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Author: Manuel Lemos

Posted on:

Categories: New site features

The PHP Classes just completed 15 years of age, promoting PHP innovation in many ways.

Read this article to review the innovations introduced the year that just passed, as well learn more about the plans for the upcoming innovations, and how you can help defining the features to be implemented in the future.




Contents

Major Features Implemented Last Year

Composer Support

PHP World Championship of the Nations of the Innovation Award

Jetbrains of PHPStorm Becomes a Sponsor of the Innovation Award

Automatic Update of Packages from Version Control Repositories

Major User Interface Improvements to Browse Packages Faster

Postponed Site Features

Privileges for Reputed Users

Bookmark and Tag Packages

Responsive Web Site

Promote Commercial Products and Services of others

Planned New Features

Better Package Discovery

Better Site Search

Greater Quality Packages

Better Package Support Forums

Site Visual Update

Better PHP Job Applications

Your Suggestions


Major Features Implemented Last Year

15 years of age is a lot of time for a site. Since 1999 many sites were created, while others died. The sites that survived this much, did it by continuously adding value to the communities that they serve. PHP Classes is no different.

This year, not all features planned in the last anniversary were implemented. As the site becomes more mature, the features that need to be added tend to be more complex and take a longer time to implement.

Still, a good bunch of major features were implemented, some were planned last year, others were not planned before but the time was right to implement them.

Composer Support

Turning PHP Classes into a repository that can serve packages to be installed with the Composer tool was one of the main goals planned last year. Both PHP Classes and JS Classes can act as Composer repositories since last December.

It may seem odd that JS Classes also works as repository because Composer was thought mainly to install PHP components.

As a matter of fact Composer by itself can only install packages inside the Composer vendor directory. This means that it cannot install JavaScript files under the Web root directory because it is usually not under the vendor directory.

That limitation of Composer can be overriden using a separate PHP asset manager package available under PHP Classes. It can act as a Composer plugin to relocate asset files (JavaScript, CSS, images, etc..) to under the Web root directory.

PHP World Championship of the Nations of the Innovation Award

The PHP Innovation Award is an initiative that PHP Classes organizes since 2004 to encourage developers to submit more innovative packages. Since then the site has nominated 1071 packages from 658 authors. That is a good rate because when compared to the 7513 total number of published packages, that represents about 14%.

This year the Innovation Award got more interesting. Instead of just being a contest for individual authors to compete, now authors can collaborate to win the innovation award by country.

The PHP World Championship of the Nations is an expansion of the Innovation Award to distinguish the countries that have better innovative PHP authors.

Starting 2014, the authors of the country that earn more innovation award points will be entitled to a special prize. This means that innovative authors not only have the chance to be distinguished individually, but also collectively in case their country wins.

Jetbrains of PHPStorm Becomes a Sponsor of the Innovation Award

Talking about the innovation award, Jetbrains, the company that created the popular IDE PHPStorm, just joined the long list of sponsors of the PHP Innovation Award.

They are giving away licenses of PHPStorm IDE as prizes to Innovation Award winners and nominees.

Earlier in the year that passed, Codenvy was also a company that became a sponsor of the PHP Innovation Award.

It is always good to see that all major companies with products dedicated to PHP developers are participating in the initiative to encourage more developers to share innovative work to the PHP community at large.

Automatic Update of Packages from Version Control Repositories

In 2011, the PHP Classes site introduced a great innovation that is the ability to import packages from version control repositories using protocols like Git, SubVersion and CVS.

This encourages more developers to submit more complex packages, as the import process became much faster and simpler than uploading each package file individually as before.

This year that feature was improved by adding support to automatically update package files from their repositories, thus without requiring their authors to manually tell the site to update their packages.

This allowed the users to get automatic email notices when the packages are updated, even when the authors are not able to manually update their packages on the PHP Classes site.

Major User Interface Improvements to Browse Packages Faster

One of the types of improvement that has been requested by the users since many years ago, was finally implemented, as planned last year.

The package pages content can now be browsed very quickly without leaving the package page using AJAX enabled navigation. This means that users can browse the package descriptions, files listing pages, demo pages, screenshots images, tutorial videos, slide presentations, reputation statistics and user comments, all without leaving the package page.

Not only the navigation became much faster, but also users are having greater satisfaction with the site because they do not lose the context when they are analyzing a package, as well they are also not delayed as much as before by too much advertising.

There are a few user interface enhancements being finalized, but the main improvements can be seen already.

Postponed Site Features

Unfortunately, some of the features planned last year were not yet implemented, most of the for the lack of time.

Privileges for Reputed Users

The site user reputation system introduced in 2013 has been improved since then adding new types of actions that the site awards reputation points. Here is a short list of new actions that the users can earn reputation for:

- Adding a package to the site Composer repository

- Importing package files from version control repositories

- Packages being reused by other packages

- Users that lead new users to register in the site

- Users lead a new user that published a new package

- Authors publish featured blog posts about their packages

However, for now the users that earn reputation points cannot do anything with those points. In the future reputed users will be able to redeem the earned points with special privileges that make their participation in the site more pleasant and rewarding.

Bookmark and Tag Packages

Since a long time, some users have been requesting a way to take notes about the packages they are more interested. If all goes well, that feature will be finally be implemented this year.

Responsive Web Site

Last year it was asked to users that filled a survey if they would be interested in having a version of the site that fits better in small screens, like those of mobile phones. Very few users expressed interest in this, so this feature was post-poned.

The largest part of the users accesses the site from notebooks and desktop computers. It makes sense that developers access the site from computers that have a reasonably large screen because it is more comfortable for programmers.

However, it is possible that users that use smartphones and small tablets may not be accessing the site at all because its current layout does not render well in small screens.

Therefore I am evaluating adding some responsive design features to some types of pages to understand if is there real demand for small screen navigation of the site.

Promote Commercial Products and Services of others

Last year, some experiments were made to try promoting other companies products and generate revenue in the affiliate model.

It did not work well because the contacted companies do not seem to be interested to work with a model that is satisfactory to both sides.

Therefore, this year I will be evaluating a different type of model to promote specific types of products of interest of PHP developers like PHP tools, PHP hosting, PHP training, etc.. If you have a company with these types of products and you are willing to benefit from greater exposure, please fill the survey mentioned at the end of this article.

Planned New Features

Better Package Discovery

During the development of the new design of the package pages, it was confirmed that users are looking for better ways to find packages that match their needs.

Having a better package discovery system was something that I have thought in the past but it never got into the development queue. This is something that is finally going to have greater priority.

Better Site Search

One of the things that should be improved to help users to find better packages is the internal site search engine.

The current implementation is based on an obsolete Web page crawler software package, that is very inefficient to index the site and not very flexible to perform searches according to parameters tied to the package properties.

The idea is to replace it with a more modern search solution, probably based on Sphinx or Elastic Search.

Greater Quality Packages

Also related to discovering packages that suite the user needs, is the perceive quality of the packages found in the site.

The site always allowed any author to publish their packages because this is a democratic site. However, the existence of packages that are too old, too simple, have bugs that the authors do not fix, and other problems, is affecting the perceived quality of the site as a whole.

This situation is unfair to authors that really try hard to provide good quality packages. Therefore, I am studying means to give greater exposure to packages with great quality indicators, while giving equal opportunity to all authors that want to get exposure to their work in the site.

One of the things that will be done is to encourage more users to rate the packages that they try. The new user interface of the package pages is already going in that direction. Therefore you can start helping by rating as many packages that you tried as you can.

Better Package Support Forums

Another aspect that affects the perceived quality of the packages in the site, is the interest from the authors to provide support to their users. Some authors are very responsive, while others do not seem to care about support requests.

Therefore the site will start providing better metrics about authors that provide better support to their users.

Site Visual Update

In 2009 the PHP Classes launched a contest for a new design. The idea was to let users propose new designs to be voted by others that care more about the site presentation.

The winning design was launched in 2010, so after 4 years it is becoming old. Some users expressed interest to see a new design. Therefore a new design contest is being planned for the future.

Better PHP Job Applications

The site PHP jobs section has always been very popular. However, it is not as efficient as it could be.

There are plans to make it more efficient by for instance allowing candidates to apply to all jobs immediately, even when they are not featured developers. This should provide a greater offer of good candidates to the companies, and hopefully attract more companies to submit their jobs in the site.

Your Suggestions

Well, the site can only improve if it addresses well the user needs. As you may have read above, many things are planned to improve the site features with that purpose.

However, it is often very hard to figure if all that is planned is what the users want. Another difficulty is to determine the priority by which the planned features should be implemented.

Therefore it would be useful if you could give your feedback now. Pleaso post a comment to this article now, or fill this survey about the planned features.


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<< Previous: To TDD or Not TDD? - ...>> Next: PHP Core Developers v...

  Blog PHP Classes blog   RSS 1.0 feed RSS 2.0 feed   Blog 15 Years Promoting PH...   Post a comment Post a comment   See comments See comments (0)   Trackbacks (0)