Do you want to start your own website or create your own web application? Doing so successfully will take time, hard work and money. To maximize your chances for success and to minimize your chances for failure you will need to invest in the right technology. The right technology is free open source solutions. When it comes to web development, that means working with the dynamic duo, two old friends, fully capable, PHP and MySQL.
PHP is a widely-used general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for Web development and can be embedded into HTML. – www.php.net
But, but, what about ASP.NET (C#/VB.NET) and JSP?
I’m not going to say PHP is a better programming language than VB.NET, C# or JSP. I’m not going to say it’s faster, more robust, or more reliable. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. PHP is however the most affordable and widely supported. But wait… JSP is free too isn’t it? Perhaps it is, but good luck finding affordable web hosting for your JSP website. So why not ASP.NET? Don’t even consider using it. Microsoft might make VB.NET or C# sound nice, but its proprietary and expensive. You should always support open source solutions whenever possible.
Great, I’ve decided to use PHP, now what?
You could open up Notepad and start coding away or you could read some PHP tutorials that you’ll quickly forget and never use. Either way you’ll accomplish nothing and probably quit before you’ve done anything useful. Tutorials are only good if you have a problem. Don’t read them for fun under the false pretext you might learn something. You won’t. When you’re stuck, they can help you, but you won’t learn anything until you go get yourself stuck. That’s also why you shouldn’t just start coding. You don’t know anything yet, you can’t possibly make anything useful, and so you’ll end up reading tutorials for beginners, get discouraged by your own incompetence, and buy Visual Studio because you can drag and drop buttons onto the screen… wow!
Ummm… so what do I do then?
You do something useful right from the get-go. You install some free open source PHP software on your web server like WordPress, phpBB, Joomla, Drupal, or php-Nuke. These are quality web applications and your key to learning PHP. Pick one you like. I suggest WordPress because that’s what runs this site and because most people interested in web development all feel the need to have their own blog anyways.
Once you have your PHP powered site up and running, start to modify it. Edit the theme to see how PHP is mixed with HTML. Make new plugins or modules to learn how to code with PHP. If you get stuck, these open source projects have forums where you can get support or find answers to common questions. There are usually experienced users who will be happy to help you and to test your code. Not only are you working on an application that is likely useful to you, but you are working on mods that can be useful to others. You can get feedback, suggestions and comments right away even as a beginner. Being part of a community as a beginner will give you the support you need to succeed. Working on something useful from the beginning will give you the motivation to continue.
But I really need a tutorial, plz plz plz!
If jumping right in and swimming with the sharks seems a little too over-whelming, you may prefer getting started with this introductory tutorial. Personally, I’d prefer to swim with sharks rather than get eaten by them, but it’s your choice…
What about MySQL, PHP’s partner in crime?
MySQL is a free open source database system. All useful web applications require a database in order to store information. MySQL is the one you will want to use. Using MySQL will require learning SQL syntax. Joomla, PHP-Nuke, phpBB and WordPress all use MySQL. Examine their code, see how they interact with the database and try making modifications. Add new tables or fields to the database and have your website display them. Use new tables to store information for your new PHP plugin, etc… Most web hosting companies will have multiple MySQL databases available for you. That’s why you invested in PHP and MySQL for your projects, because it’s the most widely supported when it comes time to putting your application online.
Plz, plz, just one tutorial for MySQL…!
Here is a good PHP & MySQL Tutorial. In particular, it’s useful if you plan to run PHP and MySQL locally rather than immediately on an already configured web server. Let me again emphasize, your best bet is to just get started playing in the code. When you get stuck, use your good friend Google to look up the answer or post your question on the appropriate forums for the project you are working on. Tutorials are your enemy until you need them. Reading tutorials without having an immediate use for their contents is just another form of procrastination.
So I need a web-host?
If you’re using PHP and MySQL, the only thing that will actually cost you money is your web hosting. Your web hosting will provide you with online storage space as well as a domain name, the internet address used to access your site. I recommend you sign up with Host Gator. Host Gator is not only a hosting company, it is also a community. They have an active forum where you can discuss issues directly with staff members to resolve any problems you might encounter.