PHP Framework Comparison – Which Is The Right Choice For You?

Web frameworks form one of the most important pillars of web development. Finding the ideal framework is just as important as choosing the right programming languages. PHP is one such popular scripting language that is beloved by web developers.

According to this W3Techs PHP survey, PHP is used by 79.2 percent of the websites on the internet for server-side programming. Therefore it is no surprise that there are many frameworks available for working with PHP.

We bring to you a curated list of top PHP framework comparisons, to help you find the right framework for developing web apps. But first, let’s understand what PHP frameworks are and why they are so widely used.

What are PHP Frameworks?

A PHP framework is a full-featured platform, incorporated with core libraries, modules, configuration routines, source code editors, and design architecture. PHP frameworks simplify the web development lifecycle by deploying the best design practices, automating repetitive tasks and packaging pre-coded functions.

They also provide database manipulation operations for executing complicated queries, different software design patterns for rapid development along testing and deployment features.

According to research by JetBrains, there are many PHP frameworks and platforms that are used regularly by web developers for backend development. The most used framework is Laravel, while WordPress is the most used content management system for PHP developers.

which frameworks and platforms are used regularly?

Over the years, many new tools and frameworks such as Yii, Slim, and Zend Framework have been developed that overcame the shortcomings of CodeIgniter and Symfony. Let’s look at the comparison of top PHP frameworks of 2021 –

  1. Laravel

    Laravel framework

    “Roughly half of the developers we surveyed use Laravel, which makes it one of the 3 most popular platforms, along with Symfony and WordPress.” – JetBrains Survey 2020

    Laravel is a PHP framework used for building full-stack apps. It is purely meant for developing MVC-based applications. It is open-source with a huge community backing. 

    With an aim to provide a more advanced alternative to the CodeIgniter framework, it shares a lot of features, along with architectural patterns, with Symfony. It has a state-of-the-art powerful templating engine.

    Laravel also provides configurations for the Authentication and Authorization system. This means in just a few artisans commands your web app will be equipped with secure user authentication and authorization features.

    It supports unit testing and can automate the debugging process. With features like lazy loading and an adhesive ORM, this framework is apt for the development of prototypes quickly. Want to know more about Laravel? , you can quickly read our blog on  Why Laravel PHP Framework is Best?

  2. Yii

    yii framework

    Created by Qiang Xue in 2008, Yii is a secure, fast, high-performing web framework based on PHP language. Yii stands for “Yes It Is” and is a minimalistic solution for developing specific websites that are for a niche of users.  

    Like most PHP frameworks, it also implements the MVC software design paradigm and executes the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) concept everywhere. Yii is easily integrated with jQuery and AJAX.

    With a Model–view–controller design pattern, the code generated by Yii components and command line tools complies with the XHTML standard. It is suitable for all types of projects and has many optimizing tools in its API for designing a well-functioning, performative website.

  3. Symfony

    symfony framework

    Symfony is a set of PHP components and methodology for developing scalable, high-performance applications. One of the oldest PHP frameworks, Symfony incorporates the advantage of pre-configured components for templating, translation, dependency injection, form configurations, event dispatcher and more.

    The official site defines its philosophy as – “Embracing and promoting professionalism, best practices, standardization and interoperability of applications.” It is increasingly gaining popularity and is preferred over other frameworks due to its versatility, flexibility, and scalability.

    Another added advantage of Symphony is that it makes use of open source projects of PHP such as PHPUnit, a PHP-based unit testing framework, Twig as a templating engine, Doctrine as object-relational mapping layer, and PHP Data Objects is a database abstraction layer.

  4. CodeIgniter

    codeigniter framework

    CodeIgniter is one of the oldest open-source PHP-based frameworks. Mainly used for custom building eCommerce web applications, it is best for developing secured websites. It has an extremely small footprint and is very popular for the quick development of payment gateways and eCommerce sites.

    It is extremely user-friendly and can be easily adapted for web development usage. It is a top choice for a start-up business as it provides scalability along with the many inbuilt features for protection against vulnerabilities. In addition, it does not force any restrictive coding rules and provides flexibility to be creative, which is an important aspect for startups.

  5. Zend

    zend framework

    Zend is an object-oriented framework that is highly customizable and helps web developers to easily control its every feature. It enables the creation of attractive, user-driven websites.

    The Zend framework is now evolved into the open-source ‘The Laminas Project’, an enterprise-ready PHP framework and components. The new Zend is a Composer meta-package holding a collection of professional independent PHP-based packages and modules. You also have debugging tools available on the Zend Server, which is a web server compatible with Zend web apps.

  6. CakePHP

    cakephp framework

    CakePHP is a robust open-source web framework written in PHP scripting language. It follows the MVC design pattern and is closely modeled against the concepts used in Ruby on Rails.

    It is a ‘Batteries Included’ framework, deploying  ‘ready-to-use’ philosophy, that includes functions such as –

    • Database access
    • Data caching
    • Validation
    • Authentication
    • Built-in translations 

    Recently, a commercial project was developed by Larry Masters called CakeDC. It offers development, consultancy,  training, and code review services.

  7. Phalcon

    Phalcon framework

    Phalcon is a full-stack PHP framework that functions on the MVC web architecture pattern. Released in 2012, it is written in C and C++ and is perfect for creating highly configurable web applications.

    One prominent feature of Phalcon is its commitment to follow enterprise development guidelines. A developer has access to a lot of functionalities such as speed and efficiency, an asset management tool, a universal autoloader, measures for protecting the website against security attacks and caching.

  8. Slim

    slim framework

    Slim is an agile microframework for developing powerful web apps and APIs. Slim has a lean and fast codebase as it has no third-party dependencies and is very easy to learn and use. It focuses on receiving an HTTP request from a web browser, invoking a callback, and returning an HTTP code as a response to display the web page contents.

    Along with these, there are some additional utilities offered by Slim such as –

    •  A dependency injection container
    •  A powerful Atlas ORM
    • URL map routing
    • interoperability

    It is particularly suited to building small apps and APIs. If you need to implement over-the-top features, Slim is also integrable with third-party solutions.

Top 8 PHP Framework Comparison With Pros And Cons

We have curated a comparison table of the best PHP frameworks for you including Laravel, Yii, Phalcon, Slim, and Symfony. Looking at the benefits and demerits of using each will help you find the best framework for your next web app development.

Framework Pros Cons
Laravel
  • Laravel is suitable for large and complex websites
  • lightweight templating system
  • Artisan, the inbuilt tool can help manage repetitive tasks.
  • Database systems are more efficient
  • Simplified integration with mail services
  • SQL queries are supported
  • Not specific for updates
  • Requires too many configurations
  • Not many inbuilt functions and utilities
  • Performance issues at times
Yii
  • Supports CRUD creation
  • Suitable for eCommerce websites, content and data management system and forums.
  • Offers a collection of highly intuitive and extensible tools
  • Gii- An efficient class code generator for the object-oriented paradigm
  • The Ajax features are not developed enough and require tweaking
  • Depends on static methods
  • Requires knowing many concepts of PHP and web development
CodeIgniter
  • Easy usage and implementation
  • Great documentation
  • You can easily integrate security features into your website
  • It has Cross-Site Scripting filtering for preventing Cross-Site Request Forgery attacks(CSRF).
  • Contains bundles that allow repetitive use cases.
  • It offers better support and stability
  • It is well structured and easy to use
  • Ecommerce and payment getaway sites
  • No restrictive rules for code
  • No CRUD creation support
Symfony
  • Good database support with the object-relational mapping system, Doctrine
  • Easy to maintain
  • High productivity practices are used
  • Unit testing with the PHPUnit
  • Data Migration is automated
  • Steep learning curve
  • Not suitable for inexperienced PHP developers
Phalcon
  • Phalcon is easy to install and execute in the system.
  • It is supported by multiple OS – Unix, Window, Linux and macOS
  • Built on C extension
  • Fast and efficient PHP development
  • Supports dependency injection
  • Components are customizable with Zephir
  • Volt templating system for reusable templates
  • It has a compiled extension which makes it hard for installation
  • Very steep learning curve
  • Not very popular and thus not a lot of community support
  • Scalability issues
Slim
  • It is a micro PHP framework for creating RESTful APIs
  • Slim has a powerful routing system
  • HTML requests and pattern matching
  • You can use it to code APIs
  • The rapid development of prototypes
  • Various classes for managing cookies, HTTP requests and more
  • Lack of consistency between versions
  • Has Dependency Injection support but it is too weak
CakePHP
  • CakePHP is an open-source full-stack framework
  • Highly flexible
  • Consists of modules
  • Follows the “convention over configuration” approach
  • Powerful ORM system for database mapping
  • Automated code generation and code scaffolding so you can do rapid prototyping
  • Is not good with recent PHP versions.
  • Dated URL routing, requires updating default routes for fancy URLs
Zend Framework
  • Highly customizable framework
  • Third-party libraries and modules are integrable
  • Has applications in Big Data Management
  • Based on the MVC architecture model
  • Requiring minimal code for tasks
  • External plugins for implementing out-of-the-box features
  • The plugins of Zend are expensive
  • It is hard to use especially for beginners
  • Requires extensive knowledge about all its components to develop a good website

Which Framework Is Right For You?

Before choosing a framework, it is important to identify your requirements and priorities. Here is a list of questions and criteria you should keep in mind while choosing a framework for your PHP project-

  • What are the available resources? 
  • What expertise do your developers hold? How much training period will be required for each framework? 
  • Does it meet the technical requirements of your project?
  • What database are you using for your project? Choose a framework that completely supports the database. 
  • Does the framework have adequate documentation? 
  • Does the framework have a large and vibrant community? 
  • What are security requirements? Which framework supports security measures such as Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF), SQL Injection.  

After you have the answers to the above questions, it will be fairly easy to find the ideal tool for your project. You can arrive at a decision after analyzing the benefits and use cases of each framework.

According to our experts,  CodeIgniter and Yii are ideal choices for the development of an eCommerce website and web application as they offer state-of-the-art security measures.

When it comes to speed, it is best to choose lightweight PHP frameworks such as CodeIgniter. Unlike other frameworks, Slim doesn’t follow the MVC architecture and thus Slim is a good option for when you require flexibility.

CakePHP and Laravel are preferable when you work on large-scale applications which require extensive database management. Use Symfony when you require customization and flexibility along with strong scalability and stability.

Zend framework is best for when you deal with large databases but require server-side scripting. Most PHP frameworks have external database support, so there is no conflict in the choices. We suggest employing Phalcon’s rapid prototyping abilities if you are working on Minimum Value Products.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an alternative to Laravel?

There are many frameworks available for working with PHP. Some more lightweight solutions are the Phalcon and Symfony. You can also look at the micro-framework Slim for developing fast REST APIs. Many companies also prefer CodeIgniter for eCommerce websites owing to the security features it offers.

Is Codeigniter better than other frameworks?

No. CodeIgniter is a better choice for some specific tasks, but it fails in other development fields. So if you are looking for a framework that suits database-intensive, eCommerce or scalable sites, CodeIgniter is better than other frameworks.

Which is the best PHP framework?

There are many good PHP frameworks. Today Laravel is a good option as opposed to the older cumbersome CakePHP or CodeIgniter. It is lightweight and minimalistic which helps for speedy development without memory delays. Other best frameworks are Yii or Symfony or Slim.

Why use PHP frameworks?

PHP is a widely used scripting language, generally preferred for web development. A PHP framework provides a platform for developing PHP web apps and websites. With libraries including pre-coded components and modules, you are able to avoid repetitive coding and streamlining the development process.


Conclusion

We have conducted a PHP frameworks comparison to determine the best PHP frameworks for developers like you to use. Laravel, Symfony, Yii and CodeIgniter are some of the most efficient frameworks for PHP web application development today.

It is most important to analyze your project requirements before choosing a suitable framework for web design. Do you still have doubts about which framework to commit to?

We, at Monocubed, can understand your requirements and provide the ideal web-based solution that will help you be competitive in the market. You can reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter if you have any queries.

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Author Bio
Jigar Mistry
Jigar Mistry
Designation: Founder - Monocubed

Jigar Mistry is the Founder of Monocubed and is the main curator and writer of the content found on this site. He has 14+ years of experience in the information technology industry. He always believes in quality, in terms of code and application.