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HTML 5 and PHP


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PHP vs HTML: What is the Difference?

Posted in HTML 5, PHP
PHP vs HTML

If you’re trying to build a dynamic website, you may have been led directly to PHP vs HTML. Both of these are foundational technologies — a great example of an HTML/PHP site is WordPress. But they’re also very different technologies. 

Today, we’re going to take a look at the difference between HTML and PHP and how they interact with each other.

What is HTML?

HTML is short for Hyper-Text Markup Language. It is a client-side markup language. What does that mean? It means that it’s a sequence of code that your browser reads to determine how to display things like text and images.

HTML is a fundamental building block of every website. To write “Hello!” on a website, you would write the following:

<b>Hello!</b>

This would show up in a browser window:

Hello!

You could also insert an image as follows:

<img src=hello.jpg>

What’s most important is that the browser can see the above code and know that instead of printing the text,

<img src=hello.jpg>

it has to pull the file hello.jpg and display it. So, HTML is just a way of telling the browser what it has to display, in a shorthand that the computer can understand.

HTML is not a dynamic language. You cannot use HTML to, for instance, display someone’s login name and login information. All you can do is show static websites with HTML. HTML can be augmented with JavaScript or CSS to make it dynamic, or interactive. Otherwise, HTML is generally referred to as “front-end” development — a development that is primarily concerned with the look and feel of a website.

What is PHP?

PHP is a back-end programming language, which stands for PHP Hyper-Text Processor (a recursive acronym). PHP is a programming language that is compiled by the server. The code that you write goes through the server and then produces HTML code. The HTML code is then translated by the browser.

In PHP, we would write:

print("<b>Hello!</b>");

The above code calls the print() function of PHP. The server would see the above code, and then it would produce:

<b>Hello!</b>

This is just HTML code now, not PHP code. It is identical in every respect to the HTML code we produced earlier. The HTML code would then be sent to the browser, which would produce:

Hello!

Thus, PHP provides a dynamic layer on top of the static HTML code. For instance, we could write something like:

if($morning) {
print("<b>Good morning!</b>") ;
} else {
print("<b>Good night!</b>");
}


The differences between PHP and HTML can be complicated because they work so well together. PHP code is generally integrated
into HTML pages, so you may see long strings of HTML and just a little PHP code or long strings of PHP with just a little HTML code. The HTML provided would be different depending on whether the “$morning” variable returned true, but the browser would never even know there was a different code available. All the browser would ever get would be “Good morning” or “Good night.”

Complicating all of the above is that we sometimes refer to “PHP HTML.” In fact, one of the extensions for PHP is “.PHTML.” So, it’s not really a question of PHP versus HTML or PHP or HTML. You will usually be using both if you’re creating a dynamic website.

What is the Difference Between PHP and HTML?

PHP is a server-side programming language whereas HTML is a client-side markup language. They are used for entirely different things, but because they are frequently used together, people may confuse the two.

WordPress is one of the most popular applications on the web that is designed in PHP. If you know PHP, you can dig into the code of WordPress (because it is open-source) and change the way that the application works.

Many of the most popular websites on the internet have been developed in PHP and HTML.

Is PHP Better than HTML?

PHP is not better than HTML because they are both so different. In fact, in many ways, HTML is more versatile. HTML is used practically everywhere, from messageboards to social media sites. But PHP is more robust than HTML; it can produce more intricate, dynamically-designed websites.

Why is PHP Used in HTML?

PHP code can be “dropped” into HTML because of the way that the interpreter works. The interpreter will ignore any HTML code and focus only on the PHP, sending all the HTML to the browser. Once the PHP processing is done, the page is just HTML.

Think of PHP as a method of making HTML pages more dynamic. PHP does not work without HTML, though HTML can work without PHP.

Do I Need to Learn HTML Before PHP?

You don’t strictly need to learn HTML before PHP, but it does help. You can learn it at the same time, but you will need to learn HTML eventually if you want to learn PHP.

PHP vs HTML: A Head-to-Head Comparison

HTML vs PHP

HTML vs PHP: Which is Easier?

Learning PHP is likely to take longer because HTML must be learned, too. However, many actually find that learning HTML can be a significant hurdle to overcome because it’s usually the first computer language that they learn. HTML has also changed significantly since it was first released and its standards are updated fairly frequently. 

Today, HTML development has become inextricably linked to CSS/JavaScript development. HTML developers command high salaries, but it’s generally assumed that they also understand CSS, Bootstrap, and a wide variety of other technologies. Thus, the complete “HTML ecosystem” can be a challenge, even if HTML itself is not.

HTML vs PHP: Static or Dynamic?

If you are building a static website (a website that doesn’t have to change based on user information or user behavior), then all you need is HTML. If you want to finetune and optimize the appearance of your website, you may also need CSS or JavaScript.

If you are building a dynamic website (a website that must acknowledge the user’s information or the user's behavior), then you need PHP or another similar server-side programming language. You may also be able to use JavaScript.

If you need to connect with a database, such as a MySQL database, you will need to use PHP. So, in short, if your website never has to change, then HTML is sufficient.

HTML vs PHP: What Are the Career Options?

HTML developers will usually make less than PHP developers for a very simple reason; a PHP developer needs to understand HTML but the inverse isn’t true. That being said, both are very prized skills that are very needed within the job market. An HTML developer with full knowledge of CSS and JavaScript can make more than a PHP developer, but those are additional (and extensive) skill sets.

HTML vs PHP: How Are They Processed?

Anyone can write HTML code, save it as a “.html” file,” and launch it in their browser. Because it’s a client-side language, everything is filtered by the browser. But PHP is a little more complicated. To code in PHP, you need to install a server and PHP on your computer, or you need to have a hosting service that has PHP installed.

It should also be noted that this means that both PHP and HTML can vary their results depending on a user’s platform. Because PHP produces HTML and the HTML is then translated by the browser, the standards of the browser will impact the look and feel of the site. CSS and JavaScript are generally used to create a universal experience across all platforms. 

Alternatives to PHP and HTML

HTML is industry-standard for the development of static websites, but CSS and JavaScript currently do a lot of the heavy lifting. Many companies have switched to jQuery, React, or Bootstrap development; these all use HTML, but with CSS/JavaScript components. So, while there are few direct alternatives to HTML (at least, those that have any significant popularity), not everyone uses just HTML.

Python and JavaScript are both popular alternatives to PHP. Since PHP essentially uses dynamic programming to create static HTML, Python and JavaScript can be used to do the same thing. Today, many developers use JavaScript as a server-side scripting language rather than using PHP. But it really depends on which language you want to learn and what you want to do with it.

If you’re applying to an “HTML developer” position, you should look deeper into the requirements. It’s very likely they will want you to know HTML and CSS, at a minimum. If you’re applying to a “PHP developer” position, it’s also likely that they will want you to know JavaScript and CSS. If you know HTML, PHP, and JavaScript, you are essentially a full-stack programmer.

Conclusion

The difference between PHP and HTML is a simple one. HTML is a client-side markup language that controls how a page looks and feels. PHP is a server-side programming language that controls the HTML, JavaScript, and CSS that is sent to the browser. 

A front-end developer may only know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. But a back-end developer will need to know both PHP and HTML to code in PHP. 

To start learning HTML and PHP, you can begin with a class in HTML. From there, you can start with introductory PHP lessons. Use an IDE, install PHP on your machine, and practice developing in HTML and PHP together. 

New to Learning PHP? Take This Course!

PHP for Beginners - Become a PHP Master

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Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye has been a full stack developer for two decades, specializing in web application design and development. For the last eight years, she has worked as a news and feature writer focusing on technology and finance, with bylines in Udemy, SVG, and The Gamer. View all posts by the Author

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