Jack Barber / Website Design

My #20yearsofphp Story

PHP is now 20 years old. That means I was 9 when it was invented. But I didn't know about it until I was 21, and got my first job building websites for Computer Doctor North East in Whitby.

PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. It is a dynamic programming language used by web developers to generate dynamically loaded web pages quickly and easily. And most of the websites I build rely on it. Infact, much of the internet uses it.

My PHP story began when I started working for David and Phil. Until this point I had only dealt with static pages - standard HTML (mostly in iframes), enough CSS to get by on and a smattering of Javascript.

PHP was the missing link - the thing that allowed me to process forms and store and load data in MySQL databases. It enabled me to process images and send emails programatically. It is amazing!

I suppose the thing which got me hooked was being able to quickly and easily write my own software - something I continue to do to this day. PHP has enabled me to offer bespoke solutions to my clients, which otherwise wouldn't be an option.

PHP 'Hello World'

While content management systems like Wordpress, Textpattern and Joomla have all been around since before I started building websites, there's always been something inspiring about being able to create applications from scratch, all made possible by PHP.

This website runs using software I've developed - it makes managing the content really easy, and the pages load quickly too :)

I am not an expert. But PHP is forgiving - easy to learn and easy to fix when things go wrong.

I'd love to write better code. And I'm getting there, slowly. I'm yet to get my head around PHP classes, and object-oriented programming. But there's time for that yet.

Due to the way my web design career has developed I have had to acquire a wide range of skills. Weekly (and even daily) I find myself doing some or all of:

  • Web design (pictures of websites)
  • 'Front End' development (converting pictures into HTML templates)
  • 'Back End' development (the PHP bit)
  • Accessibility testing (ensuring everyone can make use of the site I'm building)
  • Optimisation (SEO and speed)
  • Copywriting (writing text for my clients' sites)
  • Project management (ensuring everything gets done)
  • Business administration (ensuring I get paid)
  • System Administration (keeping an eye on my web server)
  • Business development and sales (looking for new projects)

PHP has enabled me to build a business, creating websites which meet the needs of my clients and the needs of their site's visitors. PHP has enabled me to write bespoke software applications to help other businesses run more efficiently. PHP has enabled this because it's relatively easy to learn - it is more forgiving than other languages.

I appreciate it may not be the most efficient or powerful programming language. And its flexibility means PHP development can end up a mess of functions and variables.

But it works, and I like it.

And I look forward to using it for many years to come.