Back in 2002, I was part of a website team in my church and our goal was to build the very first website for our church.
Back then, I only knew Visual Basic, Java, and ASP (Active Server Page) languages but our team decided to build the website using PHP and mySQL database for the obvious reasons. We used one of the open source bulletin boards to create the webiste and I bought my first "for dummies" book, and I've learn a lot about PHP during that time.
Then in 2003, I took all the PHP knowledge that I learned from building the church website and created a custom website from ground up for the English Ministry that I was part of. It took me over 10 months of hard work every night and weekends to build it but I was very satisfied and proud of the outcome as that was the very first time I had ever built a website from beginning to end.
And back in 2009, I built the original handymango.com as my personal website, again from ground up, and that took over an year...
In 2012, I came up with few business ideas and wanted to have a side business to build several websites. However, I knew I just couldn't spend 1 year period of time just to build 1 website, as I have in the past, so I decided to look around for a PHP framework that I can use to build websites.
After researching and reading up on several PHP frameworks, I decided on CodeIgniter framework and the main reason was because of Shawn McCool from heybigname.com. Shawn used to post tutorial video blogs about CodeIgniter framework that were very useful.
I watched and studied Shawn's video tutorials for about 6 months... although his tutorials were very good, it was difficult for me to grasp the concept behind the framework. However, after about 6 months, I had noticed that he slowly stopped making new tutorial videos and started posting about Laravel, which I had never heard of back then. So I sent him an email on May 2012 asking why he hasn't posted any new tutorial about CodeIgniter and Shawn replied back to me indicating that he will have his reason posted on his blog. A day later, Shawn posted an article titled "why CodeIgniter is dead", detailing why he thinks the framework is as good as dead and it's not worth the time to study or to use it
But that's when he introduced Laravel to me through his blog posts and he soon started posting video tutorials about Laravel framework. Although I felt like I had wasted 6 months of my time studying CodeIgniter, I had no choice but to start over with his Laravel tutorials. It wasn't difficult choice to switch over to Laravel because Shawn was pretty well known guy in PHP community and many people, including myself, had a huge respect for his contribution to PHP community.
When I started studying Laravel, it was version 3.1 but after couple of weeks, version 3.2 was released. I purchased and read the Code Happy book from Dayle Rees and watched endless Laravel tutorial videos.
Again, it was very difficult for me to understand and grasp in the beginning but slowly, it started to sink in and make sense to me after spending 8 months studying it (BTW, I had a full time job and was married with 3 children so I basically only had weekends and late nights to study Laravel so that's why it took 8 months duration, and not 8 months full time)
At the beginning of May 2013, there were rumors about Laravel version 4 release and that it was going to change significantly... In fact, this was only negative point about Laravel framework... people were complaining that Laravel is constantly changing and evolving too fast.. hence it's not really a production-ready framework since the version that you used to build a website can become obsolete in a year due to a new version release...
Laravel version 4.0 was released at the end of May 2013 so I started studying version 4.0 in June but fortunately, it wasn't too difficult to adopt to version 4.0 (maybe because I had better grasp of version 3.2 design and concept by then?)
Today, the Laravel is on version 5.4 and I never had a chance to even study version 5.0 but I pretty much mastered Laravel verion 4 and I can now build any website I want very quickly.
So far, I built 5 websites and I'm currently in the process of building 3 more... all thanks to Laravel.
I'm so happy and relieved that I ended up choosing Laravel framework (thanks to Shawn McCool).
I can't even count how many times and a-ha moments I had where I was pleasantly surprised and amazed at what Laravel framework can do and has to offer... If you are a PHP developer, I wholeheartedly recommend Laravel framework. You will not regret it.
When I redesigned and rebuilt the backend for this handymango.com using Laravel, that's when I realized even more how bad my original design and architecture was and how awesome Laravel framework is...
It literally took just couple of weeks to rebuild my personal website using Laravel. In fact, I spent more time learning and tweaking the responsive html template and css files I had purchased than rebuilding the backbone of my website from scratch using Laravel.
With Laravel, you can just focus on building stuff that you want to build and it helps you do it quickly, cleanly, and also gives you fun and joy while you at it. Seriously, I can just build stuff... all I need is just ideas and some spare time (and not a lot of it).
That's why Laravel is the bomb...