The world of PHP frameworks has grown wide and large. Developers have numerous choices of frameworks to choose from. There is no silver lining to decide on the right framework. However, we need to consider few factors to decide on the right PHP framework. This paper elaborates on the important factors to analyze before choosing a right framework for developing your web application.
Project Need: Customized vs. Out of the Box Functions
The requirements for the project need to be clearly looked at. If your requirements are generic, with ability to use standard plug-ins and components to meet the needs then the choice must be between Development Platforms like Joomla, Drupal or WordPress. These may sound like content management systems. But these CMS have evolved over a period of time to Development platforms offering standard plugins/components for development. If your needs are so specific and require custom programming then the choice must be on the other side of the frameworks, like, Zend, Cake PHP, Code Igniter, Yii Frameworks etc. which offer development libraries without any implemented functionality.
Robust Architecture: Design Pattern
Most Frameworks implement Model-View-Controller (MVC) design pattern, which is widely adopted in web programming. Developers need to analyze how stricter the implementation of MVC is, with respect to the frameworks to be used. Some of the frameworks like Zend have implemented MVC loosely and allow the developers to modify the design. Other frameworks like Yii, have strict implementation of MVC. If you want to have more freedom in the design patterns then choose frameworks like Zend, which allow the developer to experiment the architecture based on the needs. If you want to have a strict implementation of MVC and stick to the framework’s rule of design then choose frameworks like Yii which have a stricter implementation of MVC.
Database Access: ORM Support
One of the prime reasons for using a framework instead of flat PHP development is to re-use the database access layer available in the frameworks. This allows the developer to free himself of the mundane task of recreating the database access. Some of frameworks like Yii, Zend, Cake PHP etc. goes a step further to offer ORM (Object Relational Mapping) support making database programming lot easier. You should also analyze if the Data Access Objects (DAO) support connections to different databases, which is required in more complex systems, in a single uniform interface.
Performance Support: Caching
Caching is a cheap and effective way to improve the performance of a web application. By storing relatively static data in cache and serving it from cache when requested, we save the time needed to generate the data. Frameworks need to provide a mechanism to handle Cache and hence improve performance effectively. The support for caching should hence be analyzed to see how the access to caching mechanism is provided by the frameworks of choice.
Authentication: Built-in Support
Authentication and authorization are required for a web page and should be limited to certain users. Authentication is about verifying whether someone is who they claim to be. Authorization is finding out if the person, once authenticated, is permitted to manipulate specific resources. Frameworks need to have built in Authentication and Authorization modules with flexibility to implement the rules of authentication and authorization.
Security: Prevention of Application Vulnerabilities
Frameworks need to have robust mechanisms to avoid web application vulnerabilities like Cross-Site Scripting Prevention (XSS), Cross-Site Request Forgery Prevention (CSRF), Cookie Attack prevention etc. Developers must be aware of such application vulnerabilities and the framework must have guidelines to enable developers to program the application avoiding the web application vulnerabilities.
Documentation and Community Support: Reduction in Learning Curve
Any framework requires a learning curve to learn and adapt to the developer requirements. Care must be given to analyze if the framework has good community support and proper documentation to understand the features offered. Sample code base, active forums, supporting community base are key factors that will determine on how quickly one can adapt to the new guidelines.
Apart from the above listed factors, Developers should also look for supporting factors like available modules, Ease of Template creation, AJAX support to integrate Rich Internet Application Components, support for unit testing, object oriented methodologies, compliance to XHTML standards etc. before finalizing a framework of choice.
Every framework has its own pros and cons. However, these general factors should help the php developers to analyze the strengths and weakness of the frameworks against the application requirement to decide on the Framework.