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What is a PHP Framework?

Before discussing the advantages of using PHP frameworks and the ideal PHP frameworks to utilize, it is important to first comprehend what a PHP framework is.

The most popular server-side language in the world is PHP, and PHP frameworks have been around for a while with a variety of paradigms and forms over the years. Simple websites as well as large, intricate online apps that handle millions of registrations and daily views are all powered by them.

Although PHP frameworks have evolved over the years (Phplib, the original PHP framework, dated from before 2000), their primary function has remained largely unchanged. This goal is to assist PHP developers by offering libraries for common functionality and groups of frequently used functions, as well as by enforcing the usage of the best coding practices.

Consider a PHP framework as a skeleton that already offers a functional system into which you can incorporate your code without starting from scratch in every aspect.

Due to the use of code standards and best practices, PHP frameworks allow us to greatly minimize the amount of code we need to create, increase our productivity, and guarantee a high level of quality. It’s also a good idea to investigate the workings of a PHP framework as your development abilities advance.

When to Use a PHP Framework

Although while employing a PHP framework in practically every project these days might seem like a no-brainer for a PHP developer, there are numerous situations where it might not be the ideal choice. Everything is based on the project. Most of the time, the debate is on choosing a framework, when it should really be focusing on whether or not we should use one at all.

Let’s quickly review some of the benefits and drawbacks of adopting a PHP Framework to help clear up any confusion.

Reasons not to use a PHP Framework

It may seem strange to discuss a PHP framework’s drawbacks in a piece about the finest PHP frameworks, but it’s crucial to know when doing so might not be the best course of action.
slower performance

Your PHP scripts will always be more sophisticated and resource-intensive using a PHP framework. You must constantly keep in mind that a PHP framework will always load a certain number of classes and libraries before running any script, no matter how small.

In light of this, assess your application’s requirements before selecting a PHP framework. The simplest, fastest, and least complex approach is occasionally to simply create your own, custom code at the lowest possible abstraction level.

Limited control
When we choose to use a PHP framework, we must be aware that we are adding an external dependence. By doing this, we agree that the framework’s developers may at any point decide not to support it or steer it in a different direction. We must also account for the time required to upgrade the framework to future versions, as well as the hassle of dealing with any potential code revisions.

Additionally, the framework itself adds a new level of abstraction to our code. While many components of the framework can be altered, the core is typically a “black box” that shouldn’t be tampered with. If we change it, we won’t be able to rely on any assistance, and any upcoming updates will require a significant amount of extra work.

These are a few drawbacks of utilizing a PHP framework. So, it could be preferable to forgo using a framework if we’re in a rush or working on a small project. Alternatively, we should think about utilizing a microframework, which is a framework with functionality reduced to the bare minimum necessary, or even think about starting from scratch using certain libraries we are accustomed to.

Learning curve
Frameworks encourage us to write clean, organized code and follow best practices. But, learning and mastering such takes time and effort. Without a thorough understanding of the framework and the ideas it is based on, it’s likely that we will produce unstructured code rather than it.

Reasons why to use a PHP Framework

There are many advantages to employing a PHP framework, even though there are some situations in which doing so isn’t the best course of action. Let’s examine the advantages in more detail.

Quicker development times
The most frequent issues that need to be solved have already been implemented in a carefully chosen PHP framework. Furthermore, it typically offers a well-organized application design, with Model-View-Controller (MVC) being the most popular, to direct our work.

In this way, by using a framework, we get a fully functional template and only need to concentrate on building the features specific to our project instead of spending time and effort planning an application architecture, evaluating the various libraries available, and implementing the architecture from scratch.

To further speed up development, several PHP frameworks also include with command-line tools that make it easier to create automated code templates.

Increased security

Security is one of the main issues while creating PHP apps. The majority of developers lack the resources and expertise required to build a secure PHP application. By utilizing a PHP framework, we are utilizing solutions that the PHP community has continually tested, reviewed, and examined. The majority of them are open source, thus security flaws are typically discovered and rectified right away.

Easier collaboration

We should know our solutions and implementations off by heart as developers. But things change when we collaborate as a team. Team members will have difficulty using and, occasionally, comprehending the code of our application without understanding of the design choices and thorough documentation of the source.

It is simpler for new developers to begin working on the project when a PHP framework is used. Even if they are unfamiliar with the framework, they will probably have access to all of its documentation as well as several videos and tutorials that demonstrate how to use it online. Developers won’t have to spend their time constantly guiding new team members through the project and can instead concentrate on creating features.

Over the past decade, the world of PHP frameworks has significantly grown. Frameworks have come and gone, though there has been considerable stabilizing in recent years. As a result, a few frameworks have emerged as the best options for the majority of projects.

Picking the top six PHP frameworks from the ever-growing list is challenging. Some will perform better in particular situations, while others will have quicker learning curves or greater/worse levels of community support. When compiling a list like this, we consider each of those variables and choose the ones that work best overall. Now that we have that warning out of the way, let’s look at the top five PHP frameworks for 2023.

1. Laravel


Initially released in 2011, Laravel is the most popular PHP framework by Taylor Otwell. It has since grown into a well-aged framework that has hundreds of contributors and hundreds of thousands of installations.

As it’s based on an MVC architecture, it uses its templating language called Blade. That makes it easy to create layouts in HTML. For accessing databases. It uses Eloquent ORM which is easy to understand and use.

But what is Eloquent ORM?

It’s an object-relational mapper. That allows to define models & relationships in PHP. Then it’s get translated & executed as SQL. This keeps your code clean and simple. While letting you easily switch to a different database system (if you choose to).

But what makes Laravel stand out is the huge variety of features, packages and applications that can make developing faster and easier.

For example, Queues allows you to run certain heavy tasks asynchronously without your application getting strained and delaying the loading time for users. You have other features such as caching, broadcasting events for those real-time web experiences, authenticating users are right out of the box.

With Laravel, you can use it to build any type of project, including SaaS, eCommerce, and other kinds of apps. It’s easy to learn so smaller companies can choose it, but larger companies can rely on it due to its powerful features.

Let’s talk about some pros and cons


  • It’s great for beginners, due to its documentation and large community.
  • The syntax is straight-forward. Also, it is intuitive that your code can work like magic.
  • You can deploy it easily to AWS or other cloud providers.
  • There’s a variety of packages and applications that you can install to add new features.


  • Some developers see Laravel as “unreasonable” due to its syntax and project structures get enforced.
  • It’s kinda a heavy framework, mainly due to its large amount of features which can make it slower than alternative PHP frameworks.

2. Lumen


Known as a PHP micro-framework. Lumen has been developed by Laravel and it’s maintained by the community. As it’s developed by Laravel it has similarities to it. So if you have experience with Laravel you feel right at home. It’s ideally for modern apps as it is lightweight and performant.

While it also can be used for building APIs to support single-page apps, micro-services and also other back end services where low-latency and high performance are important.

Let’s talk about some pros and cons


  • It is easy to learn, particularly if you have experience with Laravel.
  • Lighter than Laravel. Requires minimal configuration to get started.
  • It is a modern framework that is highly suitable for modern web development.
  • If you grow too complex you can convert it to a Laravel project with ease.


  • Limited documentation is available for this framework
  • Missing out on some key features from Laravel that will need to add manually if you need them
  • Not as actively supported and maintained as Laravel.

3. Symfony


Symfony is a well-developed framework that improves PHP development. From being a framework, it does offers a set of reusable components. That can be used directly in PHP projects. These components are used in countless open-source tools.

Being based on the MVC pattern. It does offer an object-relational mapping using Doctrine ORM. Also, it comes to creating views, it uses the Twig template engine to help you render HTML.

Plus, it has a variety of features, a large community, and robustness. Ideally used for more complex projects where predictability, support, and optimisation are required. It has multiple drivers for databases. This framework is a great choice for large projects.

Let’s talk about some pros and cons


  • Symfony is a long term framework you can trust to provide long-term support.
  • Highly customisable and contains 50 standalone components which can be used in any project.
  • Maintaining your project is easier as Symfony has a well-designed code base.
  • It has great documentation and a large developer community that you can rely on for answers.


  • There is a steeper learning curve with Symfony and grasping it requires comprehending many of its components.
  • Doctrine is considerably more difficult to learn and work with.

4. Code Igniter


As an MVC framework based on PHP, CodeIgniter helps developers create new projects rapidly. One thing about this framework is that it is not a restrictive framework and can be used like a toolkit that speeds up development.

Like with most PHP frameworks it requires you to follow the MVC approach and even though this framework encourages the use of MVC pattern. It really doesn’t enforce it. CodeIgniter offers caching, support for multiple databases, routing, and other features that are found in modern web apps.

These features are packaged and can be used in an adaptable way. It’s can be used by either small or large organisations for building APIs and lightweight web apps.

Let’s talk about some pros and cons


  • It has a small overall footprint due to fewer built-in features.
  • Brilliant performance right out of the box. It has fast loading times and requires less optimisation.
  • With most PHP frameworks, MVC pattern is enforced. But with CodeIgniter you can choose any design patterns you want.


  • It allows for loads of flexibility. But maintainability can be difficult to achieve.
  • It has fewer libraries and packages for building new features when you compare it to other popular frameworks.
  • A stable release calendar doesn’t exist. This means security issues can take time to be addressed.

5. CakePHP


With this PHP framework. You can create PHP applications quickly and with less configuration. So if you want these reasons, you should choose CakePHP.

CakePHP offers built-in features that help you code your application. It comes with a flexible database access layer. And powerful features which allow you to build both simple and complicated applications.

This framework was among the first MVC framework to come into the PHP development ecosystem way back in the 2000’s. And since then it has grown into an excellent framework with heaps of features.

The reason why CakePHP is designed to stand out as it offers a convention-based setup. By setting up a database with specific naming conventions. It can automatically work without any configuration.

Let’s talk about some pros and cons


  • It’s a convention-based set up so it is easy to build new apps. You just need to master the PHP framework.
  • It has features, like authentication, validation, localisation, and more.
  • The codebase has been audited by the Mozilla Secure Open Source program so it has all the modern security features.


  • The community is a bit small, so it could be hard to find an answer to your issue.
  • Upgrading to either newer or older version so developers encounter issues.
  • It’s convention-based so you have less freedom.

6. Phalcon


The following framework is a bit different from the usual PHP framework. Phalcon is not written in PHP. But it’s delivered as a C-extension. It doesn’t mean that you need to write it in C yourself. Since it isn’t written in PHP and is compiled from C, so it is exceptionally fast.

So Phlacon can handle more requests per second than a typical framework by a wide margin. Along with its fast performance. It offers more features like caching, security, templating and ORM.

So this framework is recommended when performance is important to build.

Let’s talk about some pros and cons


  • It offers great performance due to being written in C. And it’s pre-compiled.
  • Adds lower overhead to your app.
  • Contains its own SQL language called PHQL which helps you write relational database queries that can be used in multiple database systems.


  • It’s slightly more complex syntax than compared to other PHP frameworks.
  • Considerably harder to install and deploy. Due to being a PHP extension to install.
  • Only MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite are supported.

6 Best PHP Frameworks for 2023