What Makes a PHP Web Application?

November 7, 2007

Once and a while a get an email question put to me that I think many others are probably wondering about the same thing.

I got this email from Jordan:

Hi Stefan,

I am very interested in learning how to program, specifically with php. I went through all you videos which are excellent!

My main question is, after watching your videos and reading some tutorials I now understand the concepts such as variables, arrays,if statements etc., but have still have no idea how to put these together to create a web application.

I know exactly what I want the site to do but just have no idea where to begin. Where do I begin, is there something I can purchase that will guide me?

The simple answer to this is to just start writing code. Understanding PHP theoretically, is only the beginning of actually truly knowing it. Once you sit down and start writing code, things will seem to magically clear up as you go along.

Since most PHP Web application deal with processing forms, I would suggest that you practice processing a few forms .. actually write the code as an exercise. You could try:

  1. Capture the form data.
  2. Validate the form data.
  3. Finally, send the validated captured form data via email to yourself.

I cover these things in my videos BTW.


A web application is simply a website or web page that does something, it provides some sort of functionality that requires decision making.

Examples of web applications include:

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Newsletter creation sites.

.. the list of possibilities is practically endless.


One common characteristic of a web application is that of storing and retrieving of data from some sort of database – the ‘database drive website’.

PHP is flexible and offers many options in terms of the databases you can use. That said, PHP is commonly used with MySQL so it is probably a very good idea (almost essential,) that you learn at least the basics of MySQL.

Another question from Jordan:

Ok great! I had one other question for you.

I went through all of your videos, except for the oop which I didn’t want to begin until I get a good grasp on programming old school php. I have tried to look at other simple scripts and understand them. Even though I understand the concepts you taught, I always get lost.

Are there certain functions along with the basic concepts that I should memorize, it seems like there is always something on these scripts that I don’t quite understand.

You should not try to memorize anything, there is simply too much out there and you will find that you tend to forget a lot of stuff as your progress in your quest to become a PHP nerd.

Instead, you should just write code to get a feel for PHP and web programming in general. In a short time you will find that by writing code the information will just stick.

That said, now that you at least understand the concepts, it is time to put them to practice:

I would suggest that you start with a simple task (like a form that people can use to contact you – email contact form,) and see how that goes. Start simple then add functionality like validation, formatting etc ..


Actually, there is a key group of PHP functions/functionalities that are used more often than not. I have put together a list for a magazine article I wrote many months back … I will see if I can dig it out.

Hope that helps,

Stefan Mischook


5 Responses

  1. Pingback: PHPDeveloper.org

  2. sas171 Author November 11, 2007 at 10:27 am

    To speed up the learning of programming it is useful to learn some key concepts at first. I think the problem that Jordan has is that there is no structure in PHP by default (like in many other languages). On the hard way of bringing structure to your code it is good to know some time approved tools like refactoring.

    I think it is wrong way to learn functional programming first and then OOP. It will be very hard to think in objects after you learned to think in procedures, I know many great programmers that couldn’t teach themselves to think different.

  3. Stefan Mischook Author November 11, 2007 at 10:45 am


    Personally, I believe people have so much trouble learning OOP (object oriented programming) is because they can’t find a good teacher!

    I’ve read so many books on the subject and spoken to many OOP nerds and they all seem to have a problem explaining the basic concepts of OOP … they always resort to the classic analogies that IMHO, are weak.

    … I’ve written a tutorial on OOP and PHP that from reader response, goes a long to way to demystify object oriented programming.

  4. Mich Author December 21, 2007 at 4:05 am


    Did you come across that key group of PHP functions? Or the article that you wrote?

    I’d really like to study that list as I am sure it will provide much insight.

  5. Stefan Mischook Author December 23, 2007 at 9:25 am

    I will soon be releasing my list of the top 50 PHP functions and functionalities.

    … Something of a list of ‘to-learns’ or just a handy list of useful PHP snippets.


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