07-13-2017, Web Development
by Antoni Zolciak
Is Laravel the Best PHP Framework in 2017?
If you’re developing in PHP in 2017, you should consider using a framework. And that’s especially true if you’re running a team of PHP developers working on large, long-term projects.
Why? Because PHP frameworks can dramatically reduce the time and effort you spend on any given web development project. And because time is money, you (and your clients) save money, too.
By providing you with prebuilt modules, easy-to-structure codebases, and invaluable documentation, PHP frameworks are a fantastic way to accelerate your web development process. And during the last several years, a leader has emerged from the crowded pack of PHP frameworks: Laravel.
For us, Laravel is the PHP framework of choice for 2017. It has skyrocketed past the competition because of its huge community of users, flexible and scalable architecture, and robust built-in templating and application management tools.
In this article, we’ll take a deep look at Laravel, as well as a variety of other PHP frameworks, to show you why we decided to go with Laravel in 2017.
Laravel is a relatively new PHP platform, introduced in 2011 and based on Symfony 2. The founder built it to address several concerns with the popular CodeIgniter platform – namely, lack of built-in support for user authentication/authorization.
Since then, Laravel has quickly become one of the most popular PHP frameworks for web developers. Flexible, scalable, and easy-to-use, Laravel bills itself as “The PHP Framework for Web Artisans” – and we’re inclined to agree, given its powerful and flexible feature set.
Let’s take a look at some of Laravel’s best features.
- Built-in Database Query Builder – Laravel includes a built-in database query builder, which makes it easy to create and run database queries, and it works smoothly on all supported database systems: mySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, and SQL Server.
- Unit-Testing Support – Unlike some competing frameworks, Laravel comes with built-in unit-testing support, which allows you to test each feature individually and eliminate errors and bugs.
- “Artisan” Command-Line Interface – The Artisan command-line console is one of the most powerful features of Laravel. With a huge list of available commands, the ability to create custom commands, and the option to interact with your entire Laravel application using only the command line, Artisan is – in our opinion – one of the best PHP command-line consoles available.
- “Lumen” Micro-Framework – For low-impact PHP development, Laravel offers the Lumen micro-framework. With a speed of over 1,900 requests per second, this lightweight framework provides a huge amount of Laravel features while maintaining blazing-fast speed.
- REST API Compatibility – Laravel has out-of-the-box REST and RESTful API compatibility, making it a fantastic choice for the development of advanced, multiplatform web applications that use the REST API.
- Comprehensive Documentation – With a gigantic repository of official documentation and a huge community of Laravel developers, it’s easy to quickly gain a deep understanding of the Laravel framework.
- Easy Deployment with “Envoyer” – Laravel’s Envoyer is a one-click, zero-downtime PHP deployment tool that has been purpose-built to run Laravel applications. By managing deployments, cloning appropriate folders, and seamlessly installing Laravel code repositories, Envoyer allows developers to deploy updated code – with absolutely zero downtime.
- “Spark” Scaffolding – Looking to use Laravel for rapid application development (RAD)? Laravel Spark provides a powerful scaffolding system with prebuilt applications for authentication, password resets, two-factor authentication, invoicing, subscription billing, and much more.
For these reasons and many more, Laravel is one of the top PHP framework picks available in 2017. However, this list would not be complete if we did not discuss the competition. So we’ll take a look at five other commonly used PHP frameworks and discuss their features and advantages.
It’s a full-stack web PHP framework that some people describe as an MVC framework or a decoupled framework. Symfony2’s components are reusable PHP libraries that can be treated as stand-alones – they are configurable, tested, and secure.
The first Symfony version was published as a free software on October 18, 2005, under the MIT license. As with other frameworks, the main goal of Symfony2 is to speed up the creation and maintenance of web applications by replacing repetitive coding tasks. Its main goal is to help developers build robust enterprise apps.
Okay, but why should you consider working with Symfony2? Well:
- Great Documentation – Whenever there’s a problem, there’s a solution in the Symfony2 documentation.
- Incredibly Customizable – Make it your own! On the other hand, if you’d like to use Symfony2 without its structure, Laravel would be a good choice.
- A Ton of Components – With over 30 components to choose from, a developer has the freedom to experiment and work in a RAD environment.
- Easy Integration – Symfony2 APIs enable integration with third-party applications, and they can be used with popular front-end frameworks.
While Laravel may be the most popular PHP framework, Symfony2 is considered the base for at least some of them (Laravel included).
Yii (pronounced “yee”) is a PHP framework developed for Web 2.0 and released in December 2008. While the most recent release appeared in 2017 and it’s still in use by lots of developers. we certainly wouldn’t recommend it for any new projects.
Let’s take a look at some of Yii’s most popular features.
- Integrated AJAX Widgets – Yii offers out-of-the-box support for almost any AJAX widget. This provides developers with simple, easy-to-implement customization tools.
- Great Support for jQuery – The comprehensive jQuery tools available for Yii made it a top choice for cross-platform developers. Back in the day.
- Built-in Authentication/Authorization Tools – The Yii framework supports authentication and authorization out-of-the-box, simplifying the development process.
- Automatic Error Handling/Logging – Yii provides a comprehensive suite of error-handling features. Log messages can be easily categorized, filtered, and routed to the appropriate destination.
- Extension Library – The Yii community has created a nearly endless list of custom extensions for the framework. From RAD tools to Akismet plugins, two-factor authentication, and more, implementing these extensions is quick and easy, providing developers with powerful time-saving tools.
With Yii showing signs of age, it’s becoming more and more difficult to use. While it’s useful for niche applications, it’s not the best choice for a PHP framework in 2017 – at least in the opinion of our developers.
CodeIgniter is one of the oldest PHP frameworks available. Focused onRAD, CodeIgniter was released in 2006 and remains popular among developers. Let’s take a look at some its main features and benefits.
- MVC Support – CodeIgniter was developed with model-view-controller architecture in mind, making it a popular choice for web-development projects that require a custom GUI.
- Small Footprint – The total download size of CodeIgniter is under 2mb, and its lightweight design provides maximum speed with minimum performance impact.
- Robust Security – CodeIgniter has built-in security that protects it from common XSS and CSRF attacks, providing a secure PHP platform for developers.
- Great Performance – Speed has always been a focus on this open-source PHP framework. Streamlined code and simple file organization make it easy to create fast, responsive web pages.
- Active Community – CodeIgniter has an active forum, IRC community, and GitHub community, where common questions can be answered and developers can connect to discuss their projects.
While CodeIgniter does boast a variety of benefits for developers, it’s best for small projects. Though CodeIgniter can scale up to enterprise-level needs, the lack of built-in tools can make it a bit difficult to use for larger projects.
Zend was created with a focus on performance, reusability, and simplicity – making it popular among developers focused on RAD.
The latest release is Zend Framework 3, which supports PHP 7. Zend is used by quite a few large companies, including the BBC, Offers.com, and AutoTrack. Its benefits include:
- Fully Object-Oriented Design – Zend provides users with a fully object-oriented (OO) design. This makes it easy to extend functionality and create custom features that can be used in different projects.
- Extensive Validation Tools – Data validation from forms can be a nightmare for some PHP frameworks, but Zend comes with robust data-validation tools that make it easy to work with forms and reject invalid data.
- Individualized Components – Zend allows you to use each MVC component separately. This means you can load individual components of the framework as you need them – and you’ll never be stuck with features you don’t need.
- Easy Integration with Other Libraries – Zend makes it easy to download and use third-party libraries from other PHP frameworks, such as Symfony. This makes it customizable and expandable – though it can increase complexity somewhat.
- High Level of Code QC – Zend Framework has strict community guidelines for contributors. Uploaded code must pass QC standards, conform to stringent coding standards, and be documented thoroughly.
Zend’s flexibility does come at a cost. Because it’s got so many features, it has a large footprint – nearly 28 MB – and it’s not user-friendly, making it difficult for new developers to take advantage of its powerful tool sets.
CakePHP is another older framework, developed way back in 2005 when Ruby on Rails ruled the web. But don’t let the age fool you – it’s kept up with the times.
Today, CakePHP focuses on providing powerful RAD tools, using an object-oriented, MVC framework and a lightweight design that includes robust scaffolding features.
Let’s take a deeper look at these feature sets.
- Code Generation/Scaffolding Features – All PHP frameworks focus on rapid application development in some capacity, but CakePHP includes advanced code generation and scaffolding features that can dramatically accelerate the pace of custom web development.
- Built-In PHP MVC Frameworks – With frameworks like security, data validation, caching, authentication, and more built into CakePHP’s MVC frameworks, development is quick and easy.
- Free and Open Source – CakePHP falls under the MIT license, making it free and open source, even for commercial development projects.
- Automatic Configuration – Unlike some other frameworks, CakePHP requires little fussing or preconfiguration from developers. Most settings and features are autodetected and preconfigured – just adjust the database settings, and you’re ready to start developing!
- Scalability for Any Project – CakePHP has an active community, robust documentation, and professional support. This makes it a great choice for projects that require high scalability because there are plenty of resources that can help your project scale horizontally and vertically.
Overall, CakePHP is a very good framework and a great place to start for users who need a free, flexible framework for RAD.
However, its feature set is still lacking in comparison to Laravel’s. So though it’s a good choice for smaller projects, we still prefer Laravel for larger, enterprise-wide web solutions.
For us, Laravel is the best technology available
That doesn’t mean there are no alternatives.
Laravel is the most popular PHP framework for a reason. It’s scalable and easy-to-use, requires few resources, and has a powerful command-line interface, as well as a variety of purpose-built plugins that make PHP development a breeze.
And while the competition is stiff from the likes of CakePHP, CodeIgniter, Symfony, Yii, and Zend, Laravel is still our favorite PHP framework for 2017. The truth is, though, that whatever you go with, you should be fine – as long as you choose the correct framework for your specific project.
Want to learn more about Laravel and the benefits of developing with this PHP framework? Get in touch with us.