Tutorial: Turning a WordPress Site into a Flat File Website

This tutorial is for turning a WordPress website that you are no longer updating into a flat file website (on Reclaim Hosting) rather than driven by a database. Why would you do this?

  1. Security – Managing a database (like WordPress) requires regular software updates and patches to maintain function and security. A flat file site has fewer entry points for hackers and so is less at risk for security issues
  2. Function – Because WordPress, plugins, and themes are regularly updated, keeping a database driven site requires maintenance, or things will break. A flat file site does not rely on databases to function and does not need to be updated (not in the same way).
  3. Space – Databases take up more space than flat files, so reducing the number of databases living on your server space provides you with more room to create new things.

Converting to a flat file site has these benefits, but it should only be done when you are finished with a project and don’t have plans to regularly add to it. This conversion will remove your site from the “My Apps” list in Reclaim, and you will only be able to edit things by going into the Files directly. This step is perfect for:

  1. Class websites that you are not running any longer
  2. Student projects that want to remain public but are no longer being updated
  3. Event websites
  4. Blogs that you want to keep available but are no longer contributing to

So, how to do it?

  1. First, I recommend going to http://web.archive.org/ and having all the pages of your site archived on the Internet Archive. This provides another backup to your site and makes sure the site can be viewed in the long term via the Archive. (Note that interactive and multimedia elements may not archive well.)  Just add the url for your site in the “Save Page Now” field. You will need to do this for *every* page. It does not automatically grab all the sub pages.Note: This step is optional, but it’s recommended as the best long term preservation strategy you can employ.
    Internet Archive Wayback Machine search interface with arrow pointing to "Save Page" box
  2. Log into your Domain of One’s Own/Reclaim Hosting account and go to “My Apps” from the Dashboard/CPanel.
  3. Make a backup copy of whatever site you are working with.
    Screenshot of my apps list in Reclaim Hosting with "backup" button selected
  4. Then go to “My Backups” at the top, and download the most recent backup copy you have of the website. Save this downloaded file somewhere for safe keeping for the long term.
    Screenshot of Reclaim Hosting "my backups" page with the download button selected
  5. Login to the Dashboard of your WordPress site
  6. Go to plugins, and install and activate the plugin “Simply Static”
    Screenshot of WordPress dashboard with arrows pointing to "Add new" plugin button
    Screenshot of plugin search result in WordPress for "Simply Static" with "Activate" button highlighted
  7. On the left of the dashboard, you will see “Simply Static” as an option. Click on “Generate” and then click the button “Generate Static Files”. This may take a little while – be patient.
    Screenshot of WordPress dashboard showing Simply Static with "Generate Your Files" button highlighted
  8. Once it has generated the static file, you can download a zip file. Do so and save it somewhere you know where to find it.
  9. Go back to your Domain of One’s Own/Reclaim Hosting Dashboard.
  10. Go to “My Apps” and delete any backups you have of the WordPress website (you’ll still have your downloaded backup).
  11. Uninstall your WordPress site.
    Screenshot of Reclaim Hosting "My Apps" list with the Uninstall button highlighted
  12. In the Dashboard/CPanel, go to “File Manager” and navigate to the folder that used to hold your WordPress site.
  13. Click “Upload” at the top of the page, and load in the zip file you just downloadedThen click “Go back to”
    Screenshot of Reclaim Hosting File manager interface uploaded file page
  14. Select the zip folder you just uploaded and click “Extract” at the top of the page and confirm where you want the folder to extract to
    Screenshot of Reclaim Hosting file manager interface showing "Extract" box
  15. You can see the files are now opened. If you go to the url of your original site, you should see it working and looking as you were used to.
    Screenshot of Reclaim Hosting file manager interface

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  1. Pingback: Simpler Website Tech: Leaving the PHP Island – Generation R

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