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    Best PHP Frameworks in Use Today

    Building a website from scratch is a daunting task... and rather optional, by the way. Why reinvent the wheel when you can use ready-made solutions? Let's say, how about modern PHP frameworks? They have a host of cool advantages and offer a lot of various perks.

    There is a problem of choice, though. What would be the best option in your particular case? What to pay attention to first?

    If you're interested in the answers to these and other similar questions, feel free to read our article. We're going to share our expertise with you and provide you with a list of the best PHP frameworks. Moreover, we'll describe the pros and cons of each solution. 

    PHP Technology for Programming Purposes

    The first version of PHP (which was called Personal Home Page Tools or PHP Tools at the time) was released in the early summer of 1995. The new programming language was based on Perl.

    PHP has evolved, improved from year to year. By the release of its fifth version, it had gained considerable popularity, and by the appearance of the 7th one, it had become completely stable. 

    BTW!

    Many of the web frameworks discussed below are based on the latest PHP version (7.4 at the time of writing).

    PHP popularity

    According to a study conducted in the spring of 2021, PHP is among the ten most in-demand programming languages. It is ahead of popular technologies such as Objective-C, Swift, and Ruby.

    PHP is used to build 80+% of all existing online resources, including Wikipedia, Facebook, and even Google. Still further, this language has helped in the creation of many CMS (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal). Isn't that impressive?

    How to create a PHP website?

    In fact, there are only three main development strategies:

    • Writing all the source code yourself, namely, from scratch. You get the opportunity to build a unique resource, but you must be prepared to spend a lot of time and money. 

    • Using a ready-made CMS. CMS platforms are a great option if you're not good at web development. However, to get a decent result, you'll have to do some coding and connect third-party solutions anyway, so you won't manage with no programming experience at all.

    • Resorting to special PHP web frameworks, which is the golden mean between the two options described above. You get a ready-made framework (the name is quite eloquent, right?) to shape your resource and don't lose flexibility when it comes to functionality.

    What Is PHP Framework?

    The framework consists of various sorts of tools designed to facilitate the development process. It is sometimes compared to libraries, but there is a significant difference between these concepts.

    They both supplement a pure programming language. But while the library extends the basic functionality (nothing else!), the framework defines the structure of the entire project and provides a web application basis. And this basis can be customized as desired and needed.

    All of the solutions from our list of PHP frameworks (see below) will help you with the following:

    • Speeding up the creation of a web resource.

    • Simplification of the development process at times.

    • Improving the security of the project.

    • Perfecting the platform scalability.

    Advantages of Using PHP Web Frameworks

    • Business efficiency. Of course, any future website owner is primarily interested in the economic efficiency of creating a resource. Luckily for him or her, modern PHP frameworks are great in this regard. They help you get fast and high-quality results at no extra cost (compared to other solutions). 

      • As we’ve mentioned earlier, development from scratch is much more time-consuming and expensive, and the use of CMS and SaaS platforms doesn't allow achieving the same uniqueness, reliability, and security.  

    • High development speed. Frameworks speed up the development process by allowing you to use ready-made blocks of code (instead of writing the whole thing with a clean slate). 

    • Ease of development. Also, you'll be glad to know that frameworks make the development process simpler (as follows from the first item on our list).

    • Scalability. Another important task in business terms is to provide the ability to freely scale the site. After all, even if you aren’t planning a major project right now, your intentions may change in the future. 

    • Simplified support and maintenance. It's not enough to create PHP web applications, it's also important to support and evolve your project later. The PHP framework code is easy to work with, so maintenance is simplified too.

    • Security. The importance of the security of sites and applications could not be overemphasized. It is crucial. And since most of the popular PHP frameworks are built and tested by experienced developers, you can be sure they’re reliable and well-protected.

    • Flexibility. You have complete freedom of creativity, you may build any site and application. 

      • Of course, you'll have some limits, but very moderate ones. On the bright side, you don't need to work on a project from square one.

    • Adaptation for high loads can be safely recorded as one of the advantages of these frameworks too.

    • Ease of testing. If you've read our other articles, you know how important it is to test your site or application before the final launch. And thanks to PHP web frameworks, the testing process is easier and better.

    • Innovativeness. These solutions are constantly being worked on and improved so that you have the opportunity to follow the latest trends of frameworks.

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    Now you know why you should choose a PHP Framework for web development. But our guide will be incomplete if we fail to warn you about a few disadvantages of this solution (if we compare it with the CMS development approach):

    1. Longer development process. You’ll be able to create a website faster than starting from scratch, but you'll have to develop a lot of modules yourself anyway.  

    2. The need to have development experience. The frameworks are aimed at professionals. And if you’re not one of them, you should hire an expert team.

    3. The importance of understanding business processes. CMS allows you to use predefined blocks to implement certain actions and user steps (such as order processing). This won't work with frameworks, though, and you'll have to delve into how the business works.

    4. The need to deal with ready-made code, written by another programmer (which can be difficult). However, below we'll give you a list of the best PHP frameworks. They're written by experienced and capable guys, well-grounded in PHP technology. 

    How to Choose Your Winner?

    Shortly, we'll describe the most popular PHP frameworks to you. But you'll have to choose just one of them. What should you focus on when making the final choice?

    Start by asking yourself a few simple questions:

    • What are the goals of your project? If your site is simple in structure, there is no point in using complex, resource-intensive solutions.

      • Analyze the features of each framework. Find one that offers the functionality, which suits you most.

    • What about data protection? The framework you choose must have advanced security features.

    • How clear and detailed is the documentation? Without it, the developer might find it difficult (even impossible sometimes) to understand and figure out the source code.

    • Does the solution have a dedicated community? The best PHP web frameworks always gather powerful communities around them, which means there is a real opportunity to get quick feedback anytime you need it.

    • Is the framework easy to learn? However, if your team has sufficient experience, the question will be optional. Competent specialists know how to work with any technology (or almost any).

    • How often are updates released? You should focus on modern PHP frameworks, which follow the latest trends and technologies.

    The Best PHP Frameworks in 2021

    list of the best PHP frameworks

    Laravel

    Created 10 years ago (in 2011), Laravel gained popularity in a short time. And today it ranks among the 10 Most Popular PHP Frameworks (as of 2021). 

    Laravel runs on PHP (of course!) and is free. What's more, the solution in question is easy to learn, which makes it an ideal choice for a beginner in web development.

    Laravel is focused on projects of all sizes and suits both large and simple resources. 

    Why choose the Laravel framework?

    • Excellent documentation, available in multiple languages (which is a huge advantage, as you can imagine).

    • Following the MVC architecture. Thanks to such an approach, you can divide the web application into parts and simplify the process of its management (make it less confusing).

    • A powerful ecosystem, built around the Laravel framework. This web-based tool is constantly evolving, and there is an exciting life around it, which includes conferences, various courses, and the like.

    • High level of security. Laravel is excellent at preventing SQL injection, which is one of the most dangerous cyber attacks. 

    • Artisan feature, aimed at helping developers manage repetitive tasks.

    • Intuitive, user-friendly admin panel. An easy-to-use interface is very important, and Laravel's creators did their best to approach the issue correctly.

    • Built-in ways to authenticate and authorize users, which is also a great reason to choose the Laravel framework.

    • Lots of available extensions. Today there are almost 10,000 of them.

    • Ease of learning. As we said, Laravel is clearly one of the TOP PHP Frameworks to Learn.

    Laravel’s Cons:

    • Compared to other Most used PHP Frameworks, Laravel works slower.

    • No integrated interface templates.

    Symphony

    The framework has a sonorous, easy-to-remember name, which is far from its only advantage. It is flexible in structure and takes a modular approach to development.

    Symfony-based websites and web applications are really efficient. That's why the framework in question is targeted at large projects such as high-load e-commerce platforms.

    Symphony has taken its rightful place in the list of PHP frameworks, but it is useless to people with no programming experience. 

    BTW!

    Symphony is the basis for many popular CMS including Drupal, Magento, and Opencart.

    Symfony’s pros:

    • Convenient localization of resources. That is, you won't have a problem creating a multilingual website.

    • A powerful community of experienced developers (many of whom are ready to help newbies).

    • SEO features, or rather, a specially optimized routing system.

    • Code reuse (with a set of plugin-like features), which will be useful if you need to create several similar projects.

    • MVC architecture, whose advantages we’ve already described.

    • The speed of work. Development experts consider it one of the fastest solutions among popular PHP frameworks.

    • Lots of plugins available. And they are very easy to install.

    • High-quality documentation, which allows you to understand the work of Simfony in the shortest possible time.

    • Easy customization: in other words, you can easily give your project the look and format you want.

    Symfony’s cons:

    • Symphony is a bad option if you are a beginner developer. Moreover, even experienced experts will have to take the time to sort out all the proposed tools.

    By the way, Symfony influenced the creation of the Laravel framework discussed above.

    CodeIgniter

    Some people think that CodeIgniter is almost the best open-source PHP framework for web development. Although, of course, it all depends on your goals. 

    CodeIgniter is especially great if you're aiming for a quick start. It is easy to learn and provides elegant, clean, simple code. But most importantly, there are no strict coding rules. As a result, you can create and launch your project in no time.

    Alas, CodeIgniter offers fewer features (compared to Laravel and other modern PHP frameworks). Among other things, it doesn't have built-in authentication. So developers will have to write some of the code themselves (if they want to extend the functionality of the resource).

    Why choose CodeIgniter?

    • Comprehensive and detailed documentation. So you always have access to official and reliable sources.

    • Strong expert community. Even if you're new to programming, you'll be able to find someone in order to request assistance.

    • Good performance. CodeIgniter is a powerful PHP Framework, which allows you to build high-performance web applications.

    • The small size of the framework. A small amount of code makes development easier and faster.

    • No complicated setup. Almost no configuration has a positive effect on working with the framework too.

    • MVC architecture. Like all the best PHP web frameworks, CodeIgniter supports MVC architecture.

    • Support for third-party solutions. You can connect third-party plugins and libraries or write them yourself (if you don't find them among the pre-installed ones).

    CodeIgniter cons

    • The rarity of updates. However, the problem is almost solved. The point is, Codeigniter received new owners (British Columbia Institute of Technology), and they’ve already begun to improve and develop it.

    • Reduced functionality, as we said earlier. Yes, compared to other popular PHP frameworks, CodeIgniter has fewer pre-installed libraries. But you can write them yourself or connect third-party solutions.

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    We recommend choosing CodeIgniter if you need a small and scalable web application.

    CakePHP

    Our list of the best PHP frameworks would be incomplete without a solution with such a "tasty" name as CakePHP. So let’s discuss it!

    CakePHP has been in existence since 2005. And all these years are marked by active development, which made the framework a strong player and a real leader.

    The solution is renowned for its lightweight and elegant code and considered an easy-to-learn environment. It is undoubtedly worth your attention. 

    CakePHP’s pros:

    • The framework's division into basic elements. And each of these components is independent in its use.

    • Easy scaling of projects, which is achieved due to the flexible architecture of the framework.

    • The opportunity to create cool designs. In CakePHP, themes are turned into plugins, which greatly expands the development possibilities... especially when it comes to interface design.

    • Ease of learning. The optimized CRUD system makes CakePHP a beginner-friendly web framework.

    • High level of information protection. In particular, CakePHP has been successful in preventing SQL injections.

    • Easy installation and setup. The bottom line is simple: CakePHP is pretty easy to use

    • The constant release of updates. That's why CakePHP belongs to the most used frameworks

    CakePHP’s cons:

    • not so many chances to show your creativity (not to be confused with creative website design!);

    • The CakePHP community is large, but it has shrunk since other similar PHP web frameworks have been released.

    If you’re interested in creating visually impressive websites with complex functionality, you should definitely resort to CakePHP. It won't disappoint your expectations.

    Yii

    Yii is another web framework for making custom applications. Created over 10 years ago (in 2008), it has been constantly developing over the years. Today it deservedly ranks among the best PHP frameworks.

    Yii has many cool features. Among other things, it leads the way in providing excellent web performance. That's why it is often chosen for high-load applications and large-scale web projects: blogs, SaaS platforms, social networks, and more.

    Why Yii?

    • Expert community. Experienced developers are working hard to improve Yii.

    • Easy to create beautiful widgets. A special built-in mechanism allows you to easily place various widgets on your site.

    • Built-in user registration features. It's about authentication, authorization, and everything related to these key processes.

    • Convenient page caching (full or partial, depending on your needs).

    • Gii feature. Also, Yii is considered to be a good PHP Framework for web development thanks to a feature called Gii. It greatly simplifies the process of object-oriented programming by allowing you to generate code interactively. 

    • Simple prototyping. If you want to show the client a prototype of a future resource, Yii is what you need. It's really good at rapid prototyping.

    • Good properties of the created web applications, such as high performance, reliability, security, and low load time.

    • Intuitive interface. It is user-friendly, clear, and easy to install and configure. 

    Yii’s cons:

    • Difficulty to learn is likely to scare off inexperienced developers.

    • Sometimes you have to make some effort to configure certain features.

    • Yii offers simple code… however, it lacks what developers call “elegance” (insofar as the code can be elegant).

    Zend

    Okay, what is PHP Framework called Zend? What is so special about it? Let's see!

    To begin with, Zend is completely object-oriented, which speeds up web development and offers code reuse. This, as well as expandable functionality and high flexibility, makes Zend a perfect choice for large corporate projects.

    Zend is more difficult to learn than, say, the Laravel framework. Such difficulty explains why some developers avoid using it, they don't like that it requires a lot of extra work. But the results are always impressive, so the game is worth the candle. Proof of its effectiveness is the numerous sophisticated web resources built with Zend, ranging from healthcare systems to entertainment portals. 

    Zend’s pros:

    • Extensible functionality. We've already mentioned this Zend benefit above, but why not repeat it again? 

      • If you want to improve the functionality of the site, just connect third-party libraries and plugins.

    • Lots of built-in libraries. However, it doesn’t always make sense to expand the functionality using third-party solutions. Zent has many of its own built-in libraries.

    • Code reuse, which we also talked about earlier.

    • High level of internationalization. If you are targeting the global market, Zent is clearly a good choice.

    We've listed by no means all the advantages of this web framework. In fact, it has great potential and is good at creating complex-structured resources.

    Zend’s cons:

    • Don't choose Zent if you want to build a website quickly, in a short time period.

    • Alas, Zent is not easy to learn, but experienced specialists would be able to manage the task.

    • Zend doesn't offer the best performance, but it's still very fast and powerful.

    As recently announced (in 2021), Zend will soon become an open-source Linux Foundation project. And its new name will be Laminas.

    Phalcon

    The last solution on our list of PHP frameworks worth discussing is Phalcon.

    Phalcon entered the market in 2012. It differs from other solutions in its structure. The thing is, it is a С/С++-written PHP extension (i.e. the framework cannot be considered written in PHP, at least, completely).

    Phalcon documentation has both pros and cons. On the one hand, it is detailed and looks like a step-by-step guide. On the other hand, it is poorly standardized.

    The framework would be a perfect choice for those who need high-performance web projects. So it comes as no surprise that Phalcon is so popular with large companies.

    Why choose Phalcon?

    • High performance. As you already understood, web resources created with Phalcon work very efficiently and are capable of processing a huge number of requests per second. The reason is in the C-core of the framework.

    • Rich functionality, which allows creating a website with a lot of great features.

    • Excellent frameworks' basis. Phalcon partially formed other modern PHP frameworks (such as Kohana). It became their initial basis, so to speak.

    • Effective resource management system. Skillfully organized and properly structured, it also has a positive effect on the speed of websites.

    • Multiple OS support, including Windows, Linux, Mac.

    Phalcon’s cons:

    • Being an extension has its negatives. Among others, there is no certainty you'll be able to run the framework in any environment.

    • Yes, Phalcon is one of the most popular PHP frameworks... still, it is less well-known compared to other competitive solutions (which is a pity!).

    Summary

    All the frameworks we’ve described will remain popular and in demand in 2022 as well (and possibly longer). But which one should you choose to create your web resource right now? Focus on the specifics of your project. And if you still doubt what to select, we'd be happy to help you with advice.

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    Our team employs only experienced and skilled web developers. And we're ready to prove our expertise with deeds!

     

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