;

  a {
    color: #015c48;
    text-decoration: underline;

.page-header {
  display: none;

Save and close the file.

Commit these changes and upload them to your repo:

  1. git add .
  2. git commit -m "minor style changes"
  3. git push

Once the code is uploaded to the repository, Buddy will automatically trigger your pipeline and execute all actions one by one:

Wait for the pipeline to finish and then refresh your WordPress Droplet’s home page to see your updates.

Updated WP Droplet

Your pipeline is now pushing changes from your local machine to GitHub to Buddy to your production WordPress server, all triggered by one git command.


Buddy is a very user friendly and powerful CI/CD tool. Buddy even has a video that shows just how quickly you can create pipelines using their interface.

By automating your development workflow, you can focus on implementing styles and features for your custom theme or plugin without wasting time on manual deployments. The CI/CD workflow can also significantly reduce the risk of manual errors. In addition, automation allows you to further enhance the quality of your code by running unit tests and analysis tools, such as PHP Sniffer, on every change.

You can take this tutorial even further by setting up an advanced branching strategy and a staging server, where you can perform quality control checks before you deploy new code to the production server. This way you can release better software more often without losing the momentum.

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