Pros and cons of PHP web development

10 Jun 2020
Kate, copywriter
There are many pros of using PHP, and they often become the determining factor of why 76% of websites use it and why it’s still so popular, although it was invented in 1994. 
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What is PHP and why is it popular?

What is PHP? Well, it’s an open-source server-side scripting language with web-development as a primary purpose. And it’s… it’s like this very easy-going simple guy John. Yes, you can deal with sophisticated people who collect Vinyl and read Japanese poetry during free time. You can deal with strict walking organizers. Or, you can just deal with John. He knows basic stuff about your business. He wears simple clothes, watches TV at the weekends, and does not follow the haircut trends. To communicate with him you don’t need to google Haiku or create a Trello table. John is super down-to-earth, and it takes less time to reach for him than someone who is there – up in the sky.

That’s what it feels like when you code in PHP. You objectively understand that there is always something more pretentious and exquisite. However, life experience has taught you that sometimes less is more, and easier is better.

That’s the first advantage of PHP – it has a low entering barrier. It’s trouble-free to learn with understandable documentation. What’s also contributes to its seamless knowledge-adopting process is that there is no strong typing or strict architecture. Embed it into HTML with <?php and ?> tags. Terminate each statement with a semicolon. All in all, you will need to follow the most basic rules and whether you use upper- or lower-case – it doesn’t really influence the result, only the looks of the code. Despite all the deprecating memes that are definitely created by Java-supporters, there are many pros of using PHP, and they often become the determining factor of why 76% of websites use it and why it’s still so popular, although it was invented in 1994. 

Advantages

Low learning curve

It is relatively easier to learn and easier to enter the market. There is no strict architecture you need to follow to make the code work. That means the newbies will not spend time arranging in into the perfect picture. PHP is very flexible, which facilitates the learning process. Also, with its structure, PHP is pretty intuitive to the coders who earlier worked with other programming languages. Plus, it has powerful community support, and if there is something you don’t know, the chances to get an answer are high. It doesn’t mean, you don’t need to put effort into the study at all. Yes, there are numerous “Become-PHP-professional-in-4-hours” videos on Youtube and trash-courses that promise you to code your first complex app in a day. It is somewhat challenging, only a little less when compared to other programming languages. For example, there is a great course on Codecademy. 

Laravel - PHP framework

It’s a ready-made platform for servers with pre-written scripts

It’s one of the benefits of PHP making it convenient. You don’t really need to write a lot of additional code, which saves time and allows your devs to focus on the improvement of performance. Other programming languages require much intrusion to perform, while PHP is comparatively easier to use. It’s like creating furniture. Other alternatives to PHP are the trees in the forest. You need to choose the one you are allowed to cut down, bring it to the sawmill, and create boards. PHP is a set of ready-made boards you get delivered to your house, and now you need to hire “carpenter” to turn it into the bed where you’ll lay while the coders make your web pages rise like a PHPoenix. 

Numerous frameworks and libraries available

That’s the thing with popularity – it’s a great benefit in all aspects. It’s a door-opener. The actor gets an Oscar – he gets invited to other shootings. The more people wear jeans in your brand, the new customers you’ll get. People consider “popular” to be “reliable”. If everyone likes it, why shouldn’t I? Just like that, the more popular PHP became, the more frameworks and libraries the IT community created. That opens new opportunities for your PHP code, making it more elaborate, logical, and consistent. Basically, with libraries and frameworks, you will overcome some of the disadvantages PHP has. Recall the analogy with PHP being “boards”. Well, frameworks, in that case, are ready-made units from IKEA that you need to assemble at home. Just like that, frameworks provide pre-designed strict architecture, turning PHP unsystematic code into an understandable structure you’ll arrange. For example, one of the best frameworks for PHP is Laravel. 

PHP community support

Elegant OOP

OOP stands for object-oriented programming, and it is one of the solutions that help PHP to digest Spaghetti Code, or in other words, give it a sense of structure. It has four principles: Encapsulation, Abstraction, Inheritance, and Polymorphism, all of which are dealing with properties and methods. 

  • Encapsulation is a process of grouping similar variables and functions into a single unit which is called object; 
  • Abstraction is when you hide some parts of the object to make its perception easier. Also, it allows reducing the influence of changes;
  • Inheritance includes the cutback of redundant code. Instead of redefining all methods and properties all right through, you can define it once in the generic object and have other objects adopt them;
  • Polymorphism is a process of reducing the occurrence of switch-and-case statements. 

When working with OOP, you declutter your code, have fewer parameters, hire the redundant methods and properties, and, altogether – make the usage of PHP more seamless. 

Strong Community Support

We’ll make this abstract short: with 20 years on the market, numerous frameworks and popularity, the community support is inevitable to be substantial. It means that if you have an issue or a problem with PHP – you`ll get help right away. The PHP community is available on social media, like Twitter and GitHub. They provide chats and forums, conferences, and meetings, making it even easier to get command on PHP. 

It’s open-source = free

So, let’s presume, you’ve created a new powerful laptop. You may share the technology with other manufacturers – this is open-source. You may sell the technology for a great sum – this is a license. PHP is completely available and free to use – you only need to know how. That’s a great economy of your development funds. Basically, you can subtract the cost of a license. However, you will have to care about the thorough selection of devs. PHP in the hands of professionals may exceed its limits and help to create truly powerful things. PHP in the hands of people who lack dedication and education may become Pandora’s box, which leads us to disadvantages. 

Disadvantages

Executes more slowly than other languages

Before understanding the ground that stays behind this fact, you need to understand the difference between compiling and interpreting languages. Both perform the same function: interpret the human-readable code into machine-readable (ones and zeros, zeros and ones). With compiled languages, the computer directly translates the code. Because of that, they operate faster. With interpreting ones, you will need an additional program for that – interpreter. With each request, it interprets everything from scratch. That’s why it tends to be slower. 

PHP is an interpreting language, that’s why it seems slower than compiling alternatives. However, sacrificing the speed, it provides flexibility in debugging and allows to get shorter feedback cycles. Plus, if you do care about the speed, you can go for PHP accelerators and cache extensions. 

Inconsistency 

The other side of PHP’s flexibility is its inconsistency. The lack of structure and strict architecture allows devs to choose the way of coding that is convenient to them. And it doesn’t mean on the couch vs by the table. It means the codes of different PHP devs may look different. Also, one of the issues with the code’s structure is something IT community likes to call Spaghetti code, which is a poorly-structured application with difficult to understand and maintain code. This issue can be solved with the implementation of frameworks, OOP solutions, and others. 

Security flaws

Because of its open-source nature, the code can be viewed by everyone who knows how to find access to it. It doesn’t mean they can change some info. However, hackers may notice bugs and structural issues, and use them for malicious purposes. To avoid such issues, it’s necessary to hire only the professionals, who, even if they make mistakes, will be able to notice and solve them.

However, because it’s so popular and easy to learn, there are a lot of newbies, non-professional people, amateurs and “dummies”. They will do basic things, however, the will also make basic mistakes. All in all, the biggest security flaw of all systems is the person who works with it.

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