PHP is the world’s most popular web development language. Started by Danish-Greenlandic programmer Rasmus Lerdorf in 1995 it is now installed on more than 20 million websites and 1 million web servers and counting.
It is estimated that for every 100 PHP developers, there are 42 Perl developers, 12 Python developers and 4 Ruby developers – PHPs popularity is the central reason why you should consider learning it above all others.
PHP is the basis of Content Management Systems such as Drupal, Joomla and WordPress so gaining a knowledge of PHP would help you in using these scripts.
Presumably your are already proficient with CSS and HTML and want to take your web creativity to another level. If you aren’t, then stop right here. It’s unthinkable to tackle PHP without a firm grounding in HTML and a good knowledge of CSS would be extremely useful.
You don’t have to have a complete knowledge of HTML in order to learn PHP but you certainly need to know the basics – the rest you will pick up in tandem with PHP. For instance, if you use Content Management Systems all the time you’ll unlikely to be that familiar with coding forms, but HTML forms are an essential part of PHP and you’ll need to be able to create them quickly and without fuss.
Learning PHP is as hard as you can imagine it to be. You need time and lots of patience and preferably a reality you need to escape from for an inordinate amount of time. It’s a good idea to pace yourself and set a two year framework in order to become familiar with the core of the language.
Prepare yourself for headaches and frustration and a slow, boring learning curve as it’s on about the same thrill level as a crossword or Sudokus puzzle.
You must be familiar with the multitude of Photoshop net tutorials out there – you know, the ones that engage you with a step-by-step guide and lots of pretty pictures. Well there is nothing comparable in PHP.
It may be unfair to compare photo manipulation software to a programming language, but even the Ruby crew manage to add a bit of bling to their learning process.
Of course, there is satisfaction at creating your first form or web application – to actually create a working item is a tremendous achievement when you are starting out.
So what makes a good PHP programmer? It is the ability to write effective, secure code quickly. Effective means using as little code as possible for the task at hand as well as learning which code is the least wasteful on your server resources (this is technically called refactoring). Secure means that your code is as safe as possible from malicious users and crackers.
To be a quick PHP coder means that you have a thorough knowledge of the syntax and functions as well as library of code which you have created and testing on live websites and that you can bring into new web developments.
You’ll often read a reference to “clean code” amongst PHP heads (and all other code writers for that matter) and above is essentially what they mean by this term.
If you really want to learn PHP though I can guarantee one thing: that you will succeed if you have enough time and are determined enough.
Nobody is born to code PHP – expertise will come about through you applying yourself.