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5 Steps for a web designer to learn PHP

In today’s world it is almost essential, in the web design world, for a designer to wear more hats than just graphic and web design. Many projects are likely to involve some sort of custom web programming in order to meet a clients (ever changing) needs and requirements.

Because web design is often considered a grey area in terms of its boundaries of responsibility, often depending on the designers own comfort zone and experience, the job of a designer can often bleed into development quite easily.

Therefore it is realistic to consider it a competitive advantage for a web designer to have a working knowledge of web friendly programming languages, such as PHP.

I created these steps as a guide for web designers to get their respective feet wet and ease into a introductory realm of PHP development :

Step 1 : Take an intro to PHP course

Find a local college or university near you that offers night (or online) classes in PHP programming at an introductory level. Find several suggestions of Intro courses here :

Humber College (Night Course)
Kahn Academy (online)

Step 2 : Install a PHP runtime environment on your workstation

There are several packages that install the PHP/MySQL/Apache environment on your workstation. While it might not be necessary to install MySQL and Apache right away, it might be beneficial to have a working web server test environment right on your desktop. Find some links below to suggested packages for running and executing your PHP test code on your workstation :

PHP Itself
XAMP (Windows,Linux,Mac)
WAMP (Windows)

More info on LAMP Bundles

Step 3 : Get some introductory books

This is important because no matter how many classes you take, you will definitely need a reference / guide at your desk when working, testing and improving your knowledge.

PHP For Absolute Beginners

PHP Cookbook

Step 4 : Create something simplistic

Dive right in! There are tonnes of examples in books to provide a guide for you. Once you understand the fundamentals to web development and are ready, anything is possible.

There are many many examples on the internet, as well as open source code, communities with like-minded individuals available to you. There are simply too many resources to list here, but explore and learn how things work.

Step 5 : Start using a lightweight framework

At this point, you have covered quite a bit of ground and (hopefully) grown familiar with PHP and all that it can do. Now its time to challenge yourself with a PHP framework that is lightweight, but very powerful in terms of what it can do and how it can give you the tools you need to create amazing web applications.


A framework simplifies and consolodates a lot of the repetitive features in your typical program which will free up your brain to actually getting things done.

At Shift8, we cater to all sorts of businesses in and around Toronto from small, medium, large and enterprise projects. We are comfortable adapting to your existing processes and try our best to compliment communication and collaboration to the point where every step of the way is as efficient as possible.

Our projects are typically broken into 5 or 6 key “milestones” which focus heavily on the design collaboration in the early stages. We mock-up any interactive or unique page within your new website so that you get a clear picture of exactly how your design vision will be translated into a functional website.

Using tools like Basecamp and Redpen, we try to make the process simple yet fun and effective. We will revise your vision as many times as necessary until you are 100% happy, before moving to the functional, content integration and development phases of the project.

For the projects that are more development heavy, we make sure a considerable amount of effort is spent in the preliminary stages of project planning. We strongly believe that full transparency with a project development plan ensures that expectations are met on both sides between us and the client. We want to ensure that the project is broken into intelligent phases with accurate budgetary and timeline breakdowns.

Approved design mock-ups get translated into a browse-ready project site where we revise again and again until you are satisfied. Client satisfaction is our lifeblood and main motivation. We aren’t happy until you are.

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