PHP Basics (and why I’m re-starting here)

I’ve been learning to build websites and write code using HTML, CSS, PHP and bits of jQuery. My education was sparked at Treehouse in November 2011 and they have an amazing education program that I’m happy to pay for (really). However, they have limited resources and a lot of large projects going on so their release schedule is too slow for my pace.

I just made it sound like I’m learning this stuff at mach speed…haha. I’m taking this slow. Not because I want to but because I have a wife and new baby, a full-time job and new micro-breweries keep opening up in my home town  :)  (Bend, Oregon). You can imagine I have a lot on my plate (and in my 16oz glass). If I’m lucky I will get an hour or two of solid coding each day.

On the topic of beer (I know, I know, I’ll get to my point). Bend, Oregon is probably the fastest growing beer town in the US. We not only have a few major breweries in the area but small craft breweries that are opening up all the time too. If you enjoy beer  as some people do wine, you should definitely visit because there is so much more to Bend than beer.

Back to PHP. I’ve decided to focus my education on back-end development (for now). PHP has something like 70% or 80% market usage so that’s what I’m learning. Treehouse doesn’t offer many resources for PHP because they are just now developing those education modules. I also learned from Josh Long in his article “Turning Pro” (on the Treehouse blog) that if you want to be good at something you have to start from the beginning. You have to build a solid foundation or you will never achieve mastery.

To that end, I took Long’s advice and went to the source: php.net. As I understand it they curate the PHP language. Their manual goes through every feature in PHP and is a great place to start. I, however, have really liked the way PHP is explained onw3schools.com. I started at the beginning on that site and I’ve been committing into memory as much info as I can remember.

(NOTE: W3Schools is not affiliated with the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) which develops standards for the web.)

Right now I’m not playing with the code as I read the tutorials because I never learned the foundational core functions in PHP. I want to have a conceptual understanding of the language and all it’s possibilities before getting bogged down in a text editor. Some of you may not agree with postponing the jump into coding but this is how I feel it will work best for me.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time building sites and coding with PHP. However, my code has been thrown together from examples and other sites. I was piecing stuff together without knowing exactly what was going on. I’ve reached a point where I want to build larger projects but trying to debug my code without fully understanding the language has been a nightmare and has wasted a lot of my time (though, debugging is, itself, a great way to learn).

I’m delving into PHP not because I have HTML and CSS mastered but because I know quite a bit about them and it’s more than enough to enable my PHP education. After this exercise in PHP I will go back and do the same with both HTML and CSS.

This is me paying my dues and starting at the beginning (of PHP). I’m pretty excited.