PHP is a programming language that has a relatively simple but versatile syntax, making it a great starting point for beginners. However, you may still be overwhelmed with the thought of implementing PHP code for the first time.
Fortunately, there are plenty of free resources that you can use to learn PHP. Whether you watch a couple of YouTube tutorials or take an online course, you can quickly become familiar with this popular programming language.
In this post, we will introduce you to PHP and explain the benefits of learning it. Then we’ll show you some easy ways to get started. Ready for adventure?
An Introduction to PHP
PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a server-side scripting language used in web development. Currently, it is used on 77.6% of websites, including Facebook, Wikipedia and Instagram.
Like WordPress, PHP is open source. Originally, it was used to build personal home pages. However, since its creation in 1994, PHP has evolved to accommodate more dynamic websites.
The first thing you need to know about PHP programming is that it happens on the server. When someone tries to visit your website, your server processes their PHP code before sending any information to the browser.
This is what makes PHP different from other programming languages. If you are writing HTML or CSS, this code will affect the information that visitors see in a browser. However, the PHP code is processed before the content loads.
For example, a PHP script can be used as a source code for HTML. This is what the original PHP script might look like:
<html> <head> <title>PHP Test</title> </head> <body> <?php echo '<p>Hello World</p>'; ?> </body> </html>
In HTML, this will create the following output:
When visitors view your site, they will see the message “Hello World” in their browser. Although PHP is driven by HTML code, front-end visitors will only experience the HTML output.
How PHP Works in WordPress
If you download WordPress, you will notice that many of the files are written in PHP. This is because the PHP code is the framework for the WordPress software.
After creating a WordPress site, your site files are stored in a MySQL database. This contains all of your website information, including your posts, plugins, and themes.
When someone clicks on your site’s link, their browser sends a request to your server. In WordPress, the server must process PHP code to create HTML pages. You can then send the HTML code back to the visitor’s browser.
Similar to other programming languages, PHP has several versions. If you are using an outdated version, you will not receive important bug fixes or security updates.
As a WordPress user, it’s important to make sure you update your PHP version. WordPress recommends using PHP version 7.4 or newer. This can be key to keeping your site fast and secure.
Apart from updating the PHP version, some website owners may not have to touch this code. Since WordPress comes with built-in PHP files, you probably won’t need to learn this programming language to manage your website. With that said, there are many reasons why you might consider becoming an expert PHP programmer.
Why You May Want to Learn PHP
Since the use of PHP has been slowly declining in recent years, you may be wondering if it’s worth learning. Although very few websites have been using PHP, it is still the most popular server-side programming language. Furthermore, it is still a vital part of many Content Management Systems (CMSs).
In WordPress, PHP is the fundamental language behind all plugins and themes. When you want to modify these tools, you will probably need to use some PHP programming.
Also, PHP is easy to learn. Its syntax is similar to HTML and even uses some embedded HTML in its code. Because you can reuse code blocks and built-in functions, PHP is one of the simplest programming languages.
Here are some additional benefits of learning PHP:
- It is free and open source.
- It integrates with popular databases like MySQL, Oracle, Sybase, PostgreSQL, and more.
- It supports almost all web browsers.
- It offers constant updates to improve security, performance and support.
If you want to become a web developer, it is important to learn PHP. When you’re creating new WordPress plugins and themes, you’ll need to know how to build and edit PHP files.
Once you get familiar with this programming language, you can eventually become a PHP developer. In this position, you can write scripts to create and modify software for your clients.
However, knowing PHP can also help you achieve another career path, such as:
- Information Technology (IT)
- Backend and full-stack development
As you progress in your PHP development career, you can look for higher-paying positions such as software development management. You can even pursue directorial roles and become a Director of Information Technology.
How to Learn PHP Fast (5 Methods)
Although you could get a college degree in web development, this can be an expensive option. Fortunately, there are enough ways that you can learn to code online, without paying a single penny. Let’s see how you can become a PHP expert, for free.
1. Watch A YouTube Tutorial
If you’re looking to learn a new skill, one of the best online resources is YouTube. By viewing comprehensive guides from expert programmers, you can easily get familiar with PHP programming.
Unlike other social networking sites, YouTube tends to highlight the most popular videos, rather than the most recent. If you’re looking at a tutorial that was posted several years ago, you might be getting out-of-date information.
To narrow down your results, you can click on the “ Filters ” option at the top of the page. Next, select a recent upload date. You can choose the desired length of your video as well.
Then you can find a video that fits your needs. One of the most popular PHP tutorials is PHP For Beginners by Traversy Media. This shows the basics of PHP:
The instructor, Jeremy McPeak, starts with the basics, showing you everything you need to learn as a beginner. Then he teaches you about variables, syntax, and how to make decisions in your code. By the end of the video, you’ll be able to write your functions and respond to GET and POST requests.
When you search for PHP tutorials on YouTube, you can find thousands of free videos to watch. With this method, you can see how it is coded in real-time instead of reading a static web page.
2. Take an online course
If you want to receive a more detailed explanation of PHP, you can subscribe to an online course. Although it may take longer to complete the course modules, this can lead to a better programming education.
Whether you’re trying to prepare for a career in web development or just learning programming languages as a hobby, you can learn how to code at Codecademy. This platform provides the free course “ Learn PHP ”, which has been completed by more than 45 million people.
Within 25 hours, you’ll receive a complete overview of PHP, including variables, functions, arrays, loops, and more. Each module has instructions on how to immediately implement what you have learned:
Once you follow the instructions and enter the correct code, you can continue to the next lesson. If you need help, you can always use a hint.
At any time, you can view the key concepts on the cheat sheet. You can also browse the Codecademy community forums for that module. These links are provided at the end of each exercise.
Since PHP interacts with HTML, you will probably need to know the basics of HTML before taking this course. Fortunately, Codecademy has a Learn HTML course that you can take ahead of time.
Another place to find courses is Udemy. Here, you can join over 6 million users and start expanding your programming skills. Unlike Codecademy, Udemy contains many PHP courses, so you can find the one that best suits your needs.
With over 22,000 views, the most popular PHP course on Udemy is “ PHP for Beginners ”. In this program, you can watch 37 hours of educational videos and get a certificate once you’re done.
If you’re completely new to programming, this Udemy course takes you through the basics of PHP, as well as Object Oriented PHP and MySQL. You learn about custom functions, PHP security, control structures, and much more. It also teaches you how to create a content management system similar to WordPress or Joomla.
3. Review the PHP Manual
You can also learn about the best practices of the PHP language directly from the creators themselves. In the official PHP manual, you’ll get installation instructions, syntax tips, and FAQs from other emerging developers.
When you first open the manual, you can read an overview of PHP and what it does. This will also list the supported operating systems and databases.
Then you can follow the installation and configuration guide. Depending on your operating system, you will see some requirements and best practices on how to get started.
One of the most useful sections of this manual is the “ Language Reference”. Here, you will find a list of external links on basic PHP syntax and how to start writing your code.
Similar to online courses, you can read how-to guides on variables, functions, operators, and much more. You’ll even learn how to handle PHP errors when they happen.
This manual also gives you information about PHP security. You can read about the possible attacks, as well as bug reports.
As you learn more about PHP, you can save this manual for future reference. For example, you may need to search for certain features to implement them properly.
However, the PHP manual may not be the best option for beginners. Although this information is valuable and straightforward, it does not include interactive exercises. You may be better off using this as a reference during the learning process.