1. Do you have to be connected to a server/internet to design and preview any content you want to put on a site?
A) Yes and No. You dont have to be connected to the internet, but you do need to setup a server on your home computer to preview php. There are tons of free ones out there. I personally use Apache server with the PHP & MySQL plugins. Seeing ur using WAMP5 is excellent. Ive been using that for awhile now and it works wonders.
2. My current site www.taylorssports.com is in html format. Can I build a php website without taking this one offline?
A) Yes, just setup a home server and design your new site or create a sub-folder in ur site and design your new page there.
3. Should I keep my index page in html and just use php scripts to create a data base for all of the products I am going to carry, since there are lots of products to upload?
A) Matter of preferance really. I perfer to keep main pages of my site in .php and other files/php sub-sections in different named files. Thats just me though.
4. Does my host have to do anything special for me to get the php ball rolling.
A) ask and see if they support PHP and/or MySQL (database). If not, they'll have to download and install them (free downloads)
And just to let you know, I downloaded and installed WAMP5 which installed Appache, MySQL and everything I guess I nned to get started.
5. can anyone recommend a good site or book that would benefit me for programming php?
A) There are no good book really, the best is to learn the code directly. www.php.net will have a manual and if u type a /code itll give you the manual page for that code. ex. www.php.net/array
You don't need to take that website offline at all. Since you want to put up a database of products, the first thing you need to do is some paperwork regarding your products. You need to decide how you will categorize them, what information you will need to store about each type of product, and what questions you want the database to answer for you. These will help you design the structure of your database.
After this is done, you can start writing scripts that interface with the database and allow you to run queries.
One thing you should note -- its not a good idea to use PHP to create a database. You normally use PHP to simply query a database that you have created using other programs (that are a lot better suited to database creation).
Once you have created a database of products, you will only need a few PHP scripts to handle browsing your database (you won't need a page for each product, for example).
Your host needs to support PHP and some database server (most use MySQL). If your host is running on Linux or Unix, then most likely they already support both. Its best to ask your host. You may need to upgrade your hosting plan, for example, to take advantage of MySQL and PHP.
The manual is a great place to start. Everyone learns in a different way, so I can't recommend a book that would be good for you. Instead, get a free membership at Safari and browse some books online to see what is out there -- and what suits your learning style.
There is a very lively and active php support channel (##php -- that's two #) on freenode where you can ask questions. I'm also on there helping out people when I get some free time.
If you are doing this for a learning experience, then its great that you want to take the initiative and do it yourself. However, if this is for a business, I would recommend that you talk to someone experienced in PHP to make sure you don't fall into any common traps. You are free to ask here or in ##php or the many PHP forums floating out there.
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