Installing WordPress core via Composer and finding the proper rewrites for Nginx or Apache

The idea is to separate the WordPress site’s components into their own directories right at the root. This creates a simple modular structure, where parts of a WordPress site are totally on their own. This makes things less complex and less prone to errors.

We will not be touching the WordPress subdirectory, we will only update it when a new version is released. Therefore, we will have to put our configuration and custom development (themes & plugins) outside the WordPress folder.

I’m going to use Composer package manager for PHP to install these packages and this is the directory structure that I want to create.

Directory structure

    wp/ - Will contain the WordPress package
    wp-content/ - Will contain all my themes and plugins

Composer file

The Composer can be used for both the core and plugins, for plugins we will use wpackagist. After you’ve installed composer, create a composer.json in your root folder that looks something like this:

  "name": "parse/demo",
  "description": "Parse: Demo",
  "license": "proprietary",

  "repositories": [
    { "type":"composer", "url":"" },

    { "type": "package",
      "package" : {
        "name": "wordpress",
        "type": "webroot",
        "version": "3.7.1",
        "dist": {
          "type": "zip",
          "url": ""
        "require" : {
          "fancyguy/webroot-installer": "1.1.0"

  "require": {
    "composer/installers": "1.0.x-dev",
    "wordpress": "3.7.1",
    "wpackagist/mp6": "~2.1"

  "require-dev": {
    "wpackagist/debug-bar": "~0.8",
    "wpackagist/debug-bar-console": "~0.3"

  "minimum-stability": "dev",

  "extra": {
    "wp-content": "www/wp-content",
    "webroot-dir": "www/wp",
    "webroot-package": "wordpress",
    "installer-paths": {
      "www/wp-content/plugins/{$name}/": ["type:wordpress-plugin"]

This file defines that we want to install WordPress core in a folder www/wp/ and its plugins in www/wp-content/plugins/


By moving the WordPress core, the index.php that is in www/ will now have to be changed to:

// WordPress view bootstrapper
define( 'WP_USE_THEMES', true );
require( './wp/wp-blog-header.php' );


And since we will not use the wp-content/ folder in www/wp/wp-content/, we need to redefine that in wp-config.php:

define('WP_CONTENT_DIR', dirname(__FILE__) . '/wp-content');
define('WP_CONTENT_URL', 'http://' . $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'] . '/wp-content');

Now, we have set up the files, your vhost need to be configured to the www/ folder.


After struggling a bit with PHP’s PATH_INFO variable and found a solution, this is the important part:

if (!-e $request_filename) {
  rewrite /wp-admin$ $scheme://$host$uri/ permanent;
  rewrite ^(/[^/]+)?(/wp-.*) /wp$2 last;
  rewrite ^(/[^/]+)?(/.*\.php)$ /wp$2 last;

location / {
  root   /home/username/apps/appname/current/www/;
  try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?$args;
  index index.php;

location ~ \.php$ {
  fastcgi_index index.php;
  fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(/.+)$;
  fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME /home/username/apps/appname/current/www$fastcgi_script_name;
  fastcgi_param ENVIRONMENT production;
  fastcgi_param PATH_INFO $fastcgi_script_name;
  include /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params;


    DocumentRoot "/home/username/apps/appname/current/www/"
    <Directory "/home/username/apps/appname/current/www/">
        Options Indexes Includes FollowSymLinks  
        AllowOverride All
        Order allow,deny
        Allow from all

The .htaccess in this case will look something like this:

Options -Indexes

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]

# add a trailing slash to /wp-admin
RewriteRule ^([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?wp-admin$ $1wp-admin/ [R=301,L]

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f [OR]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -d
RewriteRule ^ - [L]
RewriteRule ^([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?(wp-(content|admin|includes).*) wp/$2 [L]
RewriteRule ^([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?(.*\.php)$ wp/$2 [L]
RewriteRule . index.php [L]

To upgrade plugins or core, you simply need to update your composer.json. We still need to add custom plugins into our repository, but you could create your own repositories for them as well.