How Is PHP Used In Web Development?

How Is PHP Used In Web Development?

If you’re new to building websites, you’ve most likely heard the term “PHP” being mentioned in articles and tutorials. In fact, PHP is used in a large majority of websites partly because it powers WordPress, a software that powers 34% of all websites on the internet. But what exactly is PHP?

PHP is an open-source, server-side programming language that allows developers to create dynamic web pages using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Want to learn more about PHP and why it’s one of the languages behind some of the best website builders?  Keep reading!


Key Highlights

  • PHP is a popular server-side scripting language used for web development
  • It is used to create dynamic web pages, process data on the server, and interact with databases
  • Popular PHP frameworks and libraries such as Laravel, Symfony, and CodeIgniter are used by developers to build applications quickly and efficiently
  • PHP integrates easily with databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Firebase
  • It provides built-in functions for sanitizing user input, preventing SQL injection attacks, and handling user authentication and authorization
  • PHP is a scalable and flexible language that can be used to build large-scale web applications


Overview of PHP Popularity in Web Development

When you type a URL in your web browser and click “enter”, the browser makes a request to the web server linked to that URL, and the server returns the website or web page you’re looking for. The process of creating that website or page is known as web development.

So where does PHP fit into all of this?

PHP is commonly used as a backend language. This means that PHP is responsible for processes and tasks that happen in the web server, such as fetching from a database and validating user input. PHP is currently one of the most popular programming languages for these reasons:


Reasons for PHP Popularity in Web Development

1. Easy to Learn and Use

Like most other high-level languages, PHP is easy to learn (a high-level language uses human-readable syntax while low-level languages use machine code). It uses a simple, concise syntax, such that variables can be defined without keywords like const or var.

If you’re looking to learn PHP, there are a ton of resources and tutorials available to guide you. Some of them are PHPTutorial, W3Schools, Tutorialspoint, and Javatpoint. These resources all offer step-by-step lessons to take you from beginner to intermediate.

2. Open-source

If the software is open-source, it means that anyone can freely download the source code and modify it. There are different licenses under the “open-source” specification. Each of them specifies its own rules with regard to modification and distribution.

The PHP codebase is open-sourced. It’s distributed under the PHP License v3.01, which is an Open Source license certified by the Open Source Initiative. The PHP license is a BSD-style license without the “copyleft” restrictions associated with GPL.

3. Versatility

Single-purpose programming languages can only be used to perform a particular task in a particular domain, while multi-purpose languages can be used in different domains to create different kinds of applications and services.

PHP belongs to the second category (multi-purpose). It’s a versatile and flexible language that can be used for web development, image processing, data science, and artificial intelligence, as well as for creating CMS systems (like WordPress) and E-commerce websites.

4. Strong Community Support

PHP has a large community of developers who devote their time to fixing bugs and adding improvements to the programming language, ensuring that it remains functional and performs better than before.

In addition, there is no shortage of tutorials and guides on how to use PHP. The creator community for PHP is huge, spanning YouTube, blogs, Udemy, and other educational platforms. You’ll also find up-to-date resources on virtually any topic you want. These all point to PHP’s popularity among software developers.

5. Fast and Secure

Over the years, tremendous improvements have been made to recent versions of PHP to make it faster and more secure. In fact, PHP 8 is proven to be twice as fast as any previous version of PHP. Contributors have also made significant improvements to the syntax to allow for cleaner PHP code.

To stop yourself from becoming a victim of potentially catastrophic security breaches and code breaks, upgrade to PHP version 7 or higher. These versions include nice features that make your program fast and secure.

For example, security algorithms such as Sha1 (Secure Hash Algorithm 1) and MD5(Message Digest 5) allow you to encrypt the strings in PHP. In addition, Filter_var and strip_tags functions are used to keep the environment more secure for users and protected from hackers.

6. Well Connected with Databases

PHP is compatible with a wide variety of SQL and NoSQL databases including MySQL, MariaDB, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, and Firebase. In fact, strong database compatibility is one of the strongest points of using PHP.

You also have access to several server packages that come preinstalled with PHP, a web server (Apache), databases, and other ancillary tools (such as PHPMyAdmin), all pre-configured to work together. Examples of such packages are WAMPServer, MAMP, and XAMPP.

7. Tried and Tested

PHP is one of the most widely-used programming languages in enterprise websites. Notable companies that use PHP for their website include Facebook, MailChimp, Slack, Tesla, Yahoo, Wikipedia, and Cloudflare.

Additionally, PHP is the foundational language behind WordPress, the CMS that powers about 70% of the whole internet. Many of the major world-class Ecommerce solutions (such as Magneto) are also built using PHP, making PHP a major language in the web development industry.

8. Lots of Legacy Code

Many existing websites are WordPress-based, and by extension, built with PHP. Legacy code helps to maintain backward compatibility with older versions of PHP, which means that developers can continue to use code written for older versions of the language in the newest version.

As for the development of PHP, legacy code has served as a source of existing functionality for developers to draw from, as well as a source of inspiration for new ideas and projects. Developers have been able to create powerful applications and websites that are reliable and easy to maintain.


Web Development Use: Backend Development with PHP

Final: How Is PHP Used In Web Development

A website consists of both a front-end and a back-end. The front-end represents parts of the website that you can see and interact with, such as buttons, images, links, and navigation tabs. The languages typically used in the front-end are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

On the other hand, the backend is part of the website that you don’t see or have access to. The backend typically comprises the database and scripts for performing backend-related tasks such as validating a request, fetching from the database, and sending assets/data to the browser to render.

1. Role of PHP in Backend Development

PHP plays a key role in backend development. It runs on the server and produces HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that are then sent to the client’s browser. It’s also used to access a database, process, and store data, and create dynamic content.

2. PHP Libraries For Backend Development

A backend framework is a collection of code built specifically to make the creation of a website’s backend significantly easier. They typically come with routes, middleware, and APIs for setting up your app and give you the option to create yours from scratch.

Examples of popular PHP frameworks for backend development are Laravel, CakePHP, CodeIgniter, and Symphony.


Web Development Use: Server-side Scripting with PHP

Server-side scripting is writing code that runs on a web server. This code generates web pages for users and facilitates communication between the web server and the user.

Examples of server-side scripting languages include PHP, ASP, JSP, and ColdFusion. PHP code is embedded in HTML documents, and when the web page is requested by a user, the server runs the PHP code, which generates the HTML output that is sent back to the user’s browser.

The main advantage of server-side scripting with PHP is security. This is because data processing is performed completely on the server side instead of the client side, and raw data is never transferred across the internet. Therefore, your backend is completely protected from the outside world. See other server-side scripting benefits.


Web Development Use: Creating Dynamic Web Pages With PHP

Dynamic web pages are web pages that can be generated on the fly, which means they are created in response to a user’s request. Basically, the content of the page can change depending on the user’s input.

You can use PHP as a scripting language to create dynamic web pages. You can use it to create dynamic web pages that respond to user input and can provide data from a database in response to a user’s request.

Additionally, you can use it to create interactive forms and web applications that can interact with users, store and retrieve data, and generate dynamic content.

  • Example of Dynamic Page Generation

An example of dynamic content is your social media profile. The profile that PHP will return from the server is completely dependent on the user requesting it. So if ‘John’ and ‘Sarah’ were to make a request to the same server, it’ll return two completely different sets of data because they’re not the same person.

To distinguish ‘John’ from ‘Sarah’ (and other users), identifying information (such as username or email) will be sent to the server. Then the server script will use that data to retrieve the corresponding record from the database and send it back to the browser to render. The best part of using PHP for dynamic content generation is that it’s supported by most web hosting providers.


Web Development Use: Database Connectivity with PHP

PHP is a popular language for web development, and its database connectivity features make it an ideal choice for building dynamic websites and web applications.

It provides built-in support for a variety of database systems, including MySQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, and SQLite. Its database connectivity features allow developers to quickly and easily connect to databases, query data and manipulate results.

  • Abstraction and Functions

Additionally, PHP’s database abstraction layers make it possible to write code that is compatible with multiple database systems. This ensures that applications built with PHP can be quickly adapted to different databases without significant re-coding.

It also provides a range of functions for working with databases, enabling you to easily perform tasks such as creating and executing SQL queries, retrieving data from databases, and managing transactions.

  • Examples of Database Management Systems That Work with PHP

MySQL is the most popular Database Management System (DBMS) that works with PHP. It is an open-source relational database system and is widely used for storing data in web applications.

Other popular DBMSs that work with PHP include PostgreSQL, MariaDB, SQLite, and Microsoft SQL Server. Each of these DBMSs provides different features and services, such as support for different types of data, as well as different levels of security.


Web Development Use: Integrating PHP with Frontend technologies

Front-end involves the look of a site and the presentation of content. HTML and CSS are responsible for both of those factors, including text formatting, page layout, font selection, colors, positioning, and so on.

JavaScript and PHP are responsible for what the website does. Common tasks performed with both JavaScript and PHP include user validation, submitting a form to the server, UI and page modifications, and so on. However, unlike PHP, JavaScript primarily runs in the web browser.

Frontend Technologies that Integrate Well with PHP

Frontend technologies that integrate well with PHP are React, Vue.js, Angular, Bootstrap, and Material UI, to mention a few. The biggest benefit of integrating these frameworks is that you won’t have to create the UI elements from scratch or define your own framework.


What Are Some Examples of Popular Websites Using PHP?

Earlier we mentioned that PHP is responsible for powering a significant portion of websites on the internet. Let’s take a look at some of the notable companies that use PHP on their website.

1. Facebook

Facebook is one of the biggest companies known for exclusively using PHP for its backend development, including processing user requests, interacting with databases, and generating dynamic web pages.

This has allowed Facebook to create a robust and scalable social media application that caters to billions of users across the world. Facebook has also contributed to the popularity and advancement of PHP by funding research into the language.

2. Wikipedia

Wikipedia relies on PHP to power its backend and handle millions of requests every hour. It uses PHP scripts to generate and display articles and other content to users.

It’s no secret how popular Wikipedia is. The website gets millions of requests on an hourly basis, and PHP’s scalability is instrumental to keep the website up and running in both peak times and moments of lowered traffic volume.

3. WordPress

WordPress is a popular content management system (CMS) used by millions of websites around the world. It’s famed for its easy-to-use admin panel that lets you create and manage websites without the need for any technical knowledge.

WordPress uses the PHP scripting language to generate the HTML code that is used to display the content on the web pages. The code is generated dynamically based on the information stored in the WordPress database.

PHP also allows WordPress to communicate with other systems, such as databases and APIs, to retrieve and store data. This makes it easy for users to create and manage their own websites without needing to understand any coding.

4. Etsy

Etsy is an e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies, as well as unique factory-manufactured items, hence it’s a marketplace for independent sellers to create and sell their own products.

Etsy uses PHP as its primary backend language, allowing sellers to quickly and easily create and manage their own web stores. Etsy also uses a variety of other languages, such as JavaScript, to provide a rich user experience.

PHP is used to store and manage data, create and manage user accounts, process payments, and facilitate communication between buyers and sellers. Etsy also uses PHP to create and maintain a secure environment for its users.

5. Slack

Slack is a cloud-based team collaboration and communication platform. It provides a central hub for all of a team’s communication, allowing users to send messages, files, and links to one another in real-time.

Slack uses PHP on its backend to handle requests from the front end and to provide a quick response for users. PHP is used to handle database queries, authenticate users, and manage the data that is communicated back and forth between the different components of the platform.

It also uses PHP to handle the various webhooks and API calls that are necessary for the platform to operate correctly. Additionally, PHP is used to provide a secure layer of encryption and authentication to ensure that all user data is kept safe and secure.



The possibilities with PHP are virtually limitless. From creating simple content management systems to powering the most complex web applications, PHP is an incredibly versatile language that can be used for a variety of purposes, including web development, data science, image processing, and database management.

With its wide range of tools, libraries, and frameworks, PHP is an excellent choice for developers who need a powerful and easy-to-use language for web development. It integrates well with frontend frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue, and databases such as MySQL, MariaDB, and Firebase.

Getting started with web development with PHP is a pretty straightforward process. As long as you’re aware of what to do in each step, you’ll be ready to start coding with PHP in no time!


Next Steps: What Now?


Further Reading: Useful Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PHP, and why is it used for web development?

PHP is a server-side scripting language used to create dynamic web pages and process data on the server. It is a popular choice for web development due to its ease of use, flexibility, and strong community support.

What are some popular frameworks & libraries for PHP web development?

Some popular PHP frameworks and libraries include Laravel, Symfony, CodeIgniter, Yii, and CakePHP. These frameworks provide developers with pre-built tools and components to help them build web applications faster and more efficiently.

How does PHP integrate with databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL?

PHP provides functions and extensions that allow developers to connect to databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL, execute queries, and retrieve data. This makes it easy to create dynamic web pages that display data from a database.

How can PHP be used to secure web applications?

PHP provides built-in functions for sanitizing user input, preventing SQL injection attacks, and handling user authentication and authorization. Additionally, frameworks like Laravel and Symfony have built-in security features that make it easier to create secure web applications.

Can PHP be used to create large-scale web applications?

Yes, PHP can be used to build large-scale web applications, as it is a scalable and flexible programming language. However, it is important to use best practices and design patterns to ensure that the application is maintainable and can handle high traffic volumes.

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