Best PHP Frameworks for Web Development

PHP is the top choice for web developers. It’s so popular that currently it powers more than 80 percent of websites. That’s impressive. Websites like Facebook, Yahoo, Flickr, Wikipedia, and MailChimp are developed using PHP.

One of the biggest challenges for developers is to build a high-quality website or application quickly. And most web applications require common repetitive tasks. Using PHP frameworks is a great solution to ease and accelerate development. Frameworks include different methodologies, security policies, and reusable parts of code.

So frameworks are useful when creating complex projects, as developers don’t have to start from nothing each time. Frameworks provide organized and reusable code and allow you to scale projects easily.

There are many PHP development frameworks on the market today, but we’ve decided to focus on the five best: Laravel, Symfony, Yii, Phalcon, and Zend.

Comparison of PHP frameworks

First things first. Here we’ve compiled basic information about these five PHP frameworks:

 

Laravel

Symfony

Yii

Phalcon

Zend

Launch year

2011

2005

2008

2012

2006

Current version

5.6.0

4.0.1

2.0.14

3.3.1

3.0.0

Licence

MIT license

MIT license

New BSD licence

New BSD licence

New BSD licence

Github stars rating

41,000

16,900

11,700

8,800

5,600

 

Laravel

No PHP framework is as popular as Laravel right now. Is it that good? Actually, it is. Though the product is fairly new, it has evolved to become the most-used PHP framework. It’s appropriate for developing small applications and large projects. And it flawlessly manages to build different projects rapidly and with few bugs. Laravel is superb in dealing with many databases. In addition, it’s really lightweight. All of that makes this framework so great and popular. Laravel also has the greatest community. Another merit is that Laravel is easy to learn. It’s a powerful tool for developing applications of any size.

Symfony

Symfony was launched in 2005. Since that time, it’s proven to be a consistent and clever PHP framework. It’s famous for its modularity. Its modular blocks are called bundles. Bundles are similar to plugins in other software. These reusable components are the foundation for building PHP applications and can be used in your projects separately from the Symfony framework. The community is large and really supportive. Symfony is mostly used for creating large and complex projects. It has great documentation and provides long-term support (LTS) releases.

[Screenshot of symfony.com]

Yii

We surely couldn’t count out Yii from our PHP frameworks list. Is it good enough? “Yii” stands for “Yes, it is!” Yii helps manage repetitive tasks and speeds up development. Yii is about speed. It works really fast because it uses lazy loading. Code written with Yii is well-organized and logical, as Yii uses the Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY) concept. DRY focuses on replacing repetitions with abstractions and helps to avoid redundancy. So when you modify any single element of a system, you don’t have to make changes in other logically unrelated elements. Developers often use Yii when creating forums or web portals, for example.

Phalcon

Phalcon is a high-performance PHP framework delivered as a C extension. Its functionality is exposed as ready to use PHP classes, though. Phalcon provides low resource consumption, and one of the main advantages of this framework is its speed. Because of its low-level architecture and optimizations, Phalcon provides low overhead for MVC-based applications. It uses Volt as a template engine, which is built in C for PHP. The powerful and secure Phalcon Query Language (PHQL) allows you to write queries using a standardized SQL-like language.

Zend

Zend has a reputation as a well-trusted framework. It’s time-proven, having been launched in 2006. Though it’s not the easiest framework, it’s commonly used for developing high-performance projects. Zend offers lots of features and options and it’s really customizable. But with that, it also offers a huge amount of documentation, which may be a bit hard to puzzle out. 

Now let’s take a closer look at the three top PHP development frameworks on our list: Laravel, Symfony, and Yii. We’ll look at their similarities and then focus on the key features of each framework.

 

Similarities

  • Full-stack PHP frameworks for developers

  • Wide range of tools for building websites and applications

  • Open source

  • Strong communities

  • Similar numbers of contributors

  • Support for ORM (Object-Relational Mapping)

  • Pattern for interfaces related to MVC (Model-View-Controller)

  • Provide code scaffolding

Now let’s check out the most important features of Laravel, Symfony, and Yii and see how they differ.

Documentation

When you’re using a well-documented framework, you can develop websites and applications fast. The learning curve also depends on the documentation, as proper documentation makes learning a framework easier.

Laravel is considered to have the best documentation and learning materials. It has great tutorials alongside support videos such as Laracasts, which is like Netflix for learning Laravel. There are also extensive Laravel Github docs. Doubtlessly, Laravel has the lowest learning curve.

[Screenshot of laracasts.com]

Symfony isn’t too far behind Laravel in terms of documentation, however. Its documentation is well-organized and explains all the essentials about developing web applications with Symfony. But it doesn’t feel as intuitive as Laravel.

Yii has a lot of learning resources and its documentation is extensive and detailed. Its learning curve may not be as low as Laravel’s, but still it’s quite manageable.  

Database support

Laravel makes interactions with databases across different backends easy. It supports four databases: MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, and Microsoft SQL Server. By default, Laravel's sample environment configuration is ready to use Laravel Homestead, which is suitable for developing on your local machine. Laravel uses the Eloquent ORM, which provides an elegant and simple ActiveRecord implementation for working with databases. In Eloquent ORM, all database tables have corresponding models. These models allow you to query for data in tables and insert new records.

Symfony has the best database support compared to Laravel and Yii. Indeed, it supports most popular PHP libraries including MySQL, NoSQL, Apache Jackrabbit, CouchDB, DynamoDB, Gemfire, and Oracle. It’s not simple, though, and does need to be configured. Symfony uses Doctrine ORM, which provides flexible and powerful object-mapping and query features. Doctrine comes with its own query language called Doctrine Query Language (DQL). Its syntax is similar to SQL, but it allows you to retrieve objects instead of result set rows.

Yii also supports a few databases: MySQL, Oracle, SQLite, and PostgreSQL. Yii database features can handle nearly all database-related tasks. It’s smartly designed to be used together with other libraries. Yii uses Active Record implemented with the widely adopted ORM approach, which makes database programming simpler.

In addition, all three frameworks work well with the MongoDB PHP library, which contains abstractions for client, database, and collection objects. It also deals with common commands like index and collection management.

Security

Security is crucial for any website. Choose your framework wisely to be sure that it has high-level security features. Laravel, Symfony, and Yii all offer tools that fight the most common attack vectors such as SQL injections, unauthorized authentication, and Cross-Site Scripting.

Laravel provides many useful features that guarantee application security. Plus, Laravel’s own authentication system is very efficient. 

Symfony offers to install a security component that’s divided into four smaller sub-components. These smaller components can be used separately. Among its features are common ones like authentication and authorization as well as protection against Cross-Site Request Forgery and other attacks.

Yii is considered one of the most secure frameworks. It includes great security features for authentication, authorization, passwords, encryption and decryption, and so on.

Template engines

Laravel uses the Blade templating system. It’s a simple but powerful engine. Laravel claims that template inheritance and sections are Blade’s main advantages. Blade compiles views into plain PHP code, and they’re cached until modified. That’s why Blade doesn’t slow down an application’s performance.

Symfony uses the Twig templating system, which is secure and flexible. Twig has a special sandbox mode to assess untrusted template code. You can define your own custom tags and filters to create your own DSL (Domain-specific language). It’s also fast, as Twig complies templates down to plain PHP code.

Yii mostly uses Twig, as Yii itself doesn’t support any third-party templating system. Another template system recommended for Yii is Smarty. You may choose the one that fits you best.

Rapid development

It’s always best to develop an MVP as fast as possible, so rapid development is important. All three frameworks provide code scaffolding to speed up code generation and development.

Laravel is the champion here. It has the newest strategies to build applications. Due to its integrated test support, Laravel allows you to achieve the right output in real time. And thanks to its dedicated community, it really should be considered number one for rapid development.

Symfony has proven a reliable and fast framework. One important feature is that software components are available for developers. Symphony’s pluses are simple upgrades and maintenance.

Yii works well with AJAX and supports caching, which facilitates rapid web development.

Community

By using the most popular web frameworks, you get more support from publishers and community members. A large community also means you can find a lot of external libraries and packages.

Laravel became popular thanks to its simple and elegant syntax. This framework keeps attracting more and more developers. PHP frameworks rating shows that Laravel is the most popular framework. Currently, the community numbers 40,000. Quite impressive, isn’t it?

Symfony’s community is huge but is still smaller than Laravel’s at 35,000. The Symfony community is very friendly, so you can ask any questions through various channels.

Yii is considered to lack in ecosystem compared to Laravel and Symfony. Its community is the smallest among these three frameworks at 30,000.

LTS

Laravel’s Long-Term Support (LTS) versions provide bug fixes for two years and security fixes for three years. For general releases, bug fixes are provided for six months and security fixes are provided for one year.

Every two years, a new Symfony LTS is published. LTS versions are supported for a three-year period for bug fixes and for a four-year period for security fixes. Standard Minor Versions are maintained for eight months for bug fixes and for fourteen months for security fixes.

Yii 1.1 will receive security fixes and PHP 7 compatibility at least until December 31, 2019. The support period for the current version, Yii 2.0.4, is not set yet. It will be announced after Yii 2.1 is released.

 

Laravel, Symfony, and Yii differ quite a lot. You should decide which of these PHP frameworks to use based on the type and size of your project. Make sure that the framework you pick is able to cope with the challenges of your project.

Symfony, for example, consists of reusable bundles. So it’s perfect if your project needs a modular framework. You can use all components that are provided by Symfony modularly. Symfony is commonly used for developing large and complex projects. Yii also uses components, but it’s still not as modular as Symfony is. Yii is really fast, though.

Laravel is actually built on many Symfony components. It doesn’t provide such advanced modularity as Symfony does, but PHP trends show that Laravel is the most-used PHP framework. And it provides powerful tools, so it’s used for all types and sizes of projects. Laravel provides accessible tools needed for developing large robust applications and includes an expressive migration system and great support.

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