Remember the early days of the web, when websites used to consist mainly of text, links, a few images and little or no styling? Today, with almost 45 % of the World’s population using the internet, the web has come a long way. Using modern scripting languages and frameworks, it has become possible to develop websites that are responsive, scalable and dynamic. PHP is, among others, one of the most popular and widely used languages for developing web applications. It’s ease of use as compared to other scripting languages and the fact that it has a large community of users makes it a favorite among web zealots.
PHP frameworks have been developed over the years as a result of the increased popularity in the use of PHP. These frameworks extract the common modules and the underlying architecture of a web application, and combine them into a reusable template. Laravel and CodeIgniter are such frameworks that are very famous and are being used vigorously by the PHP community. A well-designed framework aids the developer in creating custom web applications with code that repeats itself as little as possible. The web application is developed in a significantly less amount of time, allowing the developer to focus on the features that are specific to their application, rather than wasting resources by starting a project from scratch. Choosing the right PHP framework for a web application varies from project to project, and more importantly, from developer to developer.
It is believed that every framework has certain types of projects for which it is better suited, but the fact remains that most of the frameworks can be used for any project that you want. Keeping this in mind, the decision to choose between Laravel and CodeIgniter becomes difficult. What are the factors that should be compared? What qualities should decide which framework is more suitable for your project? Before jumping to any conclusions, let’s take a look at some of the characteristics that make up a good PHP framework.
- Community and online help
It really helps when your chosen framework has a large, active community of users who are always available in case you need support. All prior queries and their answers are documented on the community forums, which means that you can find a resolution to most of the problems that you might encounter.
- Database integration
Integrating a database is one of the key factors while developing a web application. Depending on which database you prefer to use for your projects, you need to make sure that the particular framework supports that database type.
- Learning Curve
A framework that has a large footprint and has complex features and functions can be hard to use for a beginner. In the cases where the framework has a steep learning curve, beginners find it hard to learn all the aspects of that framework and have to put in extra time and effort.
- Documentation Support
Most frameworks come with their own documentation that helps the user to get familiar with that framework. It is strongly recommended to choose a framework that has an extensive user guide which is easy to follow and always up-to-date. There still exists frameworks that have very less or no documentation at all, which makes it difficult for new users to implement.
- Built-in Modules
A web application consists of many modules that are responsible for different aspects of that application. Developers prefer that the more complex web applications be divided into small modules, helping them save time as well as simplifying their overall project.
Created by Taylor Otwell in 2011, Laravel is licensed under the MIT License and based on the MVC (Model – View – Controller) architecture. Today, it is one of the most popular of the PHP frameworks due to its expressive and elegant design, robust features and the fact that it is open-source and completely free!
Since its creation, 14 versions of Laravel have been released. With each new version, the features get better and better, making the task of the developer easier. The latest one, Version 5.5, was released in 2017 and is reported to be the best one so far. Data migration has never been so fast, nor were the previous versions so secure as Laravel 5.5. Laravel attempts to take the pain out of development by easing some of the tasks that are common in most of the web projects, such as authentication, routing and sessions, allowing the developer to focus on other explicit functionalities.
5 Pros of Using Laravel
- Comes with an excellent built-in ORM: The Eloquent ORM feature is a great solution for easy database integration with your web application. Object Relational Mapping, or ORM, helps greatly in organizing an application’s database, and Laravel’s Eloquent is no different. It supports the most popular databases out of the box, including SQLite, MYSQL, Postgres, etc. Eloquent uses Models, which allows the developer to interact directly with the application’s database tables. Each table is represented by a different Model which makes it easier to run queries and insert new records in the database.
- Good documentation: Laravel offers a thorough and well-organized documentation that is a great resource for both experienced and beginner developers. The documentation covers each and every aspect of the framework in a clean, understandable way.
- Authentication and Authorization: The inbuilt Authentication Class provided by Laravel makes authentication and authorization very easy. The class is easily customizable and offers extensive options that can be availed to make your web application secure. A comprehensive login system is deployed with just a single command using this class and you can also keep your routes secure by putting up filters. In short, the Authentication class provides an organized way to manage your application’s authorization logic and gives better control to all the resources.
- Unit testing with PHP Unit: When comparing it with other frameworks, Laravel easily scores over the others in the category of unit testing. It is widely accepted that Laravel has been built with special emphasis on testing, due to the fact that it comes loaded with PHPUnit, an out of the box feature supporting unit testing. It enables programmers to check the application code thoroughly and continuously, ‘unit by unit’.
- Active community: Laravel boasts one of the most active communities among all the frameworks. Web developers find it easier to avail online help and prompt solutions. The framework also has its own conference, Laracon, that takes place each year to discuss Laravel’s recent development, its uses and other related topics. The conference is a big event where developers from all over the World participate.
5 Cons of Using Laravel
- Steep learning curve: New users report that the Laravel installation process is quite complicated and seldom installs on the first attempt. The documentation is no doubt good, but it is also very lengthy and you need to know what you are looking for. For that, you have to go through the whole documentation at least once, to be able to familiarize with it. Due to the numerous updates, online tutorials get outdated and depreciated over time as each new version is rolled out.
- Discontinuation between versions: With each new version, Laravel’s features are updated and improved. But this becomes a problem when you try updating your application to the new version. The application will most likely break or come up with errors that you would have to debug.
- Complicated directory system: For people who prefer a rigid PHP folder structure, the directory system of Laravel is a nuisance. Upon installation, a ton of folders and files are created automatically, some of which are not used in the application. For beginners, it is of course a great disadvantage as they have to understand the whole directory system first to be able to effectively use the framework.
- Ambiguity using Models: Declaring Models to interact with the database requires manually checking the tables and assigning names accordingly. Databases having a handful of tables would not be a problem, but when large number of tables are required in your application, it is sure to become messy.
- Poor performance on mobile phones: Users have reported that the performance of Laravel applications on smart phones is not very efficient. Since there is no built-in caching mechanism, the pages have to load each time, which naturally takes time.
CodeIgniter was released by ElisLab, a software company based in Oregon, almost 12 years ago. The framework is based on the MVC architecture, but not as rigidly as Laravel; use of the Controller class is compulsory, while Models and Views are left as optional. It is favored for it’s simple interface and strong, logical structure to develop web applications in a short time.
Often noted for its speed when compared to other frameworks, CodeIgniter has a small foot print, due to the reason that it does not come with many out-of-the-box modules. In fact, CodeIgniter is extensible, allowing developers to use their own helpers, external libraries and class extensions.
Like Laravel, CodeIgniter is absolutely free and its source code is maintained at GitHub.
5 Pros of using CodeIgniter
Easy to learn: Beginners find it easy to learn and use CodeIgniter in a short time. As opposed to Laravel, the installation and initial setup of CodeIgniter is relatively simple, so you can get started in no time at all. A large and experienced community is available offering numerous guides and tutorials for the sake of the newbies.
- Very stable: Since the framework is more than a decade old, it has been tested by hundreds and thousands of developers over the years. This means that it’s very hard for any bugs or problems to go unnoticed. Even when a new version is out, bugs are quickly found and patched up so you don’t have to worry about any ‘crashes’.
- Small footprint: CodeIgniter’s installation package has a total size of 2 MB’s, which includes the documentation as well! The minimal footprint makes it easier to download and set up, as well as allowing fast and efficient performance of web applications. And the developer can always customize their framework by extending to external libraries and toolkits.
- Well documented: The CodeIgniter User Guide comes with the download. It consists of an introduction, a basic tutorial, how-to guides, and reference documentation for the different components. The documentation is clear, structured and thorough; it explains both commonly used and abstract concepts, always with clear examples.
- Supports Caching: In addition to being one of the most lightweight of the frameworks, CodeIgniter also allows caching to boost up the performance of web applications. The framework offers two types of caching: page-caching, where the developer has the option to enable caching on a per-page basis and to set the duration for the cache as well, and database caching, which drastically reduces the server load by caching fully rendered web pages.
5 Cons of Using CodeIgniter
- Outdated: CodeIgniter was released in 2006, at the time of PHP 4. Since PHP itself has undergone many updates since then, many PHP features that were later added are not available on CodeIgniter. These features include Procedural helpers, modular separation and support for Namespaces, to name a few. Even though CodeIgniter can be used on any latest version of PHP today, the features still stay excluded to avoid compatibility issues. Developers have to extend their core files and use external resources to overcome this problem.
- No built-in ORM: Unlike Laravel, CodeIgniter does not provide with a built-in Object Relational Mapping mechanism. Developer has to use 3rd party solutions to better interact with the application’s database.
- No emphasis on code maintainability: Today, at the enterprise level at least, it is required from developers to write code that is easy to read and maintain, structured and clean. This allows the code to be reused and modified for future use among other advantages. CodeIgniter lacks at code maintainability because it does not support modular separation of the code: it completely depends on the developer to maintain and clean their code manually.
- Lack of inbuilt libraries: Like the other PHP frameworks, CodeIgniter also boosts up the web development process by offering a number of libraries. But they are limited in their functionalities and are not as readily implementable as the other frameworks. Modular Extension is utilized by CodeIgniter developers to access and make use of modules and external libraries.
- No unit-testing: CodeIgniter does not come with any support for unit-testing. The developer has to check each section of their application manually and debug any error themselves. This is both time-taking and costly.
If compared statistically, Laravel appears to be more prevalent than CodeIgniter by a large margin. This can be confirmed by Sitepoint’s 2015 survey results, where Laravel was crowned as the most popular PHP framework according to a whopping 7800 entries. CodeIgniter, according to the survey, trails at number 4. Users also report that Laravel is more marketable since clients have often heard about the framework already, giving a Laravel a higher market value than CodeIgniter.
Some would argue that the popularity or the market shares are not enough reasons to choose one framework over another, and it is a valid point. A good developer should consider the overall features, performance and functionalities that are specific to their web application before implementing ANY framework.
Experienced and well-seasoned developers can find that they can avail many great features if they opt for Laravel, since it requires a thorough command on the MVC architecture as well as a strong grip on OOP (Object Oriented Programming) concepts. For beginners, this can all be a lot of hassle and they have to put in extra time and effort to learn Laravel. On the other hand, novice developers will find getting started with CodeIgniter much easier.
If you are looking to build a flexible and maintainable application, Laravel is a decent choice. The documentation is thorough, the community is great and you can develop fully featured, complicated web applications. There are still many developers in the PHP community who prefer CodeIgniter for developing medium to small applications in a simple developing environment. Keeping in mind the pros and cons of each, in respect to the particular project, you can arrive at the perfect verdict.
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