Why You Should Learn PHP

There are many things to consider when deciding what programming language you would like to learn. While everyone has different preferences and goals, PHP can be a great programming language, especially for beginners. It’s easy to pick up compared to other languages, is more flexible with mistakes, and is responsible for a large portion of the websites online today. Let’s take a dive into the pros and cons of learning PHP!

PHP: The King of the Web

  • Used by major web software such as the popular & free blogging platform, WordPress, or the widely used free forum / discussion board software MyBB
  • Responsible for the server-side logic and code on major social networks such as Facebook
  • The core code that powers millions of popular news websites, web applets, and even some robust & older browser games
  • In use by famous companies such as Wikipedia, Yahoo!, Baidu, Tumblr, and Flickr

PHP is used in over 80% of websites we visit, so it’s no wonder that you are interested in learning how to program scripts with PHP. And there’s plenty of good reasons for this. Although the language can lead to insecure platforms if you don’t code properly, it’s generally pretty easy to get code to work and debug your project if it doesn’t.

It Gets The Job Done

PHP is about as exciting as your toothbrush. You use it every day, it does the job, it is a simple tool, so what? Who would want to read about toothbrushes?

Rasmus Lerdorf (The creator of PHP)

So, we should address this concept of the PHP-toothbrush comparison. It is true that PHP is simple. You can use it to build web applications every single day. But it is also true that it isn’t the most exciting language. It has been around for a while, there’s a limit to what you can do as far as client-side interfacing, and you will probably need to learn a bit about databases, HTML/CSS, and JavaScript if you want to create the next Facebook.

However, PHP can adequately handle all of the server-side requests such as managing data about a user in the database, uploading or deleting files, and much more. Most things have already been done before, and even if you come up with a new idea you will likely just be using PHP in a non-unique way. At the end of the day, there’s only so many ways to save information to a database or create permission systems.

While you can always write more efficient code or have a truly unique website, there are more and more languages that can handle the server-side logic or “core” of the platform you build. For example, Node.js builds off of JavaScript (historically a client-side language) and allows developers to program server-side logic with JavaScript. This will only improve over time, and more languages will find themselves being used for both client-side and server-side tasks when appropriate.

Pros of Learning How to Code in PHP

  • Easier to learn than other programming languages, especially languages for operating systems like C or even Java
  • Well-documented online
  • Countless resources to help you learn on YouTube and tutorial websites
  • Supported / set up on most web hosting providers, allowing you to get started quickly
  • Can be installed locally on your computer to allow you to create and manage a core system without internet access or a website domain
  • Core PHP functions are often “self explanatory” / obvious with their naming conventions
  • Many extended libraries for PHP exist to help developers deploy web applications quickly and without rebuilding the wheel
  • Can be used in unconventional ways, allowing you to create pretty much anything even if it requires some extra page loads and unusual methods
  • Can be used in conventional ways, allowing you to create stable, secure, and efficient server side systems that manage data, users, and files effectively
  • Does not need to be compiled, allowing you to write your code, save the file, and instantly use / test it

Cons of PHP Programming

  • If not managed properly, PHP projects can become wildly insecure and/or buggy
  • PHP forgives beginner mistakes… If you do not follow industry standards and rules, your code will still work even if it’s insecure/vulnerable or buggy. This might sound like a positive aspect of PHP… Please be careful with your code! Especially if you store sensitive user information on your server
  • There are many ways to do the same thing in PHP. It’s not always obvious which is the best way unless you do research or extensive simulations/testing to find the best methods for your project
  • Unfortunately, there are still many outdated PHP tutorials teaching users how to write depreciated, insecure, or inefficient code. Make sure you stay up to date with the latest stable/supported releases of PHP

PHP is the Best Beginner Programming Language

As you can see, there are definitely pros and cons to learning PHP. However, it is definitely the best programming language to learn as a beginner. Whether it’s your first coding language or not, PHP will help you as a developer now and in the future.

It is wildly forgiving to beginners, so it’s a lot less frustrating than learning other languages that can leave you stumped for hours trying to fix a block of code before you can even test what you have created. Even if this opens the door to security concerns if you don’t properly write & test your code, the forgiving nature of PHP makes it one of the best languages to learn as a kid, beginner, or even experienced programmer.

You will gain exposure to many different concepts that are found in most other programming languages. PHP can use object orientated programming (OOP) or procedural style programming. You will learn about basic database connections & management (SQL / queries), file handling and uploading, if-else statements, loops, and so many more concepts and methods that are found all over the development world. Simply put, learning PHP will help you learn other languages in the future.