Recently I've been writing a lot more PHP based websites and web applications. I've found myself building and rebuilding my own framework, but to no real standard. I decided this needs to change. I need to choose a PHP Framework.

To begin with I started by looking at what frameworks are out there… [Wikipedia] [Google]

The list is almost endless, new ones are being produced all the time, however I didn’t think many of the others were even worth considering taking a look at (especially if they didn’t have a Wikipedia entry).

Of course, I’m looking for the “best” framework to use, but what defines it as “best”?

I wondered is it which is most popular? After all, this is almost a popularity contest as you want to use a framework that is not only useful but well supported.

The question is then, how do you measure how popular it is?

  • How many results it has in Google’s results.
  • How many mentions it has on sites such as reddit, digg, twitter, etc.
  • How many downloads the framework has had.
  • How many notable sites use the framework.
  • How many web developers use the framework.

How many notable websites or web applications used the PHP framework interested me the most to begin with.

Nothing was really winning it over for me, I decided to start trying them out…

Based on a recommendation from a fellow web developer I decided to give Zend Framework a go. However, I quickly came across a problem, which put me to a stop.

I decided to go back to the drawing board and try CakePHP, I started reading the CakePHP Quick Start guide, which took about 8 tasks to do before I could even get started. Once I started reading on I found the guide quite hard to follow…

I decided to move on to Symfony to see if it was any more useful. They have a 10 minute screencast video guide, although now I could follow the guide better, it made this framework look complex. I also found their use of Mac and TextMate a bit magic, as a windows user.

I decided to take a look if there were any video tutorials that might help with CakePHP, or for that matter any of the frameworks…

  • I could not find any for CakePHP on youtube, but found some on vimeo (most are useless).
  • I noticed that CodeIgniter has quite a few, including a 20min blog tutorial.
  • Zend Framwork also has quite a few screencasts.

I liked the look of CodeIgniter, but CodeIgniter based Kohana seemed more appealing to me, so I considered using that, however I soon realised that I was faced with the same issue as with Zend Framework, being that it’s requirements meant I needed to upgrade my PHP, as it requires PHP 5.2.3 or above.

I am leaning towards going back to Zend Framework mainly due to an article that marksanborn wrote (Why I use the Zend Framework), which seemed to make a lot of sense.

I also really related to a talk on frameworks by the guys at the faceoff show. Inparticular the information about DoJo, as at first I was put off as to why dojo was included in Zend Framwork, when in my opinion jQuery is a much better javascript framework; however it’s mentioned that it’s easy to see why Zend picked DoJo, which is because it makes it easy to work with forms and form validation; it’s not like jQuery, which has its uses in most other cases.

However, looking back at CodeIgniter it has very appealing system requirements:

  • PHP version 4.3.2 or newer.
  • A Database is required for most web application programming. Current supported databases are MySQL (4.1+), MySQLi, MS SQL, Postgres, Oracle, SQLite, and ODBC.

If you understand that a) I work on Pear’s PHP_Compat, and b) My dev server runs PHP 5.1.6 due to CentOS backporting, you’ll see why it’s appealing to me over some of the others.

CakePHP was also appealing as it supports PHP 4.3.2 or greater.

I can’t help but feel that using CodeIgniter would be a bit backwards, considering the future seems to be Zend Framework, however I can’t help but wonder if Zend Framework is going to have any kind of backwards compatibility or am I expected to upgrade and recompile PHP to bleeding edge each time I use the latest version?

Despite all this, I still pretty much really want to use Zend Framework, purely for the fact that as a web developer, I can see the appeal. I can see why other web developers are using it and why they like it.

I think what I’d like to see more of is more backwards compatibility – I want to know that no matter what version of PHP i’m using i’m able to use the latest version of the framework.

If i’m going to learn a language, I at least want to learn something that’s going to be worth while. With that in mind, I think the only choice is going to be Zend Framework.

I think ultimately that Zend Framework is appealing especially for the project i’m working on because of it’s support for DoJo, which means making forms will be simple. Since my next project will be mainly about forms, as it’s got a few ordering steps, I think Zend Framework is probably going to be the obvious choice here.

However, I am interested in CodeIgniter based ExpressionEngine for some small business sites I am producing.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using a mix of both for different projects, there’s no need to stick to one framework, loyalty is not required, it’s whatever is best for the project and in my case, I think it’s going to be Zend Framework.