Web Development

Web Development at Work

I just realized that it’s been a very long time since I last mentioned what I’ve been doing at work for the several months. In a word: lots. I’ve added PHP programming to my list of web development skills, which previously focused mostly on HTML and CSS. What does all of that mean to you? Probably not much if you’re not a programmer or into creating web pages. Just know that PHP is an actual programming language that lets you do many things that aren’t possible with simple HTML, such as adding or displaying information from a database.

My first major project using PHP was what I call a Workshop Management System that allows EduTech trainers to create and manage workshops as well as register participants, and so on. We had a similar program that was written in Perl, but it was about five years old and was beginning to show its age. This complete rewrite allowed me to create an application that more closely meets the needs of our staff. It’s been an awesome learning experience that has left me a better developer as a result. I’m by no means a master PHP programmer, but I’m now confident enough to slog through other people’s code and actually understand it enough to make changes.

That said, I’m still working on some features of the program that weren’t critical at the beginning but will make life easier for our staff. It’s a good feeling knowing I’m saving us time on the somewhat tedious work of managing our workshops!

Some take aways from this project:

  1. Advanced planning is important, but it only takes you so far. In hindsight, I feel that I spent way too much time trying to plan out every last feature and how I would implement it. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. People change. Needs change. Processes change. So, the program needs to change as well, even while its being created. An end goal is important, but don’t get stuck in details up front. Dive in, get started, and adjust as you go. See also Agile Software Development.
  2. Second, I’ve come to know a lot of the pluses and minuses of working with PHP. It’s pretty easy to jump into and there are a ton of web-based tutorials and message boards to help while you’re learning. It does have its problems, however, which I’ll likely expand upon in a future post. I’ll boil it down to this: PHP is a victim of its own success. It has too much baggage and has too many people reinventing basic functionality – “just because”.

So, expect to hear more about my web development work (for better or worse). It’s how I spend most of my day, so I’ve got a lot to say on the subject!