Creativity and Computer Code: PHP, Yii, and WordPress

I’ve always had a passion for creativity. Whether using a camera or a computer, there is something fulfilling about realizing an idea.

Children are quite familiar with this. They build and experiment with such ease. Yet, as we grow older, some of this is lost.

With that in mind, I have been working on a number of creative projects. Here is a quick update on a few dealing with code.

Back in the fall, I quickly discovered that several of my projects would require programming. And, while I was excited about this, I also knew it was going to take some brushing up.

One of the first things I needed to do was to get reacquainted with PHP, a popular server-side scripting language used by many Web applications. We had used this extensively for Mapwing in 2005. However, as my career moved in a more management focused direction, I hadn’t really touched it since then.

As you might imagine, a lot has happened with PHP over the last seven years! One of the biggest developments has been the explosion of PHP frameworks. A good friend of mine told me to checkout CakePHP and CodeIgniter before writing all of my code from scratch. I followed his advice.

What I learned was that a whole plethora of options exist for rapid PHP development. These can save a person quite a bit of time when building a new Web app. I ended up settling on a relatively new arrival to the framework scene, Yii.

Why Yii? Well, most importantly, Yii is fast. I read several independent benchmarks that showed Yii as being several times faster than other PHP frameworks. It is also object-oriented and creates applications using the MVC (Model-View-Controller) design. Finally, Yii relies on the active record concept for interfacing with relational databases, just like Ruby on Rails.

While it took a few weeks (or months) to get entirely comfortable in the Yii environment, once I did I was able to start building Web apps fairly quickly. One good example of this is the app for Wordner.

In total, this took only a few days to throw together. Most of that time was spent playing with the CSS interface, so it worked on either a smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer. Best of all, because the app is built on Yii, it can be added onto very quickly in the future.

WordPress is another great platform that uses PHP heavily. Unlike Yii, WordPress is not designed to be a framework for building Web apps. Rather, it is most useful for quickly setting up content-driven projects like blogs and websites. So, when it came time to create a site for Wordner, I was able to have one up and running within a day or two.

In addition, WordPress has a top-notch system for creating custom templates and functionality. This makes it a cinch to take an existing site design and customize to one’s unique requirements. Once again, this can save a ton of time.

The great thing about computer code is that, like any other art, you take an idea, apply a healthy dose of creativity, and realize its final form. It’s quite fulfilling, especially when you get to release the finished product and see people enjoying it!