Sep 28, 2021
11 Best PHP Frameworks For Beginner to Pro Developers
PHP is one of the most popular server-side scripting languages to create dynamic websites, read and write web files, and track sessions.
However, writing a PHP script from scratch can be complicated. In some cases, you’ll need to rewrite the same functions multiple times, making the work time-consuming.
PHP frameworks help streamline these processes and improve workflow. These tools provide resources to simplify the web development process, including libraries of pre-made code and components to avoid repetitive coding.
This article will help you find the best PHP framework for web development. We will go over the 11 best PHP frameworks and discuss their technical specifications.
Why You Should Use PHP Frameworks
A PHP framework provides the basic structure and components to build web applications. Moreover, it reuses code to avoid repetitive tasks. That said, there are a lot more benefits other than just speeding up the development process.
Saves Development Time
Many contributing factors help users cut development time. PHP frameworks have built-in functions that let you cherry-pick code instead of writing your own.
PHP libraries also offer common components of web apps such as form validation and CRUD operations so that you don’t have to build them from scratch.
Most full-stack PHP frameworks for web development use the MVC architecture. This allows developers to write separate code for its three different components – Model, View, Controller.
The Model contains programming logic and application data, the View presents the data to the user, and the Controller interacts with the user and passes the commands to the other components.
This architecture supports parallel development, meaning that one developer can work on the Model while another developer works on the Controller, streamlining the process.
Code generators like the Gii Code Generator are another example of how you can save time with PHP frameworks. Use them to generate code for common tasks that you can modify.
Good Coding Practice
PHP frameworks let you write code in a neat and organized manner. They also divide the code into directories based on their functions. This makes the script easier to work with and maintain.
Most PHP frameworks also have coding conventions that you should follow to make the code more organized. However, it may take some time to get familiar with them.
If you are part of a team of developers, PHP frameworks help you stay on the same page. They follow a single code standard and set the rules for the script. This way, you don’t have to worry about miscommunication that can lead to wrong scripting.
In addition, most PHP frameworks have clear documentation. Therefore, even if there’s a team member unfamiliar with the framework, they can catch up easily.
Cross-site scripting and SQL injection are among the most common PHP security threats. PHP frameworks employ data sanitation and good coding practices to minimize risks.
How We Chose the Best PHP Frameworks
Each PHP framework is unique, so it can be hard to pick one that is the best for all users. In this list, we’ve included two types of PHP frameworks: full-stack PHP frameworks and micro-frameworks.
A full-stack PHP framework helps programmers with the entire spectrum of web development processes, from the user interface to data storage at the back-end.
On the other hand, micro-frameworks carry fewer features but are useful for creating small applications for specific uses, like an HTTP request router. Their libraries typically contain less than 5,000 lines of code.
We considered that difference when picking the PHP frameworks. Aside from that, here are other aspects to consider:
- Learning curve – each PHP framework has different conventions, so it takes time to understand how to use it. That said, the availability of documentation helps flatten the learning curve and minimize the time to learn the framework.
- Model View Controller (MVC) – MVC architecture splits the development into three components, allowing a parallel workflow within the team and speeding up the process.
- Debugging feature – whether it’s built-in or an extension, a debugging feature helps to ensure that the web application works as it should.
- Caching system – a PHP framework with a caching mechanism helps improve performance by temporarily saving static data and serving it back when requested.
- Security – great PHP frameworks should have vulnerability protection for web applications, such as cross-site scripting protection and cookie attack prevention.
11 of the Best PHP Frameworks For Web Development
We have selected the 11 best PHP frameworks for web development. Each of them is unique and caters to different needs, so be sure to choose the right one for your project.
All of these frameworks are open-source. Therefore, you can try any that spark your interest before settling for the most suitable one.
- Laravel functionality packages
- Built-in functions
- Laravel Homestead environment
- A highly active programming community
Laravel is a popular and extensive PHP framework known for its elegant syntax. It has plenty of features and built-in functions that make it a solid tool to customize complex apps. Its functions include user authentication, session management, and caching.
In addition, there are packages available to extend the framework. Laravel-specific packages work only with Laravel, while framework-independent packages work with all PHP frameworks.
An example of a popular package is the Laravel Debugbar, which adds a toolbar to the application that’s useful during the debugging process.
Alternatively, Packalyst is a directory with over 15,000 ready-to-use Laravel packages for your project. If you can’t find the right package, it’s possible to create a request.
Laravel Homestead is another great feature. It’s a pre-packaged Vagrant box that provides a local web development environment with a virtual machine. Web developers can use this to create PHP web applications without a web server or installing PHP on a local computer.
Laravel’s active community forum and tutorials make it an excellent choice, especially if you’re new to PHP frameworks. Because of this, beginners will find learning to code PHP and using Laravel easy.
- Lightweight framework
- Excellent documentation
- MVC architecture support
- Built-in security features
CodeIgniter is a lightweight PHP framework with a total size of less than 1.2 MB. It ensures faster loading speeds and leaves a small footprint on your web server and applications.
CodeIgniter is flexible, offering both MVC and non-MVC design patterns. Bigger developer teams can speed up the development process with its MVC architecture, while smaller ones or independent developers can code without employing it.
This framework also comes with excellent inbuilt security tools. They include context-sensitive escaping, content security policies, and protection against cross-site request forgery and scripting.
Overall, CodeIgniter’s solid performance is perfect for lightweight web applications that work well on modest PHP web hosting.
Learning to use CodeIgniter is easy, thanks to the excellent documentation available.
- Individual components settings
- Built-in debugging
- Twig template engine
- Excellent documentation
Symfony is a highly flexible PHP framework that uses a modular component system. You can choose from over 50 reusable PHP components for your project. If you only need a little help, you can decide which modules to use instead of relying on the whole library.
Additionally, Symfony uses Twig, which is a fast template engine with a concise syntax. Its built-in debugging tool will ensure your project works as intended.
One of the downsides of Symfony is its steep learning curve. However, Symfony has many helpful learning resources, including documentation and guides that cover more than 20 topics.
- MVC architecture
- Integration with external libraries
- Allows using only the components you need
Laminas is the continuation of the Zend PHP framework. People often refer to Laminas Projects as a glue framework because of its component-based nature.
The Laminas Project contains three parts:
- Laminas Components and MVC. The main PHP framework, containing PHP application components that include dependency injection, input validation, and parsing.
- Mezzio. A PHP middleware application builder that relies on PSR-7 and PSR-15 to handle HTTP requests.
- API Tools. A RESTful API builder that uses Hypertext Application Language and Problem Details for HTTP APIs. The tools also allow the implementation of validation, authorization, and authentication features.
Laminas’s PHP framework is an object-oriented and MVC-based framework that enables you to load only the components you want as individual libraries. In addition, the components and the MVC framework follow enterprise development guidelines, making them suitable for complex web applications.
Thanks to this approach and the framework’s object-oriented nature, it’s possible to reuse a lot of code. Moreover, it’s easy to integrate the platform with external libraries to extend its functionality even further.
Unfortunately, the platform is fairly complex to pick up and may intimidate beginners. If you’re switching from Laravel to Laminas Project, the jump can be quite challenging.
Therefore, we recommend Laminas Project if you’re an experienced developer and prefer object-oriented programming.
- Based on the C programming language
- Fantastic performance and low resource overhead
- Possible to add only the needed modules and libraries
Phalcon is a full-stack PHP framework whose source code is written in the C programming language. Using the framework doesn’t require knowledge of C as it uses PHP classes and its namespaces.
Phalcon is one of the fastest PHP frameworks available. It’s very lightweight and uses an MVC architecture. After installation, users can only add the modules and libraries they need. This helps keep the web development process clutter-free.
Although Phalcon is a good option, it’s worth noting that it is not very popular. Its documentation is also not as comprehensive as what the more popular PHP frameworks like Laravel offer, so you might need additional resources to learn Phalcon.
- CakePHP’s coding conventions
- A broad set of components
- Multiple support channels
Even though CakePHP is the first PHP MVC framework created, it’s still one of the best available.
This platform uses the convention over configuration approach, which means that it has sets of coding guidelines that every user has to follow. While it can take time to master these conventions, they foster a more uniform coding environment for improved collaboration.
CakePHP has a broad set of libraries that include one of the most thorough arrays of helpful components. It’s a great option if you need to implement hard-to-find features.
There are many support portals available if you require assistance. You can reach out through the support forum, the Slack channel, or Stack Overflow to get help from the CakePHP developer community. There’s also paid support available at CakeDC.
- Customizable setup
- Support to various extensions
- Gii code generator
- Built-in security measures
Yii is a feature-rich PHP framework and one of the easiest to set up, thanks to its extensive documentation and helpful starting guide. When it comes to performance, this framework is on par with Phalcon.
Yii offers a robust set of features and supports various extensions to speed up web application development. For example, it supports the Gii code generator for model, CRUD operation, and module creation.
What’s more, Yii has built-in security features, including user-based authentication controls and SQL injection prevention.
The only drawback of Yii is that it is not the most beginner-friendly framework on this list. However, its documentation and user community will help you with the learning process.
- Full support for HMVC
- Robust security measures
- A unique command-line utility
- URL routing system
- Built-in caching system
FuelPHP is a relatively new compared to other frameworks on this list. However, it applies the best practices to create a powerful tool with unique features.
While MVC has become standard in PHP frameworks, FuelPHP takes another step further by fully supporting Hierarchical Model View Controller (HMVC). It makes testing separate parts of web apps easier while being as effective by letting you have more than one controller.
FuelPHP takes security measures seriously and provides seven security features out-of-the-box. They include output encoding, which will secure your outputs and prevent cross-site scripting attacks, input filtering, and the Query Builder to stop SQL injection attacks.
FuelPHP is a great option if project security is your main concern. Even though FuelPHP is relatively new, its documentation and community support are also great.
- Fast and powerful HTTP router
- Middleware application
- Client-side HTTP caching
Unlike other PHP frameworks we’ve covered so far, Slim is a PHP micro-framework that’s perfect for creating simple web applications. It packs some great features despite its minimalist nature.
Slim’s main focus is HTTP request handling. Its powerful HTTP router maps route callbacks to specific HTTP request methods and URIs. It also supports various URL types, including parameter-based and pattern-based URLs.
Another great feature is middleware, which lets PHP developers run code before and after the Slim core application.
Middleware adds layers around the core app that tweak the HTTP requests and response objects. Moreover, it protects the application from cross-site request forgery and authenticates requests before executing the application.
Overall, Slim is the perfect framework to build an HTTP request application or develop RESTful APIs. It’s easy to pick up and offers great documentation to help you learn it quickly. On top of that, there’s a helpful community that you can reach out to if you have topics to discuss.
- HMVC architecture
- 100% unit-tested independent components
- Bundle system to reuse and share your code
PHPixie is an HMVC-based PHP framework that focuses on web application development for read-only websites. PHPixie uses a bundle system that lets you reuse code and share it with the user community.
It’s built using independent components such as auth, HTTP, ORM, and validate, which are unit-tested and require minimum dependencies. Plus, it’s possible to use them without the framework itself.
However, PHPixie has some drawbacks when compared to the other frameworks on our list. There are relatively few modules, and PHPixie lacks support for components made separately from the dependencies, making it a less flexible framework.
However, if the available components are sufficient for your project, PHPixie is a good choice since it’s easy to get started and requires fewer resources.
- Lightweight codebase
- Modular framework keeps your apps lightweight
- Great optional plugins
- Multiple database compatibility
Fat-Free Framework, or F3, is a straightforward PHP framework. Its codebase is only 65 KB, and the framework is modular, allowing you to only use the necessary code.
Getting started requires only a web server and a copy of Fat-Free Framework. The framework doesn’t need complex configuration, such as setting up Composer, curl, or a complex directory structure.
While it is simple and lightweight, Fat-Free is an extendable PHP framework thanks to the availability of optional plugins. They include a unit testing toolkit, a clean template engine, an image processor, and database-managed sessions with automatic cross-site request forgery protection.
PHP is still one of the top programming languages when it comes to server-side scripting. However, writing a PHP script can take a lot of time.
PHP frameworks provide a development groundwork so that developers can focus on the creative aspects of programming rather than doing repetitive tasks and rewriting code.
With plenty of popular PHP frameworks available and each of them unique, picking one that’s right for your project can be challenging.
To recap, here are the highlights of each PHP framework we’ve discussed in this article:
- Laravel – a popular PHP web framework with great extendability for high-quality applications.
- CodeIgniter – one of the most popular PHP frameworks with MVC support, great for creating lightweight web applications.
- Symfony – a modular PHP framework with a built-in debugging system and extensive documentation.
- Laminas Project – an object-oriented framework that consists of three parts: the main MVC-based PHP framework, the middleware application builder, and the RESTful API builder.
- Phalcon – a lightweight C-based PHP framework designed to be fast.
- CakePHP – the first MVC-based PHP framework with the most thorough set of libraries.
- Yii – a PHP framework that packs many features, including built-in security measures, a code generator, and a customizable setup.
- FuelPHP – a powerful PHP framework that supports HMVC architecture.
- Slim – a PHP micro-framework that’s perfect for developing web applications for HTTP requests.
- PHPixie – an HMVC-based PHP framework that features fully-tested independent components.
- Fat-Free Framework – a modular PHP micro-framework with great plugins available.
Keep in mind that all PHP frameworks featured in this article are free and open-source. Thus, you can try any of them before choosing one for your project.