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Design for an online car configurator in PHP


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Essentially I know the theory for working in PHP, SQL, HTML, Sessions, etc. However, what I am missing is connecting the dots most efficiently.

I am trying to build a very simple online car configurator. The flow is:

  • user picks a brand
  • depending on the previous choice, user is presented with models, user picks one
  • depending on the previous choice, user is presented with model lines, user picks one
  • depending on the previous choice, user is presented with engines, user picks one
  • depending on the previous choice, user is presented with options, user picks 0-n options
  • user can submit a form that generates an email with all of the previously chosen options.

My current "design" works. But it is very nasty to maintain and I am sure there are better ways of going about it.

  • I have a single, monolithic PHP file where everything happens. I don't use any classes or functions. I don't use AJAX.
  • Data and GUI layer is all mixed up in the same file
  • I have one SQL data base with several tables. One for the models, one for the brands, etc.
  • Roughly the steps are as follows:
  1. Start session, check the phase the user is in by looking at what has been set already in the session E.g. if user has already selected a brand, models must be shown etc.
  2. SQL statement depending on phase, is executed to show all relevant items for that phase within the same PHP file.
  3. When a user clicks on any item, they simply call the same PHP page via GET (e.g. ?BrandID=2).
  4. That value is then stored into the same session.
  5. got to 1. for the other items.
  • My session variables are very simple and unstructured: $_SESSION['BrandID'], $_SESSION['ModelID'], etc.

I know this is a weird and sort of generic question. But I would love to know what the best practices are of how to structure this whole thing. How would you structure it?

  • should I use classes for the sessions, SQL queries, etc.?
  • Is there a better way than to use GET?
  • Should I have the SQL queries and or session logic defined in a separate file/function/class?
  • Separating GUI from data layer? How can this be achieved?

Input is greatly appreciated. Cheers!

Best regards,

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  • 5 weeks later...


In short -- MVC (Model, view controller). I'd suggest porting your existing code to a framework. The ones I currently would recommend looking at are Laravel or Symfony2 for a fullstack framework, or Silex or Slim for a micro framework. Considering where you are at present, a full stack might be better in that it will provide answers to questions you have rather than forcing you to first make a bunch of decisions about which components to use.

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