Best PHP Frameworks for Developing Agile Applications

Undoubtedly, PHP is one of the programming languages which is rocking the development world since the last few years due to its inherent flexibility and comparatively easier learning curve. But, developing perfect agile software applications in PHP has always been a challenging and time consuming task. However, if you consider using a framework, things will get much easier and faster. Building complex applications on PHP frameworks will allow you to reuse generic components and also add modules while creating things on a unified structural foundation.

This not only ensures high-end scalability but keeps your code much organized and allows your software application to evolve with time while facilitating long-term maintenance by complying with latest application development standards. This way, you will be able to look upon the other important aspects of application development, like maintaining consistent functionality and focusing on sustainable high-quality code.

So, here we go with the eight best PHP frameworks that will help you build agile applications with high-end interoperability, flexibility and robustness.

1. Codeigniter

CodeIgniter is a powerful framework which is best suited to develop fully featured web applications in PHP. The best thing about this PHP framework is that it doesn't require any configuration set up and also doesn't impose any restrictive coding rules on the developer. Featuring a rich set of libraries, elegant toolkit, an extremely simple user interface and a logical structure; Codeigniter offers simplest solutions to the most complex application development requirements while being exceptionally fast.

Being a designer, if you're working on template files, Codeigniter is the one and only framework that can prove much more useful as it is based on MVC controller approach and thus allows for great separation between logic and presentation.

CodeIgniter is not a PHP substitute. When you dive into the world of CodeIgniter, you’re not leaving PHP behind—and why would you want to? PHP5 is a doozy of a scripting language for building state-of-the-art, dynamic web-based applications; its rapport with HTML is top-notch; plus it’s a great language for honing your OOP skills. It’s tight, secure and intuitive. For many of us, it’s the only server-side language for our needs.

CodeIgniter is a PHP-driven framework, containing a grab-bag of libraries, helpers, plug-ins and other resources, that takes care of many of the more complex procedures and functions for which PHP is famous. CodeIgniter does all the heavy lifting for you while maintaining high performance. It will simplify PHP syntax, streamline the code underlying your web pages, and—best of all—have you churning out dynamic, interactive, professional websites in no time.

Here are some of the principal benefits of coding your next project in CodeIgniter:

  • It makes coding in PHP simple, quick and user-friendly.
  • It’s an excellent framework for learning more about how PHP works as you code.
  • It underpins the Model/View/Controller (MVC) approach to web development—a best practice philosophy all developers should adhere to.
  • It’s built on a linear, easy-to-use folder structure.
  • It’s open source and simple to configure and customize for your own needs.
  • You can construct your own cleaner URI lines in CodeIgniter.

There are more reasons why you should start investigating this framework, and you’ll doubtless discover these for yourself when you visit and download the latest version (at the time of writing, version 2.0.1). Before you unzip and install the file though, head to the User Guide and read a little about CodeIgniter.

This is where you’ll see one of this framework’s best aspects—it has one of the most comprehensive and user-friendly how-to guides of any web development tool. If you can’t find what you need in the table of contents at (click on the tab at top right), head to the forums and join the ever-growing, highly passionate CodeIgniter community.

PHP Made Friendly

Once you start experimenting with CodeIgniter, you’ll find yourself quickly warming to its methodology. Of course, this assumes you’re familiar with PHP. You’ll need to have a good working knowledge of how PHP interacts with a database and its relationship with HTML, not to mention an understanding of basic PHP syntax, before you start working with CodeIgniter.

Functionality that might have taken you large chunks of PHP to get happening can be whittled down to, in some cases, one line of code with CodeIgniter. This might apply to anything from outputting text in a browser to form field validation, adding a Captcha facility or setting up cookies.

Once you’ve nailed the basics, you’ll move quickly into using CodeIgniter to build blogs, content management systems, forums, or any highly interactive, hands-on web application you can think of.

2. Laravel

Perfectly suited for all types of projects and even huge enterprise level applications, Laravel provides a solid foundation of well tested reliable code that works well on MySQL, Postgres, SQL Server and SQLite.

Basically, Laravel is a PHP web application framework that is built on top of several Symfony components and aims to facilitate complex web development by making tasks like authentication, routing, sessions and caching much easier with its expressive & elegant syntax. Besides providing easily accessible and most powerful tools to build large and robust applications, Laravel also comes with an inherently expressive migration system along with an inversion control container and integrated unit testing support.

3. CakePHP

CakePHP is a dynamic web application framework that comes packed with powerful features to let you to build sophisticated applications and prototypes rapidly using code generation features. From complex translations to database access; caching to validation and configuration to authentication; CakePHP has many features that are all built-in into the framework itself.

So, you don't need to break your head with complicated configurations. Just sync your database with the application framework and you're ready to go. To guide you through the application, CakePHP handles every aspect till the end. From providing a basic organizational structure to dealing with the user's initial requests, filenames, database tables & final rendering of the webpage; the clean MVC architecture of this framework and built-in tools for validation and protection
keeps your application absolutely safe and secure.

Here’s a quick list of features you’ll enjoy when using CakePHP:

  • Active, friendly community
  • Flexible licensing
  • Compatible with versions 4 and 5 of PHP
  • Integrated CRUD for database interaction
  • Application scaffolding
  • Code generation
  • MVC architecture
  • Request dispatcher with clean, custom URLs and routes
  • Built-in validation
  • Fast and flexible templating (PHP syntax, with helpers)
  • View Helpers for AJAX, JavaScript, HTML Forms and more
  • Email, Cookie, Security, Session, and Request Handling Components
  • Flexible ACL
  • Data Sanitization
  • Flexible Caching
  • Localization
  • Works from any web site directory, with little to no Apache configuration involved

4. Symfony

Symfony is an all-powerful PHP application framework that significantly speeds up the development and maintenance work of your web application projects. The amazing thing about Symfony is that it doesn't restrict you to the Symfony application development environment (naming conventions, classes, libraries and PHPUnit) and rather allows you to choose the software components that you want to use in your application.

This makes Symfony the most flexible framework in terms of usability, scalability, maintainability and upgradability. Not just this, the framework also provides a set of prefabricated components that can be rapidly integrated into your web application so as to ensure you can work effectively to meet the complex requirements of even the most challenging projects.

Besides this, Symfony also gives you the freedom to choose between three versions based on the complexity of your application and project requirements - the complete version (Full Stack) in case you want a complex application; the Brick by Brick version to let you build your own framework according to the functionality needed, or the Microframework if you want to have a specific functionality in your projects.

Symfony has gained a great usage and popularity among PHP developers of all levels. Here are 6 reasons why.

1. Symfony can be viewed as a project rather than just a framework, because you can choose from the Silex micro-framework, the Symfony Components and the full-stack framework depending on your project needs.

2. Symfony is extensively incorporated by multiple large companies such as BBC and CBS and popular websites such as, Lockers and TED. It also has powered many open-source projects including Drupal and eZpublish, the PHPUnit and Doctrine libraries, the phpBB and Shopware products etc.

3. Symfony enjoys an immense community of contributors and users. Over 500 people have contributed to its core over the last year while the community has accumulated more than 1600 bundles applicable to the full-stack framework. Several annual conferences over the world along with a great number of user web groups are dedicated to Symfony.

 4. Created in 2005, Symfony is sure to stay further on. Contributions, investments and sponsorships for future projects are constantly done by many Symfony-based companies and their clients including SensioLabs.

5. Symfony provides a tight integration of many external open-source projects in it in order to avoid “wheel reinvention”.

6. The framework is aimed at the PHP language innovation. This is indicated by Symfony’s pioneering embrace of PHP 5.3, Dependency Injection container introduction, template engine adoption (followed by Drupal, eZpublish and other major CMSes) etc. Among Symfony’s unique features are the amazing built-in profiler, compelling debug toolbar and others.

Symfony remains one of the favorite frameworks of PHP programmers all over the globe and is prophesied the further thriving.

5. Zend Framework 2

Zend Framework 2 is an open-source PHP application framework that constitutes powerful components in the form of a standard library that can be used for developing web applications using the object-oriented code.

The framework also offers a highly robust supreme performance MVC implementation with an ability to extend easily and adapt to the needs of the complex project requirements through a modular base. Also, Zend Framework doesn't bind you with any predefined constraints and you can implement anything the way you want to.

Zend Framework 2 evolved from Zend Framework 1, a successful PHP framework with over 15 million downloads.
The component structure of Zend Framework 2 is unique; each component is designed with few dependencies on other components. ZF2 follows the SOLID object oriented design principle. This loosely coupled architecture allows developers to use whichever components they want. We call this a “use-at-will” design. We support Pyrus and Composer as installation and dependency tracking mechanisms for the framework as a whole and for each component, further enhancing this design.
We use PHPUnit to test our code and Travis CI as a Continuous Integration service.

While they can be used separately, Zend Framework 2 components in the standard library form a powerful and extensible web application framework when combined. Also, it offers a robust, high performance MVC implementation, a database abstraction that is simple to use, and a forms component that implements HTML5 form rendering, validation, and filtering so that developers can consolidate all of these operations using one easy-to-use, object oriented interface. Other components, such as Zend\Authentication and Zend\Permissions\Acl, provide user authentication and authorization against all common credential stores.
Still others, with the ZendService namespace, implement client libraries to simply access the most popular web services available. Whatever your application needs are, you’re likely to find a Zend Framework 2 component that can be used to dramatically reduce development time with a thoroughly tested foundation.

The principal sponsor of the project ‘Zend Framework 2’ is Zend Technologies, but many companies have contributed components or significant features to the framework. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, and StrikeIron have partnered with Zend to provide interfaces to web services and other technologies they wish to make available to Zend Framework 2 developers.

Zend Framework 2 could not deliver and support all of these features without the help of the vibrant Zend Framework 2 community. Community members, including contributors, make themselves available on mailing lists, IRC channels and other forums. Whatever question you have about Zend Framework 2, the community is always available to address it.

6. Phalcon

Phalcon is a fully-featured application development framework based on PHP 5 but implemented as a C extension. This is to ensure lower resource consumption and save processor time while delivering high performance. However, to build applications on this framework, you don't need to learn and use the C programming Language unless you want to contribute to the Phalcon framework extensively and support it.

Since Phalcon is loosely coupled and all the functionalities are exposed as PHP classes, you're free to use the full application framework or even specific modules as per your requirements. The best thing about Phalcon is - you can download and install it as a PHP module rather than extracting it to a separate directory unlike all other PHP frameworks which makes it a more flexible application framework.

7. Yii

Known for its powerful caching support and exclusively designed architecture that work efficiently even with Ajax, Yii is an all-powerful high-performance PHP application framework. From input validation to output filtering and SQL injection to Cross-site scripting prevention; Yii offers high-end security at its best. Based on the solid MVC architecture, the framework helps you develop clean code and model databases more efficiently.

The framework also packages a set of validators that ensure safe collection of form inputs along with numerous other helper methods and cool widgets. Plus, there is extensive support for writing and running unit and functionality tests to offer efficient error handling. Since Yii is architecture in a way that it can work pretty well with third party code also, you can integrate the external data (data from other frameworks) also into your Yii powered application.


For a high performance framework, Yii's breadth of capabilities and feature set is quite extraordinary, and it's one of the reasons I was attracted to the framework. You can see and try some examples of Yii code in action at the Yii Playground.
Here are some highlights:

  • Model-View-Controller architecture. Just like Ruby on Rails, now you can leverage MVC in your PHP apps.
  • Database Access Objects (DAO), Active Record, and programmatic Database migrations simplify the challenges of building database-powered web applications.
  • Form input, validation, and Ajax support is built-in. Yii makes forms pretty easy.
  • Built-in authentication and powerful user management extensions make launching new web applications easy.
  • Yii's built-in code generation tool, Gii, speeds your app's development scaffolding in MVC fashion
  • Console Yii. You can run Yii from the command line or as a daemon. With this, it's possible to build high performance background tasks in PHP.
  • Theming options such as the Bootstrap extension makes building great looking responsive apps much simpler
  • Layered caching support Yii makes it easy to implement the kinds of caching that make sense to your application
  • Security. Yii greatly minimizes the typical risk factors of running services with PHP and MySQL
  • Integration with other frameworks. It's easy to use Zend or PEAR features in Yii
  • Extensions. Yii's community offers a variety of free, open source plugins and widgets
  • Internationalization. Yii supports I18N and makes it easy to provide localized versions of your app.
  • Error handling, logging and testing - yes, Yii delivers.

The Yii community also purchased an unlimited license to the beautiful web-based rich text editor, Redactor - so you can use it any of your own Yii apps. This is great for rich formatted input or CMS features. The Yii documentation and community are also great features. There are a few great ebooks to help you get started.

8. Aura

Aura is a PHP application framework that constitutes high quality code along with fully decoupled, standards-compliant and independent libraries. The framework takes full advantage of PHP5.4+. Each library is self-contained and is hence independently downloadable & can be integrated to use for application development. There are enough libraries to form a full framework and be used for application development. Featuring namespaces, well-tested functions, late static binding and short array syntax; Aura offers cutting edge functionalities that were not available in the older versions of PHP. On top of that, Aura has a bunch of other benefits. Some other interesting things to note about Aura:

  • It is open source
    • Aura lives on GitHub and can be forked/modified at any time. You can even contribute bug fixes or functionality changes!
  • Aura is not native to the platform
    • Unlike languages like Apex and Visualforce, Aura does not require Salesforce. It was built for Salesforce, but it can be used by any developer.
    • This will open Aura up to a much larger set of developers. In conjunction with it being open source, this framework will grow at a drastic rate
  • Aura is built using object-oriented principles
    • Aura provides the basic constructs of inheritance, polymorphism, and encapsulation from classic object-oriented programming and applies them to presentation layer development.
  • Aura heavily utilizes events to interact with different components
    • It is important to understand to the concept of event-driven programming
    • If you have ever developed with JavaScript or Java Swing, you should be familiar with the idea of event-driven programming. You write handlers that respond to interface events as they occur. The events may or may not have been triggered by user interaction.

In my opinion, Aura is the way of the future. It is going to be a fast, heavily tested mobile-first option. With the ability to quickly transition between desktop and mobile, Aura provides an incredibly powerful framework to create applications for all mediums. Take some time to start learning Aura now and get a head start!