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July 27, 2023

3 PHP Beginner Projects for New Developers

PHP Development

As a budding PHP developer, you might be wondering where to begin and how to hone your skills. This article has got you covered. In this article we dive into the qualities you should look for in PHP beginner projects, ensuring you have a well-rounded learning experience. Next, we cover a PHP beginner project skill checklist that helps you gauge what you need in order to take on new challenges. 

To give you a solid foundation, we explore three simple PHP beginner projects that help you grasp different aspects of PHP development. These projects not only enhance your understanding of the language but also boost your confidence in tackling real-world applications. Finally, we discuss strategies and tips on how to transition from a beginner to an intermediate PHP developer, setting you on the path to a rewarding career in web development.

Editor's Note: The 2024 PHP Landscape Report is now available. Get the latest on the state of PHP by downloading the 2024 edition of the report.

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What Qualities Should You Look for in a PHP Beginner Project?

When choosing a PHP beginner project, it is essential to look for qualities that will help lay a strong foundation for your development journey. A good beginner project should be easy to understand, have a clear purpose, and offer a well-structured codebase to ensure readability. Additionally, the project should provide opportunities to learn essential PHP concepts like variables, functions, loops, and conditional statements. 

Opt for projects that integrate with databases, such as MySQL, to grasp the fundamentals of data manipulation and storage. Finally, choose a project that encourages best practices like code organization, commenting, and security measures to foster a solid skill set for your future endeavors in PHP development.

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Before You Start: A PHP Beginner Project Skill Checklist

It's important to review our PHP beginner skill checklist (featured below) before starting a project because it helps you to gauge your current skillset. During this review you can identify areas you need to improve upon, and ensure you have the necessary knowledge to successfully complete the project. A well-rounded understanding of the required skills contributes to a smoother learning curve as you transition to more complex PHP projects and become a proficient developer.


Why It's Needed


Allows you to build and style web pages, which are the foundation for any web application

PHP Fundamentals

Enables you to write server-side scripts, manipulate data, and create dynamic web content

Database Fundamentals

Crucial if you need to store, retrieve, and manipulate data efficiently within web applications

Form Handling / Validation

Ensures you can collect user input securely and accurately, improving overall user experience and application security

AppSec Fundamentals

Learning application security (AppSec) fundamentals is vital to protect web applications from common threats and vulnerabilities

File/Directory Handling

Allows you to manage files, read from or write to you, and organize application data effectively

Session Management and Cookies

Important for you to maintain user-specific data across multiple web pages, providing a seamless and personalized experience

Debugging / Troubleshooting 

Key for you to identify and fix errors or issues within their code, ensuring the smooth functioning of web applications

Not Quite Ready?

Zend now offers three free and on-demand PHP training courses that are perfect for beginners. Explore options today by visiting our PHP training page.

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3 Example PHP Beginner Projects to Explore

 In this section, we explore three excellent example projects specifically designed for PHP beginners to explore and expand their skills. These projects not only provide a hands-on learning experience but also help solidify the PHP concepts you've acquired from the Beginner Skill Checklist. By working on these projects, you will gain valuable insights into real-world PHP applications while gaining the confidence to tackle more complex projects in the future. The three projects we will be discussing are:

  • PHP Tic-Tac-Toe - shows you how to accept user input, manage user sessions, and read and write game progress to files
  • Email Contact Form - teaches you how to create a secure and user-friendly method for visitors to communicate with the website owner.
  • User Login / Registration System - demonstrates the fundamentals of user authentication and data management, allowing users to securely sign up and log in to your website.

Let’s now have a look at each of these beginner-friendly PHP projects and how they can contribute to your ongoing learning journey.

1. PHP Tic-Tac-Toe

Tic Tac Toe is an excellent beginner PHP project as it doesn’t involve a database or the file system. It gives you great experience handling forms, user sessions, arrays, and other PHP basics, and is a lot of fun as well! This project would consist of the following components:

  • Game board representation: You'll need to create a 3x3 grid to represent the Tic Tac Toe board. You can use a two-dimensional array to store the board state.
  • Rendering the game board: Create a function to display the game board on the screen. You can use HTML and CSS to style the board and PHP to generate the board dynamically.
  • User input: Implement a way for users to input their moves. You can use HTML forms with POST or GET methods to accept user input and pass it back to the PHP script.
  • Game logic: Create functions to handle game logic, such as checking for a win, checking for a tie, and validating user input.
  • Game loop: Implement a game loop that alternates between players (X and O), accepts user input, updates the board, and checks for a win or tie.
  • Game end: When the game ends, display a message indicating the winner or a tie and provide an option to restart the game.

By implementing these components, you can create a simple Tic Tac Toe game using PHP. This project will help you familiarize yourself with PHP basics, form handling, and session management.

Required Skills

  • PHP Fundamentals
  • Form Handling / Validation
  • AppSec Fundamentals
  • Debugging / Troubleshooting

2. Email Contact Form

A simple email contact form project is another great PHP beginner project. This project might include an HTML form for collecting user input (name, email, subject, and message), a PHP script to filter, validate, and sanitize the input data, and the PHP mail() function to send the email.

Additionally, you would need to incorporate basic error handling, the use of conditional statements, and server-side validation to ensure a seamless and secure user experience. This project helps beginners learn how to process user input, interact with server-side code, and gain a basic understanding of PHP email functionality.

Required Skills

  • PHP Fundamentals
  • Form Handling / Validation
  • AppSec Fundamentals
  • Debugging / Troubleshooting

3. User Registration / Login System

A PHP project that handles user login and registration is much more complex than a simple email contact form. However, this represents vital functionality that any e-commerce or social media-based website needs, and could also be combined with the Simple CMS project mentioned earlier. Pursuing this project is well worth your time if you are serious in building a career in web development. 

Here are the primary aspects of this project:

  • Database Setup: You'll need to create a database to store user information such as usernames, email addresses, and hashed passwords. This will involve creating a table with appropriate columns and setting up a connection to the database using one of PHP's database extensions. MySQL is often a popular choice as it’s free to use and easy to learn.
  • Registration Form: Create an HTML form that collects user input for registration, such as username, email address, and password.
  • Registration PHP Script: Write a PHP script that processes the submitted registration form data. This script should filter, validate, and sanitize the input data on the server-side, check for existing users with the same email or username, hash the password using a secure hashing algorithm (e.g., password_hash()), and insert the new user data into the database.
  • Login Form: Create another HTML form that collects user input for logging in, such as email or username and password.
  • Login PHP Script: Write a PHP script that processes the submitted login form data. This script should filter, validate, and sanitize the input data on the server-side, query the database to find the matching user, verify the submitted password against the hashed password stored in the database (e.g., using the password_verify() function), and create a session to maintain the user's logged-in state.
  • Logout Functionality: Implement a PHP script that allows users to log out by destroying the session, returning them to the login page.

By working on this project, you learn essential PHP concepts like form handling, input validation, database interaction, password hashing, and session management, helping you build a strong foundation in web development with PHP.

Required Skills

  • PHP Fundamentals
  • Database Fundamentals
  • Form Handling / Validation
  • AppSec Fundamentals
  • File/Directory Handling
  • Session Management and Cookies
  • Debugging / Troubleshooting
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Taking the Next Step: Going from Beginner to Intermediate

Transitioning from a beginner to an intermediate PHP developer requires a combination of practice, learning, and exposure to real-world projects. To begin, immerse yourself in the PHP community by participating in forums, attending workshops, and following PHP-focused blogs. This will help you stay updated on the latest trends, best practices, and emerging technologies in the PHP world. Additionally, work on personal projects or contribute to open-source projects to gain hands-on experience. When encountering challenges, seek out mentors or experienced developers who can provide guidance and support.

As you gain experience, focus on improving your problem-solving skills, understanding of core PHP concepts, and familiarity with related technologies such as JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and SQL. Delving into PHP frameworks like Laminas, Laravel, Symfony, or Yii will also help you become more efficient and write cleaner, more organized code. Furthermore, learn about essential development tools such as version control systems (e.g., Git), integrated development environments (e.g., PhpStorm), and debugging tools (e.g., Xdebug) to enhance your productivity. By embracing a growth mindset and continuously challenging yourself, you will successfully transition from a beginner to an intermediate PHP developer.

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Final Thoughts

Trying to avoid a shameless plug, it’s worth mentioning that one of the fastest ways to advance your a career as a PHP developer is to attend a PHP training course. Most good courses take you through a progressive series of topics and labs that can quickly bring you up to speed. The best of all worlds is to sign up for a course with a live instructor as you’ll benefit from his or her experience and guidance.

On another note, there’s a classic joke often misattributed to the famous comedian Jack Benny. Referring to the famous New York City concert venue , the comedian is asked, “Hey, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Delivering the punchline, the comedian energetically proclaims, “practice, practice, practice!” And the same can be said to those looking to develop their PHP programming chops. Don’t be shy. Get your hands on the keyboard, try out one of our suggested projects, and start developing today. Nothing beats practice! 

See Our Free PHP Training Courses

Zend offers free, on-demand PHP Training courses that walk new users through everything from the PHP basics, to building interactive web forms.

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Additional Resources

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