From HTML to PHP: Creating Dynamic Pages (Despite Doomsday)

, Engineer at Skillshare

If markup languages like HTML make up the body of a website, then programming languages like PHP give it life, allowing it to interact with your visitors and respond with content created just for them. Dynamic web sites are what make the internet the amazing place that it is, and each one of them has at its core a programming language working behind the scenes. With nearly 25 million sites currently running it, PHP is a popular choice, and although it's relatively easy to make the leap from writing static HTML to dynamic pages, the PHP language is still powerful and flexible enough to build the most monstrous of sites.

In this class, we'll take our knowledge of HTML and incrementally build up to creating dynamic pages which interact with our users. Along the way, we'll cover the following topics:

What makes a web page dynamic How does the web server deal with dynamic pages Using basic PHP utility functions such as echo and date PHP variables and how they can help maintain a site Using arrays, loops and functions to help us write repetitive markup Understanding the special POST and GET variables and how to use web forms and the query string to allow our site to respond to user input Organizing our site into different files using include How a dynamic web site uses a database to accumulate content over time (We won't get into the complex topic of database programming, but students who have taken Dan Kozikowski's Introduction to SQL class or another beginner database class will be able to connect what they learned there with our own work)

By the end of the two hour class, you'll be able to use these fundamental building blocks to create simple web applications like blogs and contact forms. You can finally cross "Build an awesome website" off your bucket list.

And just in time, too! As we progress through the class, we'll apply what we learn to "The Doomsday Inquirer", a simple news site that aims to provide a one-stop experience for every doomsday prepper's need to feel ahead of the pack. Ancient Mayan calendars, accelerating global warming, 2009's blockbuster documentary film 2012 -- all signs point to an apocalypse before the year is out! With such a short timeline (until December 21st, to be exact), we'll need every tool PHP provides at our disposal to engage our users and keep the site updated with the latest end times info.

The class will last 2 hours, with short sections of lecture broken up by quick bursts of hands-on experience where you'll apply what you've just learned and ask any questions you might have. I'll make the source code for the site available to you, both at the initial state and at various checkpoints through the class, so you'll be able to keep up as we move quickly from topic to topic. If you've used git or have taken Eric's Learn to use Git class, you'll be able to practice those skills jumping from state to state.

Prerequisites
You should have an understanding of HTML. Even better if you've had experience writing it. CSS knowledge is not required, but you'll be able to customize the look of the simple site we'll be working with. If you've taken a class like Reece's Building Websites 101, you're golden. You'll also need to bring a laptop with a capable text editor like Text Wrangler or Sublime -- I'll send out a prep document showing you how to set up your very own web server on it, so we can dive right in and cover as much ground as possible.
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Dan Applegate

Engineer at Skillshare
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