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Top PHP Web Frameworks

For the past 20 years, web applications have become more intuitive, dynamic, customized, and gained top-notch features like voice search, big data processing, and much more.

Thus the complexity of developing web apps and web portals is increasing. To build them, software developers should use a wide range of tools, frameworks, libraries, APIs, and others. They help address the most troublesome development parts, focus developers’ attention on the necessary functionality, facilitate and accelerate web app development.

One of the most popular programming languages for building web apps is PHP. It’s been taking the leading position in web development for more than 25 years. In this article, we will look into the most effective PHP frameworks that help to create viable, fascinating, and glitchless web solutions.

1. Laravel

PHP frameworks Laravel

Laravel is a back-end open-source framework created by Taylor Otwell for web app development that follows the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architectural pattern. It’s the most popular PHP framework so far. According to BuiltWith, Laravel’s popularity is growing steadily. Deltanet Travel, Neighborhood Lender, MyRank, Rocket Rubbers, Mack Hankins, Cachet, Asgard CMS are among the well-known web portals built in Laravel.

In September 2020 Laravel had its 8th release with the new features that have significantly improved its usability. By utilizing Laravel software developers create complex, secure, and robust web apps in a simple and well-documented manner. The list of Laravel’s benefits include:

  • support of functional, integration, and unit tests which results in high product quality;
  • development of easily scaled apps that add resources as the app’s audience grow;
  • simple integration with GitHub, CircleCl, Docker, AWS, and other services;
  • open source-code allows software engineers to create tools that comply with the specifics of their development projects;
  • a wide range of APIs for various purposes, including authentication through the most renowned services like Facebook, LinkedIn, GitLab, and others;
  • a set of reusable PHP components help to maintain clean and minimalistic code that is easy to modify;
  • advanced cache system ensures high performance and accelerates development processes;
  • secure codebase due to protection from SQL-injection and cross-site request forgery;
  • minimized number of errors during the development process due to its Artisan CLI (command-line interface);
  • automatization of repetitive coding tasks with Artisan CLI.

Laravel suits best for the creation of complex, customized, enterprise web apps as it ensures security and fast load time. The MVC architecture model helps to separate business logic and presentation layers which makes Laravel-based solutions stable, easy to scale and migrate. Above all, Laravel is easy to install, configure, and provide unit testing on it, therefore, the risk of major errors is kept to a minimum.

2. CodeIgniter

CodeIgniter (CI) is an open-source framework that allows building multifunctional and secure web apps based on MVC architecture. This framework was developed by EllisLab in far 2006 and since then it’s been popular among web developers for its shallow learning curve and simple toolkit with the most necessary functionality. CodeIgniter is the best suit for the development of dynamic web sites based on PHP.

Here are the main benefits of CodeIgniter PHP Framework:

  • easy installation and setup;
  • elaborated documentation;
  • a wide choice of development libraries;
  • inbuilt security tool such as encryption;
  • error-handling tools;
  • simple routing method;
  • easy migration from one server to another;
  • compatibility with third-party plugins.

CodeIgniter is a great choice for building lightweight, fully-featured, fast web sites with robust performance. Unlike Laravel it’s easy to learn for beginners, yet it allows building secure, and easy to scale web solutions. The sites built with CodeIgniter are Casio Computers, Freedcamp, The Mail & Guardian, Nissan, Bonfire, and many more.

3. Symfony

Symfony is another open-source PHP framework that has an MVC architecture in its core. It’s a full-fledged and robust solution for building complex, high-performance web apps such as B2B or enterprise apps. Big businesses such as Spotify, BlablaCar, Vogue, Trivago, NatGeo Play, TED, Swiss Open Government Data, and many others use Simfony to run their web apps.

Before starting a project in Symfony, web developers can define the architectural style of their apps. Furthermore, they can add extra modules to meet project requirements when an app is already in the development process.

Despite its complexity, Simfony is easy to install and configure on most platforms. Some more Simfony benefits are:

  • the Doctrine project, a set of PHP libraries, that allows building high-load websites with a constant flow of users. Doctrine supports a wide range of databases such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, NoSQL, MongoDB, and others;
  • MVC architecture has a strict structure that allows creating well-thought web apps with easily testable codes;
  • the Console component with command-line commands helps to automate recurring tasks like batch jobs, and others;
  • new String Component and an object-oriented API in Symfony 5 version. They help to arrange seamless work with the environment variables and facilitates coding, making it quicker and safer;
  • full customization. Symfony offers Full-stack mode for building complex products and Brick by Brick approach for creating separate functions and specific features.

With Symfony, software developers get a wide range of development tools that give them freedom of action. However, with this advanced functionality, Symfony requires a detailed understanding of how it performs and functions. Therefore, if web developers are well-acquainted with Symfony, they can build performance-rich, powerful, and highly-customized web solutions.

4. Yii

PHP frameworks Yii

Yii (Yes It Is) is an object-oriented PHP framework that is considered to be one of the best frameworks for the development of large-scale web apps. Like most PHP frameworks, it’s based on the MVC paradigm and also follows the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) concept.

Yii is easily integrated with jQuery and AJAX, and its lazy loading technique makes web apps load faster and saves system resources. With Yii’s robust class code generator Gii, web developers can build technically complex and high operating speed web apps much easier and faster.

The major Yii benefits are, it:

  • follows the MVC paradigm that divides business logic from the presentation layer, making apps’ structure better organized and easier to scale in the future;
  • uses DAO and ActiveRecord that allows working with various databases;
  • supports internationalization to adapt apps for various countries and their languages;
  • allows caching of entire web pages or separate elements, which makes data access less expensive and faster to reach;
  • prevents and processes code errors, reducing system crash probabilities to a minimum;
  • handles various forms, the basic interface between a user and a server, and supports their validation;
  • generates the basic PHP code for CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations which accelerate web app development;
  • supports various interface templates and themes;
  • allows adding third-party libraries, which allows web developers to add more features to an app and write apps faster;
  • easy to migrate databases. It gives the possibility to update database software or move them to a different platform;
  • supports automation testing and TDD development;
  • supports REST API architecture. It ensures improved system flexibility and the possibility to connect to outer resources.

Many web developers prefer Yii to other frameworks as it represents a powerful tool for building complex web apps and portals. It can significantly improve web development time and prevent critical code errors. Above all, Yii provides web developers with a wide range of tools that allow building high-performance, fast-loading web solutions, and effective custom extensions.

5. Zend

Zend is an object-oriented framework that is highly customizable owing to the inheritance and reusability concepts it relies on. Zend helps web developers to easily control its every feature, therefore, they can create attractive and convenient websites. What’s more, this framework allows customizing web apps quickly and in no time.

The main benefits of Zend are:

  • easy customization. Zend enables web developers to create various web apps and sites of any difficulty and with numerous features and options;
  • code reusability and inheritance due to its ability to handle a wide range of dependencies without any impairment in an app’s performance;
  • MVC development concept allows building complex web apps that process big data;
  • HTML5 compliance enables web developers to build lightweight apps with beautiful code structure;
  • great community support. There are a vast number of apps with various Zend examples and issue discussions online. Besides that, Zend has well-developed documentation;
  • simple to use drag and drop editor and online debugging tools facilitate software development.

Zend is a great choice for building standard web apps as well as complex enterprise solutions with the prospective to expand. However, Zend is considered to be one of the most difficult frameworks to learn, therefore, it’s not the best option for beginners.


With the increasing complexity of web apps, it’s hard to imagine the web development process without helping tools and frameworks. PHP frameworks are a lifeline for every web developer. They decrease the development effort, make app creation faster, minimize the number of code lines and errors, and allow adding the latest technologies to the developed solutions. As a result, web developers build reasonably priced web software in a short time that looks attractive and adjusts well to satisfy every and each customer’s needs.

Author Bio

Alex Burets Head of Web Development Department
Alex has 19 years of experience in software development, delivering new and innovative solutions for a myriad of different companies, ranging from small startups to large-scale enterprises with massive programming needs. His main focus areas are web development, front-end development, and eCommerce solutions.