Since I started working at Carswell Gould, I’ve learnt a lot more about web development—It’s amazing how much you learn once you start collaborating with other people—and among those things I learned is how to work with the MVC (Model-View-Controller) design pattern. The way I used to work was just by having the database operations inside classes as much as possible, and use those classes and their methods in the files for the actual pages. For example, A forum thread page (view.php or similar) would have all the code to load the posts and relevant info above the HTML part of the file, using classes like ForumThread and the like.
The MVC way to go for this would be having a controller that gets called when the URL for viewing a thread is requested. The controller would get an instance of a ForumThread Model. The Model describes the properties of a ForumThread and deals with related data (Forum posts, which would be another Model), and database operations, plus any additional behaviours. The data retrieved from the Model instance then gets passed on to a View, which takes care of sticking all the data in HTML. This way interpreting the request, dealing with data and displaying data is nicely separated.
This whole design pattern is all a very beautiful way to structure your web applications, however, if you have to set that all up from scratch, it would get very tiresome to get right. That’s where frameworks come in. The first PHP framework I got in touch with is FuelPHP, a quite young framework running on PHP 5.3+. According to their front page, it is based on the best ideas of other frameworks, with a fresh start. As this is the first framework I’ve used, I can’t really judge that former part, but by googling certain concepts used, I’ve found out that many of them are quite commonly accepted ones.
In my experience, it’s very simple to set up some new models and relate them, to quickly get going without all the design hassle you’d normally have. For the most part, you don’t get to write the database queries yourself, which is a good thing.
An unrelated part of FuelPHP (as in, it doesn’t really have anything to do with MVC) is its validation functionality. FuelPHP makes it really smooth to validate input. There are multiple ways to go for it, but my preferred way is to actually specify the validation rules in a Model’s properties array, then setting up a Validation Observer before save.
If that sounded confusing: An observer is a class that has a number of event-named methods. In a Model you can refer to an observer class and tell it which events to observe. FuelPHP takes care of the rest: When you let your model save its data to the database, any observers with ‘before_save’ enabled will be executed first. In the case of a Validation observer this will first run all the validation rules specified in the properties set-up, and throw an error (preventing the actual database save) in the case that some data does not validate.
Having gone through setting up a whole bunch of nested ifs for data validation in the past (Believe me, it’s tiresome and not elegant at all), I find this way of setting up validation simply beautiful. It’s all down to adding a few strings to an array, and it’ll validate. The way the framework is built allows for easy adding of your own validation functions too, so other than elegant, it’s very flexible.
Currently, the community surrounding FuelPHP is still fairly small, which means it’s often quite hard to google FuelPHP-related things. I would very much like the community for this framework to grow, as I feel it has a lot of potential. Their website (mostly docs section) is still quite incomplete in places, but that should improve as the community grows.
I’ve only briefly touched upon many subjects in this post, so if I sparked your interest, these couple of links should get your started.
Obviously, if you are really interested in trying it out, I suggest downloading it and playing with it! You can get support on their forum and in their IRC channel.