If you’re planning to get into PHP web development, you can save yourself a lot of time (not to mention more than a few headaches) by working with a development framework. Designed to reduce development overhead and dial down complexity in the development process, a framework includes a series of tools, pre-built components, and code samples that you can use to eliminate a lot of the redundant legwork when it comes to web development.
There’s just one problem – there’s an absolute metric ton of frameworks floating around the web. How exactly do you decide which one is the right choice for you? Which one is the best option for web development?
Honestly…it depends. I think the best way to explain what I mean by that is to give you an overview of some of the most popular frameworks, and let you decide for yourself which one works best. Let’s dive right in.
Compared to some of the other frameworks on this list, Laravel is pretty new – it was only released in 2011. That said, it’s also one of the most popular frameworks around, with a massive ecosystem, and instant hosting and deployment platform, and an official website with a ton of excellent documentation and tutorials. I might even go so far as to say that it’s got the most forgiving learning curve of any framework on this list, owed solely to the fact that its documentation is so formidable.
That’s not its only advantage either. Its MVC architecture and file/code organization allow for rapid development with a high level of abstraction, and it’s got a ton of out-of-the-box functionality and incredibly strong encryption. The one trade-off is that it tends to have a bit of a heavy resource footprint – you might need a fairly hearty database to run Laravel unless you’re using its light-weight engine, Blade.
A rewrite of the Yii Framework, the biggest advantage of Yii 2 is that it’s essentially designed to boost the performance of the websites on which it’s implemented. That’s because it uses something known as the lazy loading technique, which defers initialization of objects until they’re absolutely needed. It’s also purely object-oriented, so its codebase is both clean and logical.
Integrated with jquery, Yii 2 comes with a huge list of AJAX-enabled features, an intuitive skinning and theming mechanism, and a powerful class code generator. The biggest weakness of Yii 2 is that unlike Laravel, it doesn’t have any built-in allowances, nor does it organize your code. That means that if you don’t organize things yourself while lettering, it can get messy fast.
With a wide developer community and a ton of dedicated fans, the Symfony framework is, oddly enough, relied upon by several other frameworks and projects – including Laravel. It works primarily off of elements known as Components, reusable PHP libraries that you can use for tasks such as form creation, object configuration, routing, authentication, and templating.
Because of how Symfony is architected, it offers excellent performance, and it’s also both stable and well-documented, maintained, and supported. It’s also one of the more mature frameworks on the list, meaning its community is far more extensive than most of your other options.
There are two main tradeoffs with Symfony. The first is that while it’s every bit as flexible and functional as the other frameworks here, it also has a much steeper learning curve. That’s not too bad in and of itself – it’s the second one that could really cause you trouble.
See, Symfony2 at the time of writing does not support the MVC Framework – and many businesses are moving towards the use of MVC.
Released in 2012, the Phalcon framework was originally written in C and C++, and is designed from the ground up for performance optimization. If you want a blazing fast website, this is very likely the framework for you. Better yet, since it’s delivered as a C-extension, its architecture is optimized without requiring you to learn the C programming language – you can code in PHP, just as with the other frameworks on the list.
Well-documented and easy to use, Phalcon increases both execution speed and decreases resource usage, while also coming with a wealth of features like asset management, security, caching, and a universal auto loader.
Unfortunately, the main drawback of Phalcon is that it doesn’t work with HHVM. It’s also less open-source than Laravel, and its developers tend to be a bit slower to patch bugs than with other frameworks.
Although CodeIgniter is nearly ten years old now, its age doesn’t really show. A lightweight PHP framework with a straightforward installation process and minimal configuration requirements, it’s the best option if PHP version conflict is a concern for your team. It only requires PHP 5.2.4, but works on pretty much all hosting platforms.
Where CodeIgniter falls a bit short is in the fact that it doesn’t offer namespaces. It’s also not particularly friendly towards unit testing, and it has comparatively few libraries when evaluated side by side with frameworks like Laravel. Still, if you want something that’s quick, simple, and easy to configure, CodeIgniter is your go-to.
Last but certainly not least, we’ve got the Zend framework. Robust, stable, and highly-configurable, Zend is an excellent option for larger, more complex projects. With major partners like IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Adobe, Zend’s got some serious power behind it. Not only that, Zend Framework 3 is optimized for PHP 7, even as it supports PHP 5.5 and up.
Do note that Zend isn’t especially suited for rapid application development as other frameworks – but if you’re running a massive project, that’s probably not much of a concern for you.
Choose Your Weapon
So, which of the above frameworks is the best option for web development? Honestly, it’s whichever one works best for you. There’s no right answer, and the above list is hardly a comprehensive one.
Get out there, do a bit of research, and pick whichever framework you’re comfortable with using, Once you’ve decided, Future Hosting will be here to provide you with a place to host your site, application, or whatever else you’re looking to create.