Photograph of a young girl dressed as a maid

I often compare PHP to the scullery maids living below stairs in an upper-class Victorian household: rarely given the acknowledgement they deserve, but indispensable to order and productivity.

PHP is the server-side technology you’re most likely to encounter in web development today, although there are many other alternatives. PHP works to assemble pages, validate form inputs, and a thousand other tasks, delivering web content for consumption.

Like other web tech, the role of PHP in your sites will change as your workflow develops. At the very least, you should understand how PHP is used to generate page templates with include(), together with basic form handling, variables, and file I/O. This PHP reading list is designed to fulfill those requirements.

Goals: Understand the role and uses of PHP; install a local development server on your own computer; test that PHP is running; create a simple web page that utilizes server-side includes.

Total time: 2 hours

Prerequisites: While you can learn web development “back to front” – getting to grips with a server-side technology first, then HTML and CSS – in my experience the result is a disjointed understanding of site development. For that reason I would strongly recommend you learn as much about HTML and CSS as you can before tackling PHP.

Core Material

  1. Introduction to PHP
  2. The Client-Server Model
  3. The Roles of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP
  4. Basic Requirements
  5. How To Avoid Problems
  6. Your First PHP Page

Before you look at a live PHP document you’re going to need a server. A local development server is a very useful option: see the Servers & Hosting reading list for more information on how to install one.

Additional Reading

If you’re creating HTML pages using an XML prolog, you’ll want to read up on a curious problem that occurs when you add PHP to the mix.

Supplementary Material

Codecademy logoThe best and most authoritative guide to PHP is the site, although its technical depth can quickly become overwhelming to new coders. Codecademy has very good PHP introductory material; it also offers a means of learning PHP code without having to install a server.

When You’re Done

Your next learning goal will be to discover the basics of PHP: variables, arrays, concatenation, and includes, which will be covered in the next reading list.

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