PHP Laravel VS Symfony | Comparison of Web Development Frameworks
When PHP developers need to prepare any enterprise-grade web application, they often prefer to use a framework.
Using a framework in your coding work makes it easy for you to handle things with minimal coding. PHP frameworks also come in handy because they have coding standards that recommend good programming style, practices, and methods.
But choosing a framework requires a bit of research. This is why, in this article, we're going to compare two PHP frameworks: Laravel and Symfony.
Google Trends says that Laravel has been the most popular PHP framework for the last 5 years. Symfony is 2nd on the list.
Image Source: Google Trends
If you are already trying to decide between Laravel and Symfony, I am here to help you make a decision. In this post, I’ll go through:
Brief Overview of Frameworks
Benefits of Laravel
Benefits of Symfony
Performance & Scalability
Popularity, Documentation & Learning Curve
Symfony vs. Laravel: a brief overview
When talking about Laravel, I’m referring here to all its versions 5.0, 5.1 (LTS), to 5.8 and the upcoming 6.0 (LTS) version. The framework helps you rapidly develop web applications with syntax that's simple and easy to learn, read, and maintain.
Benefits of Laravel
Introduced in 2011 by Taylor Otwell, Laravel has many benefits.
- Laravel allows separation of ‘business logic code’ from ‘presentation code’. Such separation allows you to change the appearance of a web page easily. Bug fixes with Laravel are also faster.
- Laravel supports integration with backend tools like Memcached and Redis that makes web development easier and faster.
- It fixes the most critical web application security vulnerabilities like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and cross-site request forgery. Here is the Laravel Security Checklist to help web developers build more secure applications.
- Laravel automates code testing with PHPUnit which offers a convenient method for testing web applications.
Symfony is an open-source web application framework. It is also popular among web developers for its reusable components as well as its libraries.
Started in 2005 by French company SensioLabs, Symfony is an expandable framework. It adds unique functionality and features that can change everything within the application's framework, without having to reconfigure the entire framework.
Benefits of Symfony:
- Like Laravel, the open-source PHP framework Symfony also works on MVC architecture which is helpful for building scalable web applications.
- The MVC model also ensures that your project lives within a structured system that simplifies and speeds up the development process by separating business and presentation layers from each other.
- Symfony components are reusable and decoupled PHP libraries that work as a base for web development projects. These components help you complete common tasks without writing lengthy code.
- Symfony profiler is one of the best features that developers can use to track the behavior of any application by mapping all its actions and activities on the back end side.
- Check here for a full guide on how to use Symfony profiler for testing a web application.
- Symfony has all the benefits that you expect from a PHP framework, for example speedy development, reliability of debugging with an extensible debugging toolbar, automated deployment of applications, easy documentation, and large community support.
Performance & Scalability
Performance and scalability are two key factors behind the success of every web application. Laravel has a set of unified APIs for caching views, while Symfony caches source code and views by default. This is the reason why Symfony has a longer website loading time.
The average loading time for websites on Laravel is about 60 milliseconds, while Symfony's load time is about 250 milliseconds. In the below image, you can see the load times of Symfony and Laravel on the two largest web servers Apache and NginX.
(Image Source: Bitcoininsider.org)
Laravel is based upon Symfony Components. At the same time, Laravel allows you to do PHP programming with less code and higher performance. If you’re thinking of building your next web application for business purposes, then Laravel works best for projects that need faster delivery with fewer resources.
Symfony, on the other hand, requires more time, coding effort, and financial resources at the beginning stage of your projects. It also requires a lot of work for configuring its elements.
But Symfony is a good choice for complex web projects, as its custom functionality works well with the requirements of your business web application.
Symfony is based on the bundled form of a modular structure that comes with a fine collection of reusable components. This ensures better modularity when developing a web application.
Symfony Bundles (like FrameworkBundle, SecurityBundle, DebugBundle, and so on) are used to share code and features between different applications.
Laravel’s architecture is different. It is more restricted when you want to make quick changes to your web application. As a result, any changes to the application modules mean that developers don't just have to deal with that module, but instead with the entire unit of code.
Diagram of Laravel Architecture Image Source: Stack Overflow
Symfony’s ability to organize code makes it an ideal choice for complex web development projects. This is the reason why some web developers prefer Symfony over Laravel.
When it comes to the template engine, Symfony uses the Twig templating engine which allows you to write concise and readable templates.
On the other hand, Laravel uses the Blade templating engine for web applications because of its code's reusability. Also, there’s no need to define the same function twice as in the Twig template engine.
Both these frameworks are built on the MVC architecture. But in the end, Symfony is still the best choice for its code modularity and component reusability.
The database support system is important because it allows developers to manage data and perform multiple tasks with ease. It stores, organizes, and manages information within a single software application.
Using a database support system in web development projects increases efficiency in business operations and reduces costs. Both Symfony and Laravel use ORM (Object Related Mapping) for data access. Symfony ORM uses Doctrine while Laravel ORM uses Eloquent for data handling.
Symfony database migrations are automatic. But developers need to define specific fields in the given code. On the other hand, Laravel uses database migrations and there is no need to define the fields.
With ORM supported databases, these two PHP frameworks make it easier to process data and data manipulation.
Symfony provides a few more options for database support, for example:
- SAP Sybase SQL Anywhere
While Laravel supports only a few of them:
As you can see with these options, Symfony supports more databases than Laravel. Because of this, data manipulation and data management become much simpler with Symfony. So Symfony wins this one. But Laravel's functionality allows you to avoid bulky and large code blocks.
Laravel also saves you time and effort on web projects rather than doing tedious, repetitive tasks. It supports many important tools that help make common tasks easier. It also automates functions like authentication, queuing, sessions, caching and routing.
Popularity, Documentation & Learning Curve
Choosing the right framework is always important for a developer whether you're updating your web application's content or website content.
Choosing a PHP framework based on its popularity can bring some benefits. With a more popular framework, you get a large amount of training and support information online.
The Laravel Github docs are also extensive and provide excellent information that Symfony doesn’t provide.
Symfony documentation is also available but has more topics on bundles, components, service containers, and other sets of features. Symfony’s community has more than 600,000 developers and contributors from more than 120 countries that help fix bugs and identify coding errors.
Symfony is also popular among web developers. It shares great documentation, even though the resources are not as extensive as those for Laravel.
In the end, Laravel is more popular than Symfony. There are more than 1 million websites on the web built using the Laravel framework. To compare, the number of websites built on Symfony is around 33,000. You can check here for more information.
From the points mentioned above, it’s clear that both Laravel and Symfony are rich in features. Both are suitable to use on a wide range of web development projects.
Laravel is often preferred by developers for its rapid development, performance, and speed. Symfony is suitable for the development of complex and large-size web applications.
You must use whatever suits your web project. Just make sure you choose the framework that you feel more comfortable with for the development of your web apps.