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Clear-Cut Hits Among PHP Frameworks: Symfony and LaravelPHP as a programming language has been the leader among developers for years. Both its flexibility and ease-to-use code structure cut down the time needed for website development and simplify the development process. However, using frameworks will speed up the development process even more. PHP doesn’t have any ‘default’ framework like other languages. Yet, GitHub users give their preference to two of them: Symfony and Laravel (with 17k and 42k developers respectively giving high marks to each of the frameworks). Symfony has long been the de facto standard in PHP development, whereas Laravel, launched in 2011, is based upon Symfony Components. Nevertheless, it doesn’t represent its copy. Laravel’s nature simplifies the coding process, which has made it popular with web developers. It has been top PHP framework among dev community since 2015.
Business-wise, Top 3 Things to Zoom in on When Solving Laravel vs. Symfony DilemmaWhen thinking over the best framework option for a project that you are about to start, the final decision shouldn’t be based solely on the developers’ rating of the tech. What else should be evaluated in this situation?
Solution Focus - Define Your Business NeedsThe functionality of both Symfony and Laravel makes each of them capable of creating a powerful web application, from front-end code writing to back-end data retrieval. But some features of the framework make it more suitable for certain solutions. Hence, the main question you need to ask yourself is what the aim of your application is. For example, an e-commerce store has a set of specific requirements in comparison to a line-of-business solution. An online shop needs an easy and secure integration with payment getaways and other plugins, whereas an enterprise-level web app requires fail-safe and stable performance and needs to be highly scalable.
Symfony is Good Match for Business-level Web ApplicationUsing Symfony for your web project requires more time and financial resources at the beginning, as there is a lot of work coming to the configuration of its elements. Still, it is a good choice for a long-term complex project, as the invested resources will pay off as your system will call for more custom functionality and changes in line with new requirements of your business. Here are a few things to prove the point:
- Skeleton framework without extra dependencies. The release of the Symfony 4 version in November 2017 brought about a big change. Now, when you install a Symfony file, you get only a skeleton package without any modules attached (’bundles’ when applied to Symfony). It no longer includes any default library, template engines or other dependencies, which, quite probably, you won’t need. Now the Symfony ‘Composition over Inheritance’ principle says that you get the basis, which is enough to run the framework, and then decide yourself which components you will be adding to it. A powerful tool – Symfony Flex – is included in the ‘skeleton’ package as a dependency and provides for automated finding, adding and removing of bundles. It has turned out to be so effective that official Symfony resources recommend upgrading Symfony-based web applications to it.
- Modular structure, consisting of independent elements. The key elements in Symfony are bundles, i.e. packages of files for implementing certain functionality, for example, a cart or blog, and components, i.e. generic features which solve routine tasks, such as Messenger or Translator (55 altogether). Both bundles and components act independently and therefore can be introduced into the system, get deleted or migrated to another project or even framework without breaking down the whole structure of the program. In case you decide to introduce deep core changes to the project, just a particular unit in its architecture and not the entire project will be re-configured.
- No preset logic for the configuration of the elements. Symfony acts as a non-opinionated framework, which doesn’t impose its logic on a developer on how to unite bundles and components into a working solution. It is up to them to find the most suitable configuration solution. At the same time, it explains why Symfony is considered a framework for skilled programmers, who can act in this vacuum of directions and pre-defined rules.
- Powerful third-party ready-made solutions. There are third-party companies like Sonata, liipImagine or FOS that provide high-level bundles for Symfony. These are big enterprises which have been present on the market for years, and the fact guarantees stable performance of these solutions and their maintenance. The out-of-the-box libraries which they offer can be incorporated into a web application to add functionality without reinventing the wheel. The libraries are featured in Symfony’s official documentation and their packages are commonly used.
Laravel is Sure-fire Tool for Rapid Application DevelopmentLaravel is built upon Symfony Components and uses them as its stable backbone. At the same time, it has its own logic and concept of how PHP programming should be done: more power with less code. Laravel works best for projects that require faster delivery with fewer resources. This is achieved with the help of:
- Pre-installed ready-made solutions from the start. Installing the Laravel package, you get a number of pre-built dependencies: for example, its Object Relational Mapper (ORM) Eloquent and its templating engine Blade. On the one hand, it comes handy as developers don’t spend effort on setting them up themselves. On the other hand, not every project demands these tools, so part of the code will be useless.
- Magic methods in the code for saving effort. Laravel keeps certain functionality not exposed to the user in order to avoid bulky and long code lines. A developer has to conform to the way the framework functions in order to do more with less code. It saves time and effort, and allows focusing more on web project solution rather than on doing tedious, repetitive work. However, magic makes programs harder to debug, and security flaws harder to analyze.
- Automation of processes. Laravel has powerful tools that facilitate common tasks like authentication, queueing, sessions, caching and routing.
Scaling Your Web Application While Growing Your Business
It is always better to decide on the future development of the web solution at the stage of business analysis, before the development process is launched. Whether you will be simply updating content on the website or the web application will be significantly expanding together with your business growth – each strategy demands a different approach.
Both Laravel and Symfony are extendable. The difference between them is in the time invested into scaling up the website and in how simple the process is.
Symfony’s modular structure, based on bundles that are not strictly bound, provides for introducing change or add-ons without re-configuring the whole Symfony-based solution.
Laravel’s architecture is inherently different. Modules don’t represent separate units within its default structure, therefore, it is more restricted in terms of quick adjustments. As a result, any changes to the installed modules or their removal will make Laravel developers deal with not just one unit, but with Laravel-based app environment in general.
Ensuring Website Maintenance after Its LaunchOnce a website is released, it needs to be constantly maintained and updated. Most of the maintenance work is done on an ongoing basis, with a necessity for a technical specialist to react to constantly arising problems. It makes a technical specialist, responsible for the website maintenance, interested in:
- High-quality learning resources. Symfony has good training resources collected on its official website in the Symfony Documentation category. They are clear and explicit, but you need to keep in mind that Symfony demands a higher level of skills from a developer because of more extensive configuration work involved. Therefore a learning curve for this framework is higher compared with Laravel. Besides, Symfony’s SensioLabs, a French-based company called ‘the creator of Symfony’, that now stands behind its development and maintenance, provides trainings and delivers official certifications. At the same time, high-quality resources for learning Laravel are quite on a par with Symfony’s educational resources. Its tutorial and support videos (i.e. Laracasts) cover all the topics, supported by the extensive materials at their Laravel GitHub docs.
- Active community support. Active community support is an important sign of an open-source framework’s longevity. Both Symfony and Laravel are known for their strong communities. In Symfony’s case, it counts today more than 300,000 developers and contributors, who help identify and fix bugs once they appear. Laravel’s community offers many forums, expert opinions and informative blogs to keep Laravel developers updated and help discuss and solve current problems.
- Centralized consulting services. In case of serious bottlenecks, the two frameworks provide different possibilities regarding centralized assistance. Symfony has its official representative SensioLabs, which provides paid consulting and support options. Laravel doesn’t have a centralized body to deal with support issues from dev community, though Taylor Otwell, creator of Laravel, mentioned in an interview that he is encouraging expanded support offerings, which many enterprises seek, and that, maybe, he would participate in developing this area personally.
Symfony and Laravel have been the most popular and highly-praised PHP frameworks for years, because they simplify the whole web development process and thus make programmers’ life easier and their web applications more efficient.
Symfony can be compared with a car with a manual transmission. All its elements need to be configured in a clear and exposed structure. It consumes developers’ resources at the website development stage, but provides for an easily scalable solution in the long run. Therefore, it is a good choice for long-term projects, which are expected to be growing and considerably expanding.
Laravel looks more like a car with an added automatic transmission. It tries to keep the configuration process simple by providing pre-installed elements and keeping part of the development and configuration work done at the framework level. Therefore, it makes deeper changes in configuration harder for developers. But Laravel remains a good quick time-to-market solution, especially when time resources are limited.