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You will agree with me that building a complex web application from scratch is a very time-consuming process and requires a lot of development effort. As a result, there was a need for a simple and structured way of developing web applications that can be adopted by all web developers. That is how PHP frameworks came into existence.

PHP is the most popular server-side scripting language for building modern, robust and sophisticated web applications. Its popularity has seen a lot of high-end PHP frameworks to be developed over time to simplify the overall web development process.

PHP frameworks allow you to build your application from templates that contains generic components and significant your time in developing specific tasks and functionalities according to your application requirements.

Why you need to use a PHP framework
  • Rapid development while making use of already proven and working practices.
  • Follow the Model View Controller that allows you to separate logic from presentation.
  • Organize your code in a standard structure leading to reusable and maintainable code.
  • Reduce your average development time by reusing code and focusing on your specific task.

Here is a list of carefully researched PHP frameworks that will help you build complex and modern web applications.


At the top of our list is Laravel. Laravel is the most popular PHP development framework as shown by SitePoint’s online survey thanks to its vast ecosystem and extensive online community of developers.

Laravel offers rich features that make that makes the development of rapid and complex applications possible. Its lightweight Blade templating engine facilitates repeated tasks such as authentication, sessions, RESTful routing, caching and queueing.

Developers can develop and test their application locally using the local development environment called Homestead – packaged Vagrant box.

Laravel organizes the code for you, so you don’t have to worry about structuring it. The queue management feature manages tasks in the background and does the activity logging for you with the functions being run in the environment.

Laravel uses the Composer to install third-party packages such as the name and bower packages.

Wondering how to get started with Laravel? Laravel provides extensive documentation available on its website, Laracasts which are screenshots tutorials and Udemy includes video tutorials and short courses to get you started quickly.

  • Files and code are well organized
  • Uses MVC architecture
  • Extensive documentation
  • Rich functionality
  • Supports payment integrations, e.g., stripe
  • Overloading capabilities
  • Security and strong encryption.
  • Cannot be deployed on shared hosting plans
  • Too much database queries


One of the reasons why you will like Phalcon is its speed, and it is as fast as a falcon. This is because Phalcon was built as a C extension, therefore, provides the highest level of performance optimization and takes advantage of the speed C language is known for.

Phalcon processes HTTP requests must faster than other PHP frameworks thanks to its lower resource usage.

A feature that allows developers to build systems with lower overheads. To work with Phalcon involves extending PHP classes for different functionalities and you don’t have to learn C language.

Released in 2012, Phalcon’s rich features including MVC, universal auto-loader, asset management, security, translation, template engines and form builders, has seen it be actively used in developing robust and complex web apps.

The Phalcon website provides rich documentation on how to get started with Phalcon.

  • Very fast with low resource usage
  • Low overheads
  • Autoloading
  • Well documented and easy to use the framework
  • HHVM not supported
  • Not open source
  • Any bugs identified are fixed by Phalcon developers – waiting for too long.


CodeIgniter is another ideal framework for complex and robust web applications development. It is a lightweight framework that provides a straightforward installation process that involves uploading a small footprint of the application with minimal configuration to your hosting server.

With no extra commands or software installation required, only uploading the files, you are set to go.

CodeIgniter worked well on both shared and dedicated hosting platforms to avoid conflicts in PHP versions.

Another unique feature about CodeIgniter is that it is not a strictly based on the MVC architecture in that you must use Controllers but Models and Views are optional. It also gives developers the freedom to implement their coding and naming conventions.

CodeIgniter provides a simple interface and logical structure to access its sets of libraries for implementing repeated tasks including unit testing, form validation, email, and sessions.

CodeIgniter requires only a set of few small libraries to run while additional libraries are dynamically loaded when user’s processes request them. This makes it exceptionally fast.

Getting started with CodeIgniter is pretty easy thanks to its extensive documentation and a vast community of developers who are willing to help at any time.

  • Easy to learn and use for newbies
  • No special dependencies needed
  • Works on shared and dedicated hosting
  • Performs better than other non-MVC frameworks
  • Long-term support and rich documentation
  • Comes with a few inbuilt libraries
  • Unit testing requires high expertise


Symfony is on our list because it’s a very stable, high performance, well documented and modular framework for the development of important enterprise web applications. Popular amongst developers because of its infinite sets of reusable components and codes.

The primary focus of Symfony was stability. Developed by French SensioLabs and its community, Symphony is touted to be a fantastic framework.

It powers the Laravel framework we’ve seen above, and it is the brains behind the Drupal content management system, BBC, and eZpublish.

Symphony can be used to build high-performance REST APIs and fully functional web apps. Its vast reusable PHP libraries can be used to implement tasks such as authentication, routing, object configuration, form creation and a lot of other tasks.

It provides secure and extensive documentation and boasts of a vast PHP developer community that is engaging and active. You need not worry about learning Symfony.

  • Stable
  • Rich documentation and maintenance support
  • Byte caching feature leads to high performance
  • Does not support MVC. Many companies implement MVC web applications
  • Requires a lot of time for learning

YII framework

Fast, secure and high performance. That’s how we can describe the YII framework in simple terms. YII implements the lazy loading technique which makes it faster than other PHP frameworks to give your application boost to the performance.

It is purely object-oriented and helps you write clean and logical code without repeating yourself.

YII2 framework, the latest version of YII is integrated with jQuery and allows you to use AJAX with its set of AJAX-enabled features.

Another cool thing about YII2 is its support for theming and skinning to create an attractive and intuitive web application by implementing different themes of your choice.

YII will reduce your average development time thanks to its rich features including role-based access control, testing using CodeCeption, DAO/ActiveRecord, authentication and fully supports MVC.

Using the Composer, you can install different extensions from their vast community to quickly implement specific tasks.

YII has a powerful code generator called the Gii tool. Gii makes things easier by generating controllers, models, and views with a few clicks. In addition to that, the Gii tool will cause your entire CRUD operations code.

Thumbs up YII! The only hassle you will face is designing your database and pass it to Gii and experience the real power of Gii. Yii lets you concentrate your focus on building your specific tasks.

  • Less code for the rich and robust web app
  • Generate code with simple clicks using Gii tool
  • Authentication packages and role-based access control implements high-level security to your app
  • Development time is reduced
  • Take advantage of the third-party extension
  • Does not provide built-in allowances
  • Requires you to be organized

Yii offers different materials to get you started ranging from its documentation, open API to its online community that gives answers to different user’s questions.

As a young YII developer these books will make you master the framework: The Yii Book (2nd edition) by Larry Ullman, Web Application Development with YII2 and PHP, Yii2 Application Development Cookbook- 3rd edition and Learning Yii testing by Matteo Pescarin.


CakePHP, ideal for beginners is a framework that provides an all in one toolkit for creating user-friendly web applications rich in functionality with less effort required. CakePHP is one of the most comfortable PHP frameworks currently.

Code generation and scaffolding capabilities will reduce your development time. CakePHP is most suited for commercial web applications.

Its extensive collection of luxurious features including SQL injection prevention, cross-site request forgery protection, cross-site scripting prevention and form validation makes it a very secure PHP framework.

It fully supports MVC with different MVC conventions to guide developers throughout the process.

CakePHP is still under development and has very rich documentation and online forums to help you get started. CakePHP powers websites of big companies including BMW, Hyundai, and Express.

  • Easy to learn for beginners
  • Fast builds with scaffolding
  • Best suited for commercial web apps.
  • Vast security features
  • Not suited for building RESTful APIs.

Zend Framework

Building enterprise level web applications? Zend framework is here to assist. Zend is a stable and robust PHP framework that comes with a lot of configurations that makes it an excellent option for building complex enterprise-level projects.

Zend focusses on security, performance, and extensibility.

Zend has rich development features such as drag and drops editor which supports front-end technologies (likes of HTML), database connection wizard, instant online debugging PHP unit testing tools and cryptographic coding tools.

As a result of its enterprise driven nature, Zend is not suited for rapid app development. Developed using an agile methodology which focuses on developing robust and good quality applications to enterprise clients.

However, it comes with cool features to rescue developers from many hassles: the Zend studio IDE specifically made for Zend framework allows you manage all your files and code in one place.

  • Best for enterprise applications
  • Object-oriented and supports MVC
  • Provides rich features for enterprise application development.
  • Not suited for rapid application development and small projects


FuelPHP was another flexible and full-stack PHP framework that was built with the Hierarchical-Model-View-Controller (HMVC) architecture in mind.

The framework is highly modular and extensible and addresses various security concerns thanks to its security features including input and URL filtering and output encoding, and on top of this, it comes with its authentication framework.

Other functionality includes template parsing and powerful object-relational mapping (ORM) support.

FuelPHP is community driven with lots of support forums and abundant documentation. The framework is actively developed with ideas to make it fully object-oriented, ability to install it via composer and able to support multi-application with a single installation planned for the next release.

  • High modular and provides ORM integration
  • Authentication packages and framework for advanced security
  • Plans to make it object-oriented and allow composer installations.
  • Supports RESTful routing.
  • FuelPHP is not friendly to beginners.
  • The developer community is not as active and engaging like others like YII framework


Thinking of a PHP framework that will help you build simple and powerful web apps and APIs? Well, Slim is here for you. Slim is a micro-framework that was inspired by Ruby’s microframework – Sinatra.

Micro-frameworks are small as the name suggest and minimalistic in design. They are created for the development of smaller apps were adopting a full-stack framework would be a costly mistake.

Slim is widely used by many PHP developers to build lightweight RESTful APIs and services. Slim boasts of a wide range of features such as client-side HTTP caching, URL routing and cookie encryption.

A slim framework is actively maintained with extensive documentation for beginners to make the whole process very easy for everyone.

  • Get started quickly with its friendly documentation
  • Ideal for small APIs
  • The fast RESTful framework currently
  • Security features like cookie encryption
  • No long-term support for the structure released.


Phpixie is a new PHP framework that was designed for read-only websites. It is lightweight, fast, modular and requires little expertise to get started.

The framework adopted the HMVC architecture and was developed using independent components – components are unit tested and can be used without necessarily using the framework.

Phpixie comes with different tools for security including cryptography, input validation, authentication and authorization and other features like caching, ORM and support for MongoDB.

Learning Phpixie is very easy; its official website will make you a Phpixie pro within 30 minutes, with a lot of practical use cases thanks to its blog.

  • Get started quickly with its web tutorial.
  • Documentation with examples
  • Compiles faster
  • Not very popular
  • Provide few modules


Flat-Free is a highly modular and lightweight PHP micro-framework that is rich in features and packages making it inherit some functionalities of full-fledged PHP framework like CodeIgniter.

Flat-Free is coming with tons of packages for image processing, unit testing, data validation, Open ID and a lot more. It weighs approximate 50KB to make it very lightweight PHP framework.

The framework offers support for SQL and NoSQL databases and makes the whole process of developing web apps a straightforward adventure. It also consists of several plugins, object-relational mapping, and queueing mechanisms.

  • It is a lightweight PHP framework
  • Perfectly suited for multilingual apps
  • Provides off the shelf support for databases
  • A lot of packages for a variety of functionalities
  • Offers no unique options compare to other PHP frameworks
  • No MVC


Aura framework is an open source PHP framework that consists of well-tested, standards-compliant set of decoupled libraries for PHP that can be used to develop simple yet powerful necessary applications.

The libraries are independent and self-contained meaning they can be integrated into any project separately.

As a result, Aura gives PHP developers the flexibility to choose which libraries to include in their applications. With documentation for every library package, this can well be a starting point for beginners.

  • Lightweight
  • Documentation to quickly get you started.
  • Active developer community
  • Can be used for developing small REST APIs
  • Still new in the market. Has a lot to do to catch up.

These PHP development resources will jumpstart your carrier in web application development

  • 1. Udemy course: from beginner to advance. Learn the best php practices with this introductory course to PHP.
  • 2. Learning PHP 7 by Antonio Lopez: perfect your skills from simple to complex web applications using this PHP 7 book.
  • 3. PHP 7 Simplified: from simple to advance. Learn how to build robust web applications with rich use cases and examples.


These are the best PHP frameworks available, and you can choose to develop your web applications. As depicted, the frameworks can be classified into sets of micro frameworks, fully-fledged frameworks, level of security, those suitable for enterprise web applications or small web apps and APIs. Each PHP framework will have generic functionality and unique features to its name to make it stand out from the others. As a developer, it is your job to understand what the strengths and weaknesses of each framework are and decide on one that will meet your application requirements and fits your skill set.
Making the decision will touch on many factors including ease of use, documentation and support, scalability issues, speed your hosting environment. Let’s shape the web by developing high-end web applications using these PHP frameworks and help push our businesses to the next level.hj

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