Building and launching your first website can be a daunting and confusing undertaking, especially if your technical knowledge of how the World Wide Web and the Internet work is limited. If you are new to this field, you have to learn the meanings terms like web hosting, shared hosting plans, HTML, static and dynamic web pages, analytics and so on.
Our technical support staff are often asked if we offer php hosting, and we have to probe a bit further because there is no such thing as php web hosting. When our people delve into what the customer really wants to know, it is almost always whether he or she can host websites that require PHP with us (they can), a very different thing to php hosting.
What is PHP?
PHP is an open source programming language that was developed specifically to build web pages. It is probably the most widely used programming language for web development. Our web servers automatically give your websites access to PHP, so when we get questions about php hosting and talk to our customers, they are assured that they can run their PHP applications on our servers.
Why use PHP?
PHP allows you to build dynamic web pages. Dynamic web pages are built on the server in real time in response to a request, and the built page is returned to the browser. In contrast, a static web page is a one that resides on the server in its final form.
When you type in a search query on any search engine, the engine will use an application like PHP to process your query, and feed the query into its database servers. The engine will use sophisticated algorithms in the processing phase to decide what pages should be returned in the search results. When it makes that decision, it passes the results found into a page-building module. The module will create the page and send it back to the browser. Such a page is referred to as a dynamic page. All of this takes place in just a few seconds.
It should be clear that search engines could not provide a useful service if they were limited to returning only static web pages. In the same way, lots of other types of websites need to use dynamic web pages to be of any use to their visitors. For example, online stores, unless they offer a very limited range of stock, will need to use dynamic pages to display items for sale.
Are there other advantages to using dynamic pages?
There are numerous advantages to using dynamic pages.
Some of the benefits are important, while others are pretty minor. On a website where users can click through several pages on the site, it is good practice to show a breadcrumb trail on the page that lets them see exactly how they have arrived there.
This also benefits the site, as it helps surfers get back to that page on a subsequent visit. Without a trail, surfers may be unable to navigate back to the page, and that could result in lost business for the website owner. You need to serve dynamic pages to be able to use breadcrumbs.
Scalability is much less of an issue when sites are built with dynamic pages. For example, if you need to change your site design, this can usually be done very simply in PHP. It is often as simple as opening an admin function and choosing or installing a different template. Once the new choice is selected and you save the new settings, the new template’s design will automatically and instantly apply to all the pages that used the old one.
Do I have to learn PHP programming to build dynamic pages?
It is possible to build quite complex websites that are driven by PHP programs without any knowledge of PHP programming thanks to content management systems (CMS).
Open source applications like Joomla, Drupal and WordPress all use PHP as their coding system, but you can deploy these applications without needing to learn any PHP programming. These CMS applications let you communicate with them via a series of administrative functions. For example, if want to add a new page to your website, you simply go into the admin function and select the option to do so.
You will then be presented with a number of tools for building the page, and adding content (text, images, video, audio etc.) to it.
You can do all this without typing any PHP commands whatsoever. Being open source products, the basic versions of these applications are free to use, and they are very comprehensive systems that can build very sophisticated websites.
In addition, there are numerous add-ons and plugins developed to work with these applications to extend their functionality even further. As with the CMS applications themselves, many of these add-ons and plugins are free of charge. For example, Virtuemart is a Joomla plugin that provides a fully functional online store and shopping cart management facility, and costs you nothing.
You only need a minimum of technical knowledge to install these applications. About the most complicated thing you have to do is create a MySQL database on your web server before installing the applications. In most cases, it is simply a matter of downloading the application to your computer, unpacking it to a local directory, changing some basic configuration data, and uploading the expanded files to your web server.
Should I never use static pages?
Very often, the people who ask us about php hosting are working on quite limited budgets, and their websites do not have a great number of pages. In such cases, static pages may be the answer. They are often cheaper to build than dynamic pages. There are even free WYSIWYG tools that people, even beginners, can use to build their own static pages. If you cannot afford to employ a professional web builder, then static pages that you build yourself may be a good alternative.
If you want to build your own website, and you are not a programmer, then you should probably concentrate, at least initially, on building static pages. HTML, the markup language behind most web pages, is much easier to learn than a fully-fledged programming language like PHP. Using a combination of basic HTML and free web builder tools, you can produce quite sophisticated looking static websites.
The biggest problem with static pages is that they have to be edited every time you want to make a change on them. Sometimes, a change can mean having to revisit every page on a website and edit them all. For example, if your business changes address or telephone number, and that information is shown on all your pages, you have to edit every single one of them to include your new contact information. While this may be manageable for websites with just a few pages, it would clearly be a major headache on a site than had hundreds of pages.
At webdevel.com, we are always pleased to answer questions about our hosting service, and to offer advice to newbies. We understand that many of our customers may be new to website building and website terminology and can use terms like php hosting. We can usually get to the real issue when asked about things like php hosting without embarrassing the person who asks. Call us today with your queries, and see how we can help.