Local Launches Atlas Add-on for Sandboxing Headless WordPress Sites

Local, a popular WordPress development tool maintained by WP Engine, has launched a new add-on for quickly spinning up headless WordPress sites on its new Atlas platform.

The company has been working to capture the headless WordPress hosting market over the past few years, investing in a new team dedicated to building out its headless offerings aimed at developers. It is one of the first managed hosts to offer a packaged product that handles all the dependencies and configuration required to launch a headless site.

The new add-on is called Atlas: Headless WP. It makes it easy for users to create a site with a Node.js frontend that uses WP Engine’s Faust.js headless framework for WordPress. It can be found inside the latest version of Local under the Add-ons menu.

The Atlas add-on watches any changes made to frontend code and compiles them after a file is saved. The add-on’s help docs have a guide to the folder structure for the headless sites it creates:

  • app – Contains the files of a typical WordPress site. Any changes made here will be reflected in the WordPress backend.
  • app-node – The Javascript frontend which the Node.js process is watching and compiling.

The Atlas add-on gives users access to three blueprints that include starter code, plugins, content models, and page structure to jumpstart site development. One creates a barebones site with just the scaffolding necessary to get started. The second blueprint is for a portfolio site and includes a blog and pages to list projects. The third blueprint appears to be very similar but just includes a blog and menu with no portfolio.

It is important to note that Atlas can only be enabled on new sites in Local, as the app has no way to convert existing sites into a headless site.

Sites built using the add-on are supported in the import/export site workflows, but the company’s support team confirmed that Atlas sites can only be hosted at WP Engine. This is one of the chief drawbacks of the framework.

For this reason, the Atlas add-on essentially functions sort of like a sales funnel for WP Engine, since sites produced using it are not portable to be hosted anywhere else. It does offer an easy way to experiment with headless WordPress to see how it all works together. It’s also convenient for WP Engine customers who want to use it to create new headless sites with less work setting up and configuring them.

The Atlas add-on for Local is still in beta, so it has a few rough edges. Users can get help for their support questions by creating a topic in the Atlas: Headless WP category of the community forums.


Correction: WP Engine has confirmed its support team misspoke when saying Atlas sites can only be hosted at WP Engine, and Andy North, the company’s director of communications, offered the following statement:

Sites that are spun up as Atlas Blueprints can be hosted anywhere. The WordPress install doesn’t contain anything proprietary – the plugins are all open source and freely available on WordPress.org. Also, the front-end is built with Faust.js and is also open-source and free to use and extend.

Local produces both the WordPress instance and the front-end app on a developer’s local machine, with no lock-in. A developer can then choose any provider to host their headless WordPress site, and another provider to host the front-end, and another service to power content search. 

3 responses to “Local Launches Atlas Add-on for Sandboxing Headless WordPress Sites”

  1. As the article now states at the bottom, as far as I know it’s possible to deploy these Headless sites on services like Vercel and Netlify as well. You will need to host the WordPress installation somewhere either, though.

  2. think they added this a few months ago? at least i can remember they did. its a nice feature none the less.

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