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Best PHP Frameworks in 2021

When you think of web development, the PHP language is one of the first names that come to mind. Although PHP is not as popular as Python or JavaScript, it is quite prevalent in terms of usage. Big names like Facebook and Wikipedia are using it.Moreover, roughly 80% of all websites use it on their server-side.

PHP is easy to learn and allows you to build web applications quickly.This is made possible by the partial automation of writing codes and simplifying the process of combining components of the part of aproject related to software. No wonder, developers across the globe use PHP and third-party frameworks built on top of it. Programmers often turn to a PHP framework to write their code.

PHP frameworks let you build robust sites and mobile apps on a solid and well-tested foundation. They also rectify some of the weaknesses of PHP, making them a safe bet even for complex software applications.

Over the years, software development has become increasingly complicated and demands the use of modules and design patterns in order to come up with reliable applications within a reasonable time frame. It’s here where PHP frameworks come in handy and make a huge difference.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the best PHP frameworks so you can determine which oneto use for your web development needs.


Initially released by Taylor Otwell in 2011, Laravel is now the most popular PHP framework in the market. Otwell developed it because he wanted to have a framework with elements missing in CodeIgniter, such as user authentication. Now dubbed as the “PHP framework for web artisans”, Laravel has hundreds of contributors and millions of installations.

It is based on the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture and comes with its own templating language known as Blade, which will allow you to easily create HTML layouts. Laravel uses Eloquent ORMfor accessing and communicating with databases.

Laravel is arguably one of the best PHP frameworks today because of its extensive range of features that make development faster and easier. Some of the key features include caching, modularity, routing, automatic pagination, database query builder, innovative template engine, and secure migration system.


CodeIgniteris essentially an MVC framework that’s based on PHP. It prides itself in its simplicity which allows small and large organizationsto build APIs and lightweight web applications quickly.

One notable thing about CodeIgniter is that it’s not a restrictive framework. While most PHP frameworks will require you to use the MVC approach,CodeIgniterdoes not enforce it so you can code non-MVC applications too.

CodeIgniter has a light overall footprint since it has fewer built-in features. This means there is no bloat and you can add the specific components you need.The framework offers caching, routing, support for multiple databases, quality error handling, easy-to-read documentation, and other neat features that are common in modern web applications.


Symfony is quite unique as it is both a PHP framework and a cluster of reusable PHP components for building websites.Launched in October 2005, it is maintained and supported by SensioLabs, which means you can get professional support.

Also worth noting is the fact thatSymfonysupports the most databases including Drizzle, Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, SAP Sybase SQL Anywhere, SQLite, and SQLServer.  It also simplifies integration with the best JS frameworks, which is crucial for development.

Symfony is a great choice for complex apps and websites where scalability, optimization, and support are required. Itis also an excellent choice for enterprise projects because it has multiple drivers for enterprise databases.

Zend / Laminas Project

Zend, also known as Laminas Project, is a ‘glue’ framework, which means the framework’s architecture is component-based. It consists of three parts: Laminas Components and MVC, Mezzio, and Laminas API tools.

While the Laminas Project utilizes a traditional MVC software pattern, the framework has enterprise-ready PHP components including input validation, dependency injection, filtering, event dispatchers, pagination, among others.

Mezzio allows developers to build PHP middleware which has the potential to bridge hardware and software. As for the API tools, they help developers in building RESTful APIs.

Zend is the most used PHP framework by enterprises. It follows the PHP Framework Interop Group standards, so its code can be easily ported to other frameworks. It has been used by large companies like BBC, BNP Paribas, and Cisco Webex.


Developed by Michal Tatarynowicz and officially launched in 2005, CakePHP is based on Ruby on Rails. Its convention-based setup allows you to create PHP apps quickly, and with minimal configurationrequired, it’seasy to install and straightforward to use.

CakePHP has its own ORM and it comes with a flexible database access layeralong with built-in features that are very useful when coding your application’s business logic. Such features include authentication, localization, validation, among others.

One of the things that make CakePHPstandout is the seamless conversion of themes into plugins, which makes it possible to create the best themes among all the PHP frameworks discussed in this post. Using plugins as themes boosts their functionality and makes assembling the software product a breeze.


Phalcon is a full stack framework that was originally meant to offer a new mode of building web applications. It’s unique in that it is not written in PHP but delivered as compiled C(++) binaries.

However, this does not mean that you’ll need to have knowledge of C or write C yourself. And since Phalcon is directly compiled from C and not written in PHP, it’s super-fast. In fact, it can handle more requests per second than all other PHP frameworks in the market today.

Aside from its lightning-fast performance, Phalcon offers an array of features like caching, ORM, templating, security protections, code compilation, and memory management.Phalcon is the ideal choice when high-level performance is needed, so it is used by large companies.

Fuel PHP

Simple, fast, and flexible, FuelPHP is an open-source web application framework which uses a hierarchical MVCvariation that ‘widgetizes’ content structures. This community-driven PHP framework boasts a unique design that increases extensibility and modularity. It provides for improved code organization and encourages code reuse.

This PHP framework comeswith its own command-line utility (OIL), which can be used to debug code, run tasks, and generate common components.

Security is top notch with features that include output encoding, cross-site request forgery (CSRF) protection, input, uniform resource identifiers (URIs), and cross-site scripting (XSS) filtering.


This PHP framework stands out for its simplicity and diminutive size (50-65 kilobytes). Many developers prefer it over similar frameworks because of this ‘compactness’’ and its ability to strike a delicate balance between simplicity, ease of use, and speed.

Fat-Free offers three key features including multilingualism, ability to route URLs, and availability of caching tools.Like Laravel, this micro frame work was modelled after Symfony, and this provides a number of advantages such as high-level performance while enhancing the efficiency of URL routing and code. It provides support for Flat-File and MongoDB, MySQL, SQLite, MSSQL/Sybase, and PostgreSQL. There is a huge set of plugins and you can take advantage of several useful options for CSS elements.


Just like Fat-Free, Slim is a micro-framework. For clarity, microframeworksare the alternative to full stack frameworks. They have fewer features and support limited functionality. While this may be perceived as a disadvantage, micro-frameworks like Slim can help you create simple but powerful APIs and web appswith only a few lines of code.

Slimhas a fast loading time and can handle multiple requests per second. It is not restrictive and provides a lot of freedom while supporting key features like URL routing, middleware, advanced request handling, session and cookie encryption, and client-side HTTP.

PHP developers use Slim in building web services and RESTful APIs for single-page applications (SPAs) and scalable systems.


Yii is an open source, component-based framework used for building applications on top of PHP. Based on OOP and MVC patterns, it adds less overhead by concentrating largely on core functionality.

In Chinese, Yii means ‘simple and evolutionary,’. Some of its features include error handling and logging, unit and functionality testing, a layered caching system, an security measures like CSRF and XSS.

Yii is a great choice for newcomers to PHP and it is generally recommended for building performant web applications. You can use it to build anything from blogs to SaaS apps and even social media websites.

Parting Words…

Using a framework is a smart choice if you wish to reduce your time spent developing PHP apps. But in order to maximize a PHP framework, you must have a decent understanding of PHP as well as the principles behind the frameworks.

Lastly, the framework that will work for you will depend on the type of application that you intend to build. The good news is that there is a PHP framework for different needs and preferences. We hope you found this post useful and helped you pick the perfect PHP frameworkfor you.

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