5 PHP Tips You Can Easily Apply to Your Dynamic Web Application

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A well-built dynamic web application does wonders for any business. It automatically updates relevant data on your application depending on your requirements; it retrieves information from the database fast; and it can run on any major platform, browser, or operating system.

If these benefits are attractive to you, then you need to look into PHP’s framework because it can offer you these and so much more. 

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What is PHP?

PHP, or PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, is a server-side language that developers often use for web database applications. It was built and designed by computer programmer Rasmus Lerdorf, who originally named the language Personal Home Page. Lerdorf created PHP to build and maintain his personal website, but because of the language’s speed, accessibility, and high level of security, it easily became popular in the software development community.

In this article, we share some of the best tips and techniques you can quickly execute in your company’s PHP application. Half of these tips will be by David Powers, a web development expert who teaches PHP in various training courses. Powers’ advice comes from his LinkedIn Learning course PHP Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

Ready? Take a seat and grab your coffee because we’re going to get technical.

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PHP Tip #1: Create a secure download link.

Most PHP developers directly link a website’s downloadable files to PHP’s basic download script. A download script is made up of code that issues text or media files. According to Powers, this approach is straightforward but is susceptible to security threats. In his course, he mentions how query strings are vulnerable to manipulation, a fact that potentially exposes confidential files. 

So in addition to the download script, a developer must include code that blocks attempts at retrieving sensitive information. This approach essentially involves making sure that what the filename contains is actually a file, as opposed to a relative path, which is a file’s partial or incomplete address that may expose you to path manipulation. 

Powers achieves this by parsing the value of $_GET[‘file’] — ‘file’ being the file name, which you can find in the URL’s query — to PHP’s basename function, then making sure it’s equal to the raw file name. He then adds headers in the script before writing the command that issues the requested file. Through this, you effectively protect your file system from attacks made through download links.

PHP Tip #2: Prevent your form from receiving attacks from other websites.

One of the most common threats to your website’s security is a thing called cross-site scripting (XSS) attack. An XSS attack involves the use of malicious code that puts the user’s interaction with a vulnerable website at risk. The threat can come from a site’s database or client-server code. In Powers’ tutorial, the threat comes from a file path or form. Among the five PHP tips we discuss in this article, this is one of the most important. So how exactly do you protect a PHP form from XSS attacks?

PHP has several superglobals, which are accessible and universal variables developers can use in any part of a script. One such superglobal is $_SERVER. Executed in code, it will look like this: $_SERVER[‘PHP_SELF’]. According to Powers, you can safeguard your form from XSS attacks by comparing the value of $_SERVER[‘PHP_SELF’] to the root-relative link, which is the page’s original link, one that can be found in its root or origin folder. This will, in Powers’ words, stop an attack in its tracks.

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PHP Tip #3: Properly name your variables.

Variables contain data relevant to your application. The information stored in a variable will tell the computer what it needs to do, depending on the conditions set by the developer. 

The importance of correctly naming a variable has less to do with the soundness of the code’s logic and more to do with helping a developer consistently maintain an application. In other words, haphazardly naming a variable will not affect your application’s functionality. It will, however, be detrimental to your tracking the information held therein. So name your variables properly by concisely describing the information it holds. 

If your variable contains data pertaining to a person’s surname, name your variable $lastname or $surname in PHP. 

PHP Tip #4: Organize your code using comments. 

Similar to the previous tip, this piece of advice is helpful for PHP developers in the long run. Naming your variables is only one way to ensure your brain doesn’t become code-addled as you’re maintaining and updating your PHP application. 

While your variable name answers the question what information is stored, your comments should answer the question what does this section of the code do.

PHP Tip #5: Easily validate email addresses with exempted characters.

Names matter, and honoring a person’s name requires you to acknowledge it in its correct form. Not everyone uses the Roman alphabet to visually communicate their thoughts, and not everyone uses this writing system for their names either. 

Your application should reflect this fact. And with PHP, there is a way to make sure your application is as inclusive as possible.

In his LinkedIn course, Powers demonstrates how using the filter_var function with the FILTER_VALIDATE_EMAIL argument is inadequate at validating email addresses. This is because it validates only those email addresses that conform to the Roman alphabet writing system. Emails that contain accented characters or non-Roman alphabet characters were immediately rejected by the code. 

So how does Powers remedy this? Simple — he adds a third argument in the filter_var function, which is FILTER_FLAG_EMAIL_UNICODE. This argument will validate all types of email addresses, from those with accented letters to those containing characters from other writing systems.

Image credits to Pexels

BONUS PHP Tip

Learn MySQL. We have discussed several important PHP tips in this blog post, but learning MySQL alongside PHP is one tip most developers already know. And if you’re planning to build your web application with PHP, you should too.

Professional PHP programmers like to use PHP in conjunction with MySQL for one good reason. They’re the perfect pair for web database applications. A web database application is a type of application built for the continuous, unending storage of data. Popular examples of web database applications include eBay and LinkedIn.

The role of MySQL is to store large bulks of data that will come from the application’s end-users. In other words, it contains the application’s database. PHP, on the other hand, is the technology used for communicating between the database and the end-user so the latter can access the information stored in the former.

But if you don’t have the time to learn these languages, you can opt to outsource your dynamic website to a company that knows PHP inside out.

NarraSoft has seasoned PHP developers who know how to code with its popular frameworks, including Laravel. Want to create a dynamic web database application with zero fuss? Start your software development project with NarraSoft’s PHP developers today!

To reach us, drop a message on our chatbox, fill out the form on this page, or send us an email at sales@narrasoft.com.

Justine Jordan

Justine Jordan is a content and copy writer. She has written for a popular business daily in the Philippines and for various startups across the globe before transitioning to work for NarraSoft. She graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines-Diliman with a bachelor's degree in journalism.