6 Key Skills A PHP Developer Should Have
PHP is a server-side programming language that has been popular with developers since it emerged in the mid-1990s. These days you may come across articles about its impending demise, but the raw data suggests this may be premature. According to w3techs.com, PHP is used by 78.9% of all websites, and that includes names such as Facebook, Zoom, and Wikipedia. Moreover, the latest PHP version (7.4) was released in November 2019 - hardly the sign of a dying language.
So, even though it may be overshadowed by the hype around Python and other fast-growing languages, demand for PHP developers is likely to remain strong for the time being. Trouble is, there are also a lot of PHP developers - 5.7 million of them, according to a recent Slashdata report. If you’re a budding PHP developer, that means you have to work hard to stand out from the crowd.
Now, it goes without saying that to be a good PHP developer you first need to master the basic PHP skills. This means a good handle of the PHP language and operations, of course, but once you’ve done that you can increase your value by gaining experience with multiple PHP applications and frameworks (such as Laravel, Zend, and Symfony). It’s also important to stay on top of the latest updates and features, as even senior PHP developers may not be as capable of the newest tech. Smaller businesses and organizations typically seek well-rounded developers as they lack the resources to recruit people for each specialist task. So while you might want to be an expert at certain advanced PHP tasks, it’s always a good idea to keep yourself in the game as a generalist.
With this in mind, here are 6 other key attributes that will help you broaden your skillset stand out from the crowd as a PHP developer:
Knowledge of other programming languages
Get to grips with PHP best practices and design patterns
Design patterns are useful in all software development, including PHP. They can speed up development by offering repeatable solutions to common problems. They also help improve code readability as other developers will recognize the patterns being used. Some of the most common design patterns in PHP applications include Factory, Strategy, and Singleton, but there are plenty of others to get to grips with. More generally, save yourself some time by swotting up on the best practices when working with different PHP frameworks. The language has been around for more than two decades and has a vast community behind it - make the most of it to avoid making the same mistakes as others before you.
Be comfortable with Composer, PSR, PHPUnit
These are some of the tools that will make you a better PHP developer. Composer is a dependency manager that will take care of your libraries, classes, and functions, allowing you to easily install different versions of each on a per-project basis. Composer will also check for new versions of these libraries (or ‘packages’) and update them as required. You can also find a list of ready-made Composer-compatible packages here. The PHP Standard Recommendation (PSR) is a PHP specification that is designed to standardize PHP programming concepts and improve the interoperability of PHP components and frameworks. It is published by the PHP Framework Interoperability Group (PHP-FIG), and there are currently 13 accepted standards, each with its own purpose, with more being drafted. PHP developers should learn and follow these standards to help reduce unnecessary variations in PHP code.
PHPUnit, meanwhile, is a popular unit testing framework for the automated testing of small units of code against expected results. Unit testing is good practice for any PHP developer, and can be applied in a Test Driven Development (TDD) approach, where tests are set up even before the code is written.
Learning the ‘hard’ technical skills is one aspect of becoming a high-level PHP developer, but you’re unlikely to get to the top without the right set of complementary ‘soft’ skills. One of these is problem-solving, which is crucial in all web development. As a PHP developer, you’re going to face unexpected issues that you’ll need to fix - how you go about doing that will play a major role in how valuable you are on a development project. Critical thinking - being able to analyze and evaluate different solutions to a problem to come up with the most effective one - is also important for writing quality code.
You can be a whizz with PHP code, but if you don’t know how to communicate with others you may struggle to work effectively on a team project. You need to be able to talk with clients, colleagues, and bosses, to understand the project/business goals, to raise issues, and to explain how your work fits into the wider product. And remember, even if you’re most comfortable when behind a screen, good communication means speaking over the phone, via video conference or in-person as well as through email and messaging apps.
Finally, it’s important to be adaptable and willing to learn. Like all programming languages, PHP continues to evolve, and organizations are most likely to hire developers that are on top of the latest language and application updates. And even if you’re confident in your PHP abilities, there are always going to be things you can learn from others. Stay humble, stay curious, and you’ll keep moving forward.
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