HTML vs. PHP: What’s the difference?

  • 12 mins read

HTML vs. PHP: What’s the difference?

Today we’re comparing HTML vs. PHP. As a beginner web developer, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which programming language to learn first. HTML and PHP are both essential tools for building websites, but they serve different purposes. In this post, we’ll explore the key differences between HTML and PHP and help you decide which one to tackle first.

HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, is a standard markup language used for creating web pages. It is used to structure and format content on the web, including text, images, and links. HTML is the building block of the web and is essential for any web developer to know.

PHP, on the other hand, is a server-side scripting language. It is used to create dynamic websites by interacting with databases and servers. PHP is used to process forms, send emails, and perform other tasks on the server.

So which one is better, and which one should you start with: HTML VS PHP?

Overview of HTML.

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language and is the most widely used programming language to create webpages. HTML provides the content and structure of webpages while adding elements such as images, videos, and other media.

Purpose of HTML

HTML aims to ensure that webpages are displayed correctly on all devices and browsers. Using HTML, you can ensure that the layout and content of your website are consistent and easy to read, regardless of where it is viewed. 

You can use HTML to create anything from a simple website to complex interactive experiences. With HTML, you can create interactive forms, animations, and other dynamic elements that make your website stand out. So if you’re looking to create an engaging website, HTML is the perfect tool to help you get the job done.

It consists of a combination of tags, attributes, and features, which are used to define the different sections of a webpage and how the content is displayed. 


An HTML document consists of two main parts: the head and the body. The head contains the document’s title and any CSS or JavaScript used to style or interact with the content. The body has the document’s actual content, which is organized using a variety of HTML tags.

Some common HTML tags include:

  • <html>: This is the root element of an HTML document. It indicates that the document is an HTML file. The ending tag is </html>.
  • <head>: This element contains information about the document, such as the title, metadata, and links to other resources like CSS and JavaScript files. The ending tag is </head>.
  • <body>: This element contains all of the content that is visible on the web page, such as headings, paragraphs, and images. The ending tag is </body>.
  • <h1> to <h6>: These are heading elements that create headings of different sizes. <h1> is the largest and most important heading, while <h6> is the smallest. The ending tags are </h1>, </h2>, </h3>, </h4>, </h5>, and </h6>.
  • <p>: This element is used to create a paragraph of text. The ending tag is </p>.
  • <a>: The “anchor” element is used to create a link to another web page or a specific location on the same page. The ending tag is </a>.
  • <img>: This element is used to embed an image in an HTML document. There is no ending tag for this element.
  • <div>: The “division” element is used to group content together and apply styles to it. The ending tag is </div>.
  • <form>: This element is used to create a form that users can fill out and submit online. The ending tag is </form>.

Finally, you can add special effects to your HTML documents, such as animations, by using HTML5 tags such as <canvas> and <svg>.

Tags are often carried in pairs. A portion of page content begins with an opening tag and concludes with a closing tag. For instance, to mark a chunk of content as a paragraph, you would utilize the starting paragraph tag <p> and the closing paragraph tag /p>. 

These are just a few examples of the many different HTML tags available. HTML is constantly evolving, and new tags are being added to meet the changing needs of web developers and users.

Role of HTML in the layout of a website

To create a website, you can also use a combination of HTML tags and CSS to define the structure and appearance of the different elements on the page. 

HTML tags such as <div>, <header>, and <footer> are used to divide the page into different sections and to define the overall layout of the page. CSS is then used to style those elements and to control things like font size, colour, and position on the page.

Limitations of HTML

Some commonly discussed limitations are as follows:

  • Limited formatting options: While HTML does allow for some basic formatting options such as bold, italic, and underline, it does not have many advanced formatting options. For more advanced formatting, you will need to use a style sheet language like CSS.
  • Limited interactivity: HTML is a static language, meaning it cannot create interactive elements like buttons or forms that allow users to input data. You will need to use a programming language like JavaScript for these types of interactive elements.
  • Limited multimedia support: HTML does have some basic support for multimedia elements like images and videos, but it does not have advanced support for more complex media types like audio or 3D graphics.
  • Lack of support for mobile devices: While HTML can be rendered on mobile devices, it is not optimised for mobile and may not display correctly on all devices. To create mobile-optimized websites, you will need to use technologies like responsive designs or mobile-specific frameworks like AMP.
  • Limited accessibility: While HTML does have some basic support for accessibility features like alt tags for images and tags for headings, it does not have advanced support for more complex accessibility needs like screen readers or keyboard navigation. To create more accessible websites, you must use technologies like ARIA and follow HTML best practices for accessibility.

Overview of PHP

PHP stands for “Hypertext Preprocessor.” It is a server-side scripting language used to create dynamic websites and web applications. It’s the most popular language for web development and is used by 77.6% of all websites. The syntax of the PHP language is similar to that of the C language. 

Creator of PHP, Rasmus Lerdorf. (2022, October 6). In Wikipedia.

Over the years, PHP has managed to maintain its usage statistics, as its usage percentile has only fluctuated back and forth between 70% and 80%.

Leading social networking sites like Facebook and reputable organizations like Harvard University both use PHP, which improves PHP’s popularity and legitimacy.

However, its field of application has evolved. Today, the PHP coding language is regarded among the easiest and trendiest programming tools for web development due to its numerous benefits, which are the primary focus of this work. You can write PHP using most standard text editors or IDEs, but PHP also has the benefit of its very own app, PHPstorm, which is designed specifically for crafting PHP code.

PHP Mascot. (2022, December 23). In Wikipedia.

Purpose of PHP:

PHP is an open-source language, meaning you can use it for free. It’s also relatively easy to learn, making it popular among developers of all skill levels. It is used to create dynamic webpages which interact with databases and can be used for tasks such as collecting form data, creating forums and picture galleries, and displaying content based on user input.

One of the great things about PHP is that you can use it with almost any other web language, such as JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. This makes it easier for you to create complex websites and web applications with various components.

PHP is also a very secure language. It’s regularly updated to take advantage of the latest security features and has several built-in security features that prevent malicious attacks. It’s also highly stable, meaning it won’t crash or slow down your website even under a heavy load.

Interaction with databases

PHP enables you to create web pages that can interact with a database and display dynamic content based on user input or other data.

For example, a PHP-powered website might allow users to sign up for an account, log in, and post comments or reviews. The website would use PHP to store the user data in a database and to retrieve it whenever the user logs in or submits a comment.

PHP can connect to various database management systems, including MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL. It provides a range of functions that make it easy to retrieve, insert, update and delete data from a database.

Limitations of PHP

  • Limited cross-platform support: While PHP can run on most operating systems, it is primarily designed to run on a Linux-based server. It may not work as well on custom-designed platforms with special protocols.
  • Lack of scalability: PHP is not as efficient at handling large amounts of data as other programming languages. Due to which it may not be suitable for high-traffic websites or applications.
  • Limited object-oriented capabilities: While PHP does have object-oriented programming (OOP) capabilities. It is not as robust as other OOP languages like Java or C++.
  • Lack of built-in support for concurrency: PHP does not have built-in support for concurrent execution of code. This can make it difficult to build scalable, high-performance applications.
  • Limited support for mobile development: It is possible to use PHP for mobile development, but it’s not optimised for mobile and may not be the best choice for mobile. Other languages and frameworks are better suited for mobile development, such as Java for Android or Swift for iOS.

Comparison of HTML and PHP

HTML is a markup language.PHP is a general-purpose programming language that uses an interpreter.
HTML is not a programming language but employs tags that a browser may interpret and render on a web page.It is a programming language that uses an interpreter.
It is used to create static web pages, meaning the content is the same for all users, and the page does not respond to user input.It is used to create interactive and responsive web pages, where content can change depending on user input. 
HTML does not have any built-in debugging features.PHP has built-in debugging features.
HTML is interpreted by the browser and does not require any special software to be executed.PHP requires a web server and a PHP interpreter to be executed.
HTML is not a secure language, as it has no built-in security features. PHP has built-in security features, such as input filtering and output encoding.
HTML is used to create the structure of webpages that are sent from the server to the client’s browser.PHP is used to create dynamic webpages that are sent from the server to the client’s browser.


In summary, HTML and PHP are both essential some of the best languages for web development, but they are used for different purposes. HTML is a markup language used to structure and format the content on a web page, while PHP is a server-side programming language used to add dynamic and interactive features to a website.

You must understand the differences between HTML and PHP and know when to use each language to create practical and robust web applications. As web development constantly evolves, you need to continue learning and exploring HTML and PHP to stay up-to-date with the latest best practices and technologies.

You will be well-equipped to create future web applications with a strong understanding of these languages. So, it is always better to keep learning and exploring new technologies to become a successful web developer.


HTML vs. PHP: Which is harder to learn?

HTML is not hard to learn. In fact, it is generally easier to understand than PHP, mainly used for structuring content on a webpage, while PHP is a more complex language used for programming and web development.

Can I learn PHP without knowing HTML?

Yes, it is possible to learn PHP without knowing HTML. However, having a basic understanding of HTML is beneficial, as it will help you understand the structure and syntax of PHP code. Additionally, knowing HTML will make it easier to work with PHP scripts.

Can you run PHP in an HTML file?

You can run PHP in an HTML file using the <script> tag. To do this, the file must be saved with a .php extension instead of .html.

Can you use PHP and HTML together?

Yes, you can use PHP and HTML together. PHP code generates HTML, which is displayed in the user’s web browser. This is commonly used to create dynamic web pages that display different content depending on the user’s input.