Best Practices for PHP Developers

    Best Practices for PHP Developers

    Developers have the knowledge and skills to craft well-structured programs in PHP programming. However, some difficulties within the programming domain may have evaded their notice.

    Recognizing these nuances can improve the efficiency and readability of their code. This article explains several PHP tips and practices that have proven valuable.

    What is PHP?

    IBM defines PHP as:

    PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) is an interpreted programming language that is widely used for developing web applications. PHP is a popular language for web development because it is easy to learn, focuses on practical solutions, and supports the most commonly required functionality in web applications.

    PHP is a modular language that enables you to customize the available functionality through the use of extensions. These extensions can simplify tasks such as reading, writing, and manipulating XML, creating SOAP clients and servers, and encrypting communications between server and browser. The most popular extensions for PHP, however, provide read and write access to databases so that you can easily create a dynamic database-driven website.

    According to an article titled, ‘20 Most Important PHP Statistics Showing The Importance of This Programming Language,’

    20 Most Important PHP Statistics Showing The Importance of This Programming Language

    To delve deeper into this subject, let us discuss ways to refine one’s PHP coding practices.

    1. Reduce the Use of Short PHP Tags

    Short tags, such as <? ?> and <?= ?>, offer convenience, yet their reliability is inconsistent. Short tags can be turned off via the short_open_tag ini setting. Also, not all servers enable this setting by default.

    Hence, code written using short tags may lack portability across servers unless access to the settings is available.

    Short tags may be mistaken for the (<?xml ?>) notation. Using the standard PHP tag (<?php) is recommended.

    Furthermore, if one is certain of using PHP version 5.4.0 or higher, the (<?= ?>) tag is permissible. It serves as a shortcut syntax for the ‘echo’ function. Since PHP 5.4.0, this tag is exempt from the short_open_tag ini configuration setting.

    2. Skip Closing Tags in PHP-Exclusive Files

    The closing tag (?>) is optional when a file exclusively contains PHP code. It is advisable to avoid using the closing tag as it prevents unwanted whitespace or new lines from being appended to the end of files.

    This practice is useful for implementing output buffering and adding headers to the response.

    3. Adhere to Code Formatting and Layout

    Precise code formatting does not impact code execution. It profoundly influences code comprehensibility.

    Well-structured code is not only more accessible for others to read but also promotes consistency, cleanliness, and readability.

    Use automatic code formatting features offered by the integrated development environment (IDE). Also, they can invest a small amount of time to format the code manually.

    Consider PSR-2: Coding Style Guide, a recognized coding style standard for an in-depth understanding of code formatting standards.

    4. Thoughtfully Select Names

    The process of naming variables, functions, or classes is important. When naming elements, consider the following factors:

    • Choose names that carry meaningful context.
    • Opt for names understandable to a wide audience, preferably in English.
    • Consistently adhere to a chosen naming pattern. Various naming standards, like PSR-1: Basic Coding Standard or Zend Framework Naming Conventions, offer slight variations.
    • Select a pattern that aligns with your preferences, ensuring uniformity throughout your project.

    5. Incorporate Commented Code

    Comments serve as integral components of code. They explain the purpose of specific sections, functions, or classes.

    Commenting is essential to enable understanding for other developers and even for their future selves. While not every line of code requires a comment, include comments when necessary to improve code understanding.

    6. Grasp the ‘echo’ Statement

    The ‘echo’ statement in PHP is a language construct distinct from a function. It is used to display data on the screen. Both ‘echo’ and ‘print’ perform the same task, but ‘echo’ offers marginally better performance.

    ‘echo’ accommodates multiple parameters and performs better than string concatenation.

    7. Use Variables Wisely

    Although PHP does not mandate the initialization of variables, it is a commendable practice. Uninitialized variables receive default values, which can lead to unexpected program outcomes.

    Initialize the variables before use to promote cleaner and more predictable code. Also, reduce the unnecessary variable declarations as variables consume memory. Eliminating redundant declarations reduces memory overhead.

    8. Use Comparison Operators

    PHP offers both strict and loose comparison operators. Strict comparison considers value and type, while loose comparison validates value.

    When choosing between the two, exercise discernment to prevent unexpected program behavior. The choice between strict and loose comparisons hinges on clearly understanding the requirements.

    9. Leverage Ternary Operators

    Transforming an if/else statement into a concise ternary operator can result in more compact, readable code that conserves lines.

    Also Read: Best Practices for WordPress Developers

    10. Delve into Strings

    In PHP, strings can be specified using various methods. Two primary methods are:

    • Single-quoted strings, enclosed in single quotes (‘), do not interpret many special characters but allow escape characters for single quotes and backslashes.
    • Double-quoted strings, enclosed in double quotes (“), interpret more escape sequences for special characters and can include variable values.

    The choice between these methods depends on your specific needs, and both perform comparably for most use cases.

    11. Explore Arrays

    PHP arrays serve multiple purposes, including acting as lists, hash tables, dictionaries, collections, stacks, and queues. Since PHP 5.4, the short array syntax ([]) is available as an alternative to array ().

    Enclosing array keys in quotes when they are strings is advisable to prevent potential issues. Using quotes ensures that PHP does not treat the key as a constant, avoiding unexpected behavior when no defined constant shares the same name.

    These guidelines aim to improve PHP programming practices, ensuring efficient and comprehensible code.


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