PHP Vs CSS What’s The Difference, And Which Is Better?

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PHP Vs CSS What’s The Difference, And Which Is Better?

If you have been building websites from scratch, you likely know PHP and CSS. Back in the day, a decent working knowledge of these scripting and style sheet languages was essential to creating a stylish website. A mastery of both distinguished a ‘web developer’ from an amateur web designer! 

If you are looking to pick up some new programming skills, a working knowledge of either language will serve you well. Both are major building blocks of the world wide web. In this article, we explain the difference between PHP vs CSS and which is better to know. 

PHP Vs CSS: Side-by-Side Comparison

Full nameHypertext PreprocessorCascading Style Sheets (CSS)
What it isScripting language (general purpose)Style sheet language
Primary useWeb development
Web-based apps
GUI-Based Applications
Content Management Systems
Image processing & graphic Design
Data Representation
Describing the visual presentation of HTML pages
Website Maintenance
Controlling Effects and Flash AnimationManaging Dynamic Web Templates

Initial releaseJune 8, 199517 December 1996
Latest stable release 8.2.4 (14th March 2023)CSS 2.1 (12 April 2016)
Influential developers:Rasmus Lerdorf,The PHP Development Team, The PHP Foundation,Zend TechnologiesHåkon Wium Lie, The World Wide Web Consortium,
OS compatibilitiesUnix-like, Linux,macOS,Windows, OpenVMS,IBM iN/A
Browser compatibilitiesUniversal in all browsersOpera, Chrome, Brave Firefox, Edge
Open or closed sourceOpenOpen
LicensingGNU General Public LicenseMIT License
Programming language usedC++,C HTML
Influenced by HTML, JavaScript, C, C++, Perl, Java,Tcl, HackHTML
File extension.php.phar.phtml.pht.phps.css
Websitewww.php.net www.w3.org/TR/CSS/#css 

PHP Vs CSS: What’s the difference?

While PHP and CSS are both programming languages, they have completely different purposes and functions in the delivery of web pages, web content, and applications. Both are straightforward to learn and can help you become a great web developer. Here are the need-to-know differences:

Type and purpose

CSS is a style sheet language, whose focus is controlling the style and appearance of web content. As a client-side programming language, the browse interpret CSS and displays the web content. CSS styling can change the appearance attributes like the color, margins, and padding of web content. 

PHP is a server-side scripting or extension programming language that directs the web files and data the server pulls up for purposes like rendering a web page, storing or retrieving data from a database, or mass email sending. 


PHP developed in a far more organic fashion than CSS, which was formalized by the W3C. The language was created by a single programmer Rasmus Lerdorf, who was later joined by other collaborators. Many unsupported and non-standardized versions of PHP are still very much in use. It has only been standardized since 2014. 


PHP started as a set of Common Gateway Interface (CGI). It developed from the C programming language. Other characteristics of PHP syntax and semantics include:

  • Similarities with the C syntax
  • Use of string manipulation
  • Use of prefixes like “@” and “$”
  • Semicolon used to terminate statements

As an HTML-based programming language, CSS has a much simpler syntax that makes it easy to learn or work with snippets. Here are some of its features:

  • Each style sheet is a set of rules
  • Rule sets are made up of:
    • CSS selectors that denote the part of a markup a particular style applies to
    • CSS declarations that consist of specific properties and values for things like pixel sizes or centering.
  • Use of headings (H1), subheadings (H2), etc
  • Hierarchical prioritization with “!important” designating the most important CSS source type
  • Other source types like inline, user-defined CSS, or media type

Other differences

PHP is a dynamic language, while CSS is static. You can include CSS elements in a PHP file but not the other way around. CSS does not facilitate responsiveness in websites, but the dynamic nature of PHP means it can deliver responsive web pages.

What is PHP?

An open-source language, PHP runs on the back-end typically a server.


PHP is a scripting language that developers use to write commands for an existing system of files. It is a general-purpose programming language (GPL) that is helpful in web development. The name PHP is an abbreviation of PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor or Personal Home Page.

The Danish-Canadian programmer Rasmus Lerdorf created PHP in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t released until 1995. PHP evolved without being standardized for many years. In 2014, The PHP Development Team formalized the specification for PHP, which it has continued to manage and update.

PHP is most often used for web servers with a PHP interpreter to ensure PHP instructions written in code can be implemented. The PHP interpreter is typically a module or plugin, or a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) that allows the server to execute the PHP interpreter as an external program. 

The Zend Engine is the most common standard PHP converter. It provides a runtime environment for PHP on web servers. The Zend Engine is compatible with a wide range of operating systems.

A server executes PHP code, pulling up server files and data that includes binary image data or HTML that delivers a complete HTTP response. PHP can be used within the context of web templates and content management systems to program the responses that render a website. 

Right now, PHP powers over 77% of websites, many using unsupported versions of PHP. So, it is an extremely useful server-side programming language. Outside of web development, PHP has the following applications: 

  • GUI-Based Applications
  • Standalone graphical applications
  • Robotic drone control
  • Image Processing and Graphic Design
  • Data Representation

What is CSS?

CSS determines how a website or app looks on a browser or device.


CSS is short for Cascading Style Sheets, an HTML or XML-based style sheet language that describes the presentation of an HTML document. It is a foundational programming language for the world wide web. It is called ‘cascading’ because of the hierarchical nature of the application of style rules for the consistent rendering of the HTML content. 

The CSS specification was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The initial version of CSS was released on 17 of December 1996. Since then, the W3C has overseen and updated CSS and will validate CSS documents for free.

CSS is all about the presentation of content on a web page. Its various style properties cover:

  • Fonts
  • Layouts
  • Colors

CSS transforms the UX of a site, improving its aesthetics and content accessibility. Web designers can use CSS for more advanced customization of a website’s presentation characteristics. Dedicated .css files can also be used to enable multiple web pages and content types to have uniform formatting. 

Because CSS separates the content formatting from the content itself, the content can be marked up and rendered in different ways, including mobile devices, voice, print, or even braille. 

PHP Vs CSS: 3 Must-know Facts

  • CSS can be applied in frameworks that function as a contained library of CSS language for the standardized presentation of web content across varying websites and pages. An example is Bootstrap or Blueprint. 
  • The Norwegian web pioneer Håkon Wium Lie first proposed CSS as a concept in 1994. He was the lead dev on the CSS project.
  • The Zend machine that executes PHP for servers consists of a Zend Compiler and a Zend Executor. It was developed by Andi Gutmans, and Zeev Suraski of Technion.

PHP Vs CSS: Which is the better language to learn?

CSS and PHP are both useful languages to know. If you are looking for where to invest your time, PHP undoubtedly has greater utility and will equip you for better employment opportunities as a web developer. CSS is also a great addition to the stack of any junior developer but won’t carry you as far as it has fewer practical applications.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a style sheet?

A style sheet is simply a file that contains a set of instructions for a browser to render a web page.

What is HTML?

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. It is the primary markup language for files that are designed to be displayed by a web browser. HTML typically works alongside CSS and Java to accurately render web content.

What is XML?

eXtensible Markup Language, known as XML is an alternate markup language with similarities to HTML. It is both human and machine-readable.

What is C?

C is one of the original programming languages. Developed in the 1970s, C is a general-purpose programming language (GPL)  that you can use to access system memory. It is mainly used for applications like network programming, and system administration.

Where are PHP files stored?

PHP files are stored in a specific folder called htdocs (or www). This directory is where the Apache web server pulls the files to serve on your domain.

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