In economic hard times, opportunities look few and far between. But in the field of Web Development, the door is wide open. After gaining experience on personal projects, one can build a professional portfolio over time. Moreover, finding work online is a snap- from online boards, for example, which post short term freelance jobs, many of which can be done telecommuting from home. For the bold, who create new web applications or want to start a business, the sky is the limit.
To begin, all one needs is a basic understanding of how websites are built, how various technologies work together, and a willingness to spend time learning the ropes. On top of that, the most wonderful contradiction of all is that the tools needed to do the work are FOSS products- Free Open Source Software. That means they can be downloaded and used at no cost whatsoever. Even Microsoft has versions of tools like Visual Studio and SQL Server freely available for download and use.
The first thing to understand is how the internet works. Websites basically are a collection of files hosted on computers that are running a web server program such as Apache or IIS. Apache is at 71.98% and Microsoft’s IIS is at 16.70%. Since Apache is so popular, that makes it the logical choice as a starting point.
Getting Started in Web Development Using LAMP, MAMP or WAMP
In order to build dynamic websites, it’s necessary to download and install a basic set of tools. The applicable buzzwords to look up are LAMP, MAMP and WAMP, which are acronyms. The A stands for Apache. W is for Windows, M is Mac, L is for Linux. That leaves the tail MP which stands for MySQL and PHP. MySQL is an open source database (which was acquired by Sun, then later Oracle). PHP stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor and is a scripting language- and incidentally is the #1 most popular module available for Apache.
The basic way these things work together can be demonstrated by an example of an online store. To add and remove items, or change the prices, all that is needed is to change the database entries, without having to change all the pages. PHP and MySQL work together to accomplish this- which is what differentiates a static website from a dynamic one and represents an early quantum jump in how websites are built.
Installing a Web Server on a Personal Computer
To install WAMP on any Windows system is simple and straightforward. The individual components can be downloaded and installed individually, but it’s just as easy to go to the WAMP Server website and install them all at once. Follow the installation process step by step. On the PHP mail parameters screen, set Email to your favorite email address. Upon completion, there should be an icon in the system tray (on the right side of the taskbar, next to the clock). Select Localhost at the top of the menu to view http://localhost/ in a web browser.
Voila, that’s all there is to it. Web Developers commonly use their localhost as a staging area before uploading their code to an actual, live webhost. The hands on experience with Apache, MySQL and PHP is essential for gaining an in-depth understanding of how websites really work.