PHP For Domainers: Lesson #1

So I was up late last night making some tweaks to my blog theme and realized that now would probably be a good time to share some of my PHP knowledge with new Domainers. PHP is an essential language to know when working with WordPress and comes-in handy for building your own sites as well. The great thing about PHP is that it is nowhere near as complicated as a programming language like C++ or Java so you can learn and begin using PHP very quickly.

So for the month of June I will be doing a four-part series on PHP that will get you up and running without having to read one of those “Learn PHP in 24-hour” books. I think PHP is an essential language for any Domainer that is also a developer. As more and more Domainers start blogging or developing mini-sites PHP will continue to become increasingly important. If you’ve ever been confused by the inner-working of your WordPress themes I hope this helps to allow you to customize your themes beyond the WordPress GUI.

So let’s get started with the first lesson!

Okay – so what is PHP? I’ll make this quick so we can get to the good stuff. PHP is a way to build interactive websites. It is considered a server-side language which means that the code you write will run on your web server rather than a web visitor’s computer (Javascript on the other-hand is a client-side language which runs on the web visitor’s computer). PHP allows you to breathe life into your websites by adding dynamic content – and with a blog this is very important!

You can add PHP to an existing website easily by simply typing when you want to start writing “<?PHP” before your code and then "?>" when you are done with your code. That’s it – put your PHP code between these two tags and you are ready to go. So time to learn your first PHP function – print. The code snipped below will write – “Hello Domaining World” on your site:

print “Hello Domaining World”;

If you put this into an HTML document and upload it to your server (given that is supports PHP which just about every hosting company has pre-installed) then you’ve just written your first working PHP code! Pat yourself on the back and we’ll move-onto something a bit more interesting.

Let’s cut to the chase and make something interactive. Where PHP really shines is interacting with HMTL forms. Now I’ll show you how to make a simple form on your website that you can then interact with using PHP – first let’s start with a basic HTML form:

<form method = “POST” action = “domainvestors_form.php”>
Name: <input type = “text” name = “username”>
Domain: <input type = “text” name = “domain”>
<input type = “submit” value = “Submit”>

This creates a simple HTML form that asks the user for a name and a domain. Now we’ll write a simple PHP script to interact with it – in this case the script will be in a file named domainvestors_form.php:<?php
print “Your name is: “;
print $_POST[‘username’];
print “Your domain is: “;
print $_POST[‘domain’];
This code will print your name and domain. The only new function you need to learn to interact with forms is $_POST[‘variable_name’] where variable_name is whatever you specified as the name for the particular input in your form.
As you can see – PHP really isn’t that complicated. If you’ve made it this far you now know how to add PHP to your site as well as access data from a form. There are a few more things you’ll need to know in order to really start digging-into your WordPress theme files, but I’ll save that for the following lessons. For now – open-up your favorite text-editor and try the script I’ve written above. If you have a hosting account with someone like GoDaddy then PHP is already installed and ready to go.

In the next lesson I’ll teach you a few more basic PHP concepts and then show you some examples of how these can be applied to understanding and editing your WordPress themes! If you don’t know HTML – it is MUCH easier than you might think. I have taught people with almost no computer experience how to build a webpage by writing HTML in a simple text-editor in under an hour. There isn’t much to it and you’ll be surprised about how much more you can do with your domains once you know the basics.

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Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton