My first exposure to programming was coding simple GUI applications in Visual Basic (VB.NET) on my father’s old Windows laptop. Shortly after dabbling in VB.NET I transitioned to PHP, a popular web programming language, to create my first commercial website iUnfollow.com. While creating iUnfollow, I didn’t have a CS degree, coding boot camp, or teachers to help guide me through the web ecosystem. After creating multiple websites as a beginner, I believe web programming in PHP is a fantastic start for new tech entrepreneurs.
First off, all shared hosting providers have PHP installed out of the box. I don’t have to run an error-prone installer or build PHP from the source code. I can upload my application and instantly expect it to function correctly. Not only is it installed by default, but usually most hosting companies provide multiple versions of the PHP language, from the newest version to a handful of previous versions, to provide complete compatibility for any application.
In addition, PHP is a “dynamically typed” language which means types are flexible and can change when needed. I didn’t compile my PHP code, I simply ran it by visiting the URL of a PHP script on my web server. The type juggling helped me hone my bug fixing skills and introduced me to “failure” as a programmer. I didn’t need to know the type of all of the variables I used, my code simply worked as expected and the language did most of the heavy lifting. While the type coercion didn’t always work as expected, it gave me confidence and also introduced me to a useful process in programming: trial and error.
When using the trial and error method, it is natural to fail and then overcome a problem.
I think most programmers are scared to make mistakes and therefore freeze up, but PHP allowed me to push forward: code first and debug later.
Since PHP let me create without too many obstacles, I was free to design user interfaces for my web applications. Web programming encompasses a lot of aspects: backend, frontend, databases, and networking. When writing low-level C programs there is no consumer-facing interface to create. While that may sound attractive to some people, it is an amazing feeling to create two separate systems (frontend and backend) that work together in harmony to deliver a great user experience. It also gave me the opportunity to switch between the backend and frontend as I got tired of the other.
A web application is accessible to everyone in the world with an internet connection at all times. As an entrepreneur, I saw problems as opportunities, and the web lets me execute my ideas with an unimaginable market reach. The web only needs one codebase for multiple platforms compared to native applications which need a codebase for each platform.
A heat map of the entire internet
There is a straightforward path to drive potential customers to an online web app. Simply rank higher on the major search engines: Google, Yahoo, and Bing through search engine optimization (SEO). Everyone trusts the search engine to deliver the most trustworthy and relevant results of a search at the top of the page. While SEO can be challenging, learning the fundamentals and applying them is not, it merely takes time and effort.
Lastly, updating a web application in PHP is instant and free. Edit the application and save the files back over to the web server. Now every user who goes to that URL will use the fresh code.
The web allows for a single person to manage, program, design, market, and promote a website from scratch to a successful business, which is extremely important and valuable.
Overall, I would wholeheartedly recommend the web to any and all upcoming entrepreneurs looking to build their dream product. I would also recommend the PHP language even though it gets a lot of bad reputation from programmers. Last but not least, have the confidence to fail and persevere through it because nothing great is easy.