If you plan to build your application in PHP, selecting the proper framework is one of the challenging tasks. The landscape of PHP frameworks has grown significantly over the years, offering many options tailored to different development needs and styles. 

Selecting the wrong PHP framework can result in prolonged development cycles, increased maintenance efforts, and the need for costly rewrites. Therefore, for those embarking on the journey of PHP application development, gaining a solid grasp of the available framework choices is paramount to ensuring a smooth and cost-effective development process.

At Mallow, we recognise the significance of informed choices. We know that every decision made by our prospective clients plays a pivotal role in fostering the success of their businesses. With our understanding of PHP frameworks, we aim to provide valuable insights that empower businesses to make well-informed decisions, thereby paving the way for their sustained growth and prosperity.

After going through this article, you will emerge with a comprehensive understanding of the most popular PHP frameworks available for web application development. You will gain insights into the distinct features, advantages, and use cases of each framework, enabling you to make informed decisions aligned with your specific project requirements.

What factors do I need to consider before choosing my PHP application framework?

The decision to select a PHP framework should not be solely influenced by any single factor.  Making an informed decision involves weighing various aspects of the framework such as performance, scalability, community support, available features, and ease of learning. But, it should be a result of careful consideration of multiple factors in conjunction with the specific scope and requirements of your project.

  • Project requirements – Understand the specific needs of your project. Is it a small web application, a content management system, an e-commerce platform, or a complex enterprise solution? Different PHP frameworks cater to varying project sizes and complexities.
  • Easy to develop and scalable – Ensuring the chosen PHP framework enables efficient application development and can scale seamlessly as new features are consistently incorporated is of utmost importance. It should let you quickly create and improve features without making things too complicated. This way, it helps everyone work together smoothly and get things done faster.

  • Availability of developers – Opting for a framework for your application should involve considering the availability of developers in the market. This ensures that you have a sufficient pool of developers ready to address any uncertainties that may arise, whether at the project’s outset or during its progression.
  • Performance – Investigate the framework’s performance benchmarks. It should be able to deliver efficient and speedy applications. Consider factors like caching mechanisms and database query optimisation.
  • Ecosystem and libraries – Assess the availability of third-party libraries and packages that can accelerate development. A robust ecosystem reduces the need to build everything from scratch.
  • Longevity – Consider the framework’s history and how actively it’s being maintained. Frameworks that are regularly updated and adapted to new PHP versions are generally safer long-term bets.
  • API Support – If your application needs to provide APIs for third-party integrations or mobile applications, a framework that offers robust API support and tools can be advantageous.
  • Modern frontend integrations – In today’s digital landscape, there are a lot of modern frontend solutions like, WebSockets for real-time communications, Single Page applications for better and enhanced user experience etc. The framework you choose should accommodate what’s mentioned here well enough to match your application’s requirements.

Some popular PHP frameworks 

Symfony:

Symfony is a high-performance PHP framework prioritising modularity, reusability, and best practices in web application development. It provides a comprehensive set of reusable components and tools that streamline the creation of complex and maintainable applications.

Pros: 

  • Offers a rich set of reusable components
  • Excellent documentation
  • Provides Profiler and Debugging Tools, Dependency Injection Container
  • Boasts an active and robust community
  • Suitable for both small-scale and large-scale projects, making it an excellent choice for applications of varying sizes.

Cons:

  • Initial setup and configuration can be intricate

Laravel

Laravel is a modern and elegant PHP framework that emphasises developer-friendly syntax, expressive coding, and a wide range of features to simplify the process of building web applications.

Pros: 

  • Offers a robust ORM (Eloquent)
  • Efficient routing system
  • Offers a handful of built-in features like asset pipeline, Queues, Job Scheduling, etc.
  • Syntax is designed to be expressive and easy to read, making code more intuitive
  • Has a vast ecosystem of packages
  • Tools like Laravel Shift simplifies the upgrade process and maintenance
  • Has an active community as compared with other frameworks
  • Carries excellent documentation
  • Supports the integration with Rest APIs seamlessly.

Cons: 

  • For smaller projects the rich feature set might be more than what’s needed
  • When compared with Symfony, restrictions on customisation might also apply

CodeIgniter

CodeIgniter is a lightweight and straightforward PHP framework renowned for its simplicity, speed, and ease of use. It is designed to provide a minimalistic yet practical toolkit for building web applications with minimal configuration.

Pros: 

  • Is lightweight and fast
  • Convention over configuration
  • Quick and hassle-free setup
  • Active community that provides support, plugins, and extensions
  • Is well-documented

Cons: 

  • Fewer built-in features compared to other frameworks
  • Only suitable for smaller projects
  • CodeIgniter does not facilitate the streamlined development of REST APIs.

Yii

Yii is a high-performance, component-based PHP framework that emphasises speed, security, and an efficient development process. It’s designed to help developers create robust and modern web applications that focus on minimising repetitive tasks.

Pros: 

  • Offers strong caching support
  • Has an active community
  • Has a unique built-in client-side validation coupled with the class of a form or a model.
  • It’s well-suited for projects where performance is a critical factor.

Cons: 

  • Documentation may not be as comprehensive as some other frameworks.
  • Requires some familiarity with the framework

CakePHP

CakePHP is a rapid development PHP framework that follows the principle of “convention over configuration,” aiming to simplify and accelerate the web application development process while maintaining code organisation and consistency.

Pros: 

  • Provides a well-structured and intuitive coding approach 
  • Convention over configuration
  • Has built-in features like ORM
  • Has an active community that contributes plugins, and extensions, and provides support
  • Excellent for projects requiring fast development

Cons: 

  • Limited flexibility compared to more customisable frameworks
  • The ecosystem might not be as extensive as others
  • Its built-in features might introduce some overhead in terms of performance

Zend Framework (Now Laminas Project)

Zend Framework, now rebranded as the Laminas Project is an open-source, highly modular PHP framework that prioritises flexibility, scalability, and robust architecture. It empowers developers to build complex and feature-rich web applications that focus on maintaining the separation of concerns.

Pros: 

  • Offers a highly modular structure
  • Suitable for enterprise-level applications 
  • Has a built-in role-based access control (RBAC) that offers authentication, password protection, etc
  • Supports various authentication and authorisation mechanisms

Cons: 

  • Setup and configuration can be intricate 
  • Feature-rich nature might be overwhelming for smaller applications

Phalcon

Phalcon is a full-stack PHP framework that is known for its exceptional performance and low resource consumption. It’s unique in that it’s implemented as a C extension for PHP rather than being written purely in PHP code.

Pros

  • Better performance
  • Uses less memory 
  • Is loosely coupled
  • Can extend its functionality through custom components and plugins

Cons

  • Limited deployment options due to C extension
  • Community is smaller than famous PHP frameworks like Laravel or Symfony.
  • Limited number of packages.

Comparing the best PHP frameworks by category

Below is a table that will give you an overview of how the different frameworks considered above stand out when evaluated using some basic criteria. 

Here, the terms mentioned below have been employed within the context of the following particulars:

  • Time to market – Indicates how user-friendly the framework is, especially for developers who are new to it.
  • Actively in development – Reflects the frequency of updates, new features, and overall commitment to maintaining the framework.
  • Availability of developers – How common is it for you to get developers to develop your application in that particular framework?
  • Flexibility – Assesses the extent to which the framework allows customisation and integration with external tools.
  • Performance – Reflects the framework’s efficiency in speed and resource usage.
  • Security – Evaluate the built-in security measures and features that help developers protect their applications.
  • Features – (built-in) – Examines the richness of the built-in features and functionalities provided by the framework.
  • Architecture –  Considers the framework’s underlying design principles and how they promote maintainability and scalability.
FrameworkTime to MarketActively in DevelopmentAvailability of DevelopersBuilt-in featuresFlexibilityPerformanceBuilt-in Security featuresAPI Support 
SymfonyGoodBestBestBestBestGoodBestBest 
LaravelBestBestBestBestGoodGoodBestBest 
CodeIgniterBestGoodModerateModerateModerateGoodModerateModerate
YiiGoodGoodModerateGoodGoodBestGoodGood 
CakePHPGoodModerateModerateModerateModerateModerateModerateGood 
Zend FrameworkModerateModerateModerateGoodGoodGoodGoodGood 
PhalconModerateModerateModerateModerateModerate BestGoodGood 
Winning FrameworkLaravel and CodeIgniterSymfony and LaravelLaravel and SymfonyLaravel and SymfonySymfonyYii and PhalconLaravel and SymfonyLaravel and Symfony  

Which PHP framework to choose for your application?

After you have gone through the different PHP frameworks, the next really important step is to check which framework fits for your project.

Choosing the right PHP framework for your application is a critical decision that depends primarily on the unique requirements and objectives of your project. Each PHP framework offers distinct features, strengths, and weaknesses, making it essential to carefully assess your application’s specific needs and your team’s expertise before making a choice. To help you get started, the table below provides a general idea of which PHP framework could be a feasible option for your project based on common use cases and features:

Type of the applicationPopular examples from the type of applicationSuitable PHP frameworks
Small-Scale applciationsPersonal Websites, Portfolio Websites, Landing Pages, Simple CRUD Apps etcCodeIgniter, Slim and Laravel
Medium-Scale applicationsEnterprise Resource Planning systems, Customer Relationship Management systems etc.Symfony and Laravel 
Enterprise-Scale applicationsSupply Chain Management systems, Healthcare Information Systems, Large-Scale Analytics Platforms etcSymfony,Phalcon, Laminas and Laravel
Massive-Scale applicationsSearch Engines, Social Media Platforms, Streaming Services, Cloud Computing Platforms etcSymfony and Laminas

Please note that this table provides a starting point, and your final decision should consider factors such as project complexity, scalability, team familiarity, and available resources.
 Still, wondering from where you need to take your next step? Feel free to reach out to our team.

Author

Anandhan

Anandhan is a passionate technical lead at Mallow, where he plays a crucial role in driving innovation and overseeing the development of cutting-edge solutions. With a wealth of experience in the field of technology, he consistently strives to elevate his team's performance and deliver exceptional results. His multifaceted interests inspire him to approach challenges with creativity and an open mind, leading to innovative solutions that transcend conventional boundaries. Beyond his professional endeavours, Anandhan nurtures a love for literature and cinema. During his free time, you'll often find him engrossed in the pages of books across various genres, exploring diverse narratives and gaining insights from authors around the world.

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