PHP vs WordPress

By Bernie FitzGerald •  Updated: 12/08/22 •  6 min read

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL. It is an open-source platform for creating websites, blogs, and other applications. WordPress provides users with the ability to add content easily, customise themes and plugins, manage media files such as images and videos, and more. 

PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. It is a scripting language used to build dynamic webpages or web applications on servers like Apache or IIS. PHP code can also be embedded into HTML documents to create interactive websites. 

Unlike WordPress, which is focused mainly on building websites, PHP can be used for various tasks, including creating custom scripts for databases or even developing desktop software programs using GUI libraries.

Do I need to use PHP for WordPress?

Yes, WordPress is a PHP-based CMS and requires PHP to run. Whilst PHP is required to install WordPress, that doesn’t mean you need to know PHP to run a WordPress website, although it certainly does help.

If you look at any theme, you will see specific PHP files that WordPress requires to display pages to the end user. The reason for this is that WordPress has a PHP API that theme and plugin developers use to pull information from the WordPress database and perform common functions.

These common functions include calls to get lists of posts or pages by tags or categories, display sidebars and more. Rather than rewriting functionality in another language to perform the same tasks, developers take advantage of this suite of functions in the WordPress API to make development time shorter and less error-prone.

Can WordPress plugins be written in languages other than PHP? 

The most basic WordPress plugins require a PHP file with a header containing the plugin’s name. Other header information that can be included describes the author, URI’s of the plugin homepage and author home page, license information and a description of the plugin.

Based on the above information, every WordPress plugin requires at least one PHP file, but not more than that. For this reason, a plugin could primarily be built using JavaScript, CSS and HTML and only contain the header information PHP file.

Again, the reason that developers write WordPress plugins in PHP is so that they can call upon the WordPress API.

WordPress vs PHP websites

WordPress and PHP websites are both popular solutions for creating a website. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that makes it easy to create, manage and update content on your website without needing to know any coding. 

It also offers many plugins and themes that can be used to customise the look and functionality of your site. PHP is an open-source scripting language designed for web development. 

While it does require more technical knowledge than WordPress, it allows for more flexibility in building custom features or integrations with other systems.

Is PHP popular outside of WordPress?

Yes, PHP is popular outside of WordPress. PHP is used to create dynamic websites and web applications in various industries. It is one of the most widely used programming languages on the web and powers some of the world’s largest websites, such as Facebook, Wikipedia, Yahoo!, Tumblr, and more.

Which is better, PHP or WordPress? 

It depends on the project. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that is primarily used for building websites and blogs. PHP, on the other hand, is a general-purpose scripting language designed to create dynamic web pages. 

If you need to build a website or blog quickly and easily, then WordPress may be the best choice. However, if you need more control over your code and want to develop something truly custom, then PHP will likely be your better option.

If you were considering writing a website in PHP, you may want to look at other technology stacks to build your application. There are more modern libraries like React or frameworks like Angular that might fit the modern dynamic website, like a single page application (SPA) site, more so than PHP does.

PHP Websites 

PHP is a popular programming language with a large user base, meaning there are many resources and tutorials available for developers. It is relatively easy to learn and use so it can be used by both experienced and novice developers alike. 

The code is interpreted at runtime, which makes it faster than other languages such as Java or C++. It is an open-source language, so anyone can download the source code and modify it as needed. Additionally, because of its popularity, many libraries are available for quickly adding functionality to websites without having to write your code from scratch. 

Because of its interpreted nature, PHP can be slower than compiled languages like Java or C++ in certain scenarios. PHP has been known to have security issues due to outdated versions being used on web servers that don’t get updated regularly enough; this could potentially lead to malicious attacks on websites built with the language if proper precautions aren’t taken. 

JavaScript Framework Sites

JavaScript frameworks provide a more organised way of developing complex web applications compared to plain vanilla PHP development methods by offering structure and prebuilt components like routing systems, templating engines etc., while still allowing flexibility in terms of customising the application’s look/feel/functionality according to specific needs/requirements.  

They also make debugging easier since all errors are caught before they reach production (as opposed to manual testing). This helps reduce development time significantly since problems can be solved much more quickly than traditional coding techniques. 

Additionally, these frameworks offer support for cross-browser compatibility, which means sites will look consistent across different browsers even though their underlying technologies may differ greatly. 

Last but not least, thanks largely due to their active communities, most modern JS frameworks come bundled with up-to-date documentation making them extremely accessible even for beginner developers.  

Some people might find the steep learning curve associated with mastering a framework daunting; however, once one gets accustomed to its syntaxes & patterns, then life becomes much easier afterwards! 

Conclusion

WordPress is a CMS built using PHP and contains an API for developers to harness when creating plugins or themes (or modifying/customising). PHP is required when deploying a WordPress site, and you cannot write a theme or plugin without at least one PHP file containing header information.

PHP is a server-side scripting language that can be used for almost anything on the server side but is greatly adept at being used to create dynamic websites.

When looking to build a new website outside of WordPress, I recommend that developers look to the many JavaScript libraries and frameworks like React and Angular as these offer a lot of conveniences to quickly building modern and responsive websites. They also have very large active communities if you ever need to search for help or documentation.

Bernie FitzGerald