All PHP Frameworks Suck… Except for Mine

The thing about frameworks is that they’re built by developers to meet an out of the box solution. Sometimes, that’s a complicated piece of spaghetti code that can be used for anything, such as Zend 2, and sometimes, it can be a simple scaffolding set up in a very opened Core PHP way such as Yii, but still has the tread marks of included files and unnecessary nested functions, with an abstracted database layer.

The problem I’m having with any out of the box framework is this… Well, there are several problems.

1. Layer of abstraction for database.

I’ve heard this so many times before. What if the database changes? it’s easier to change that layer of abstraction than to go through your whole site and change the sql statements.

The problem I have with this is again, lazy developers will always make things worse for the rest of us. What you don’t realize is that by being lazy, you’re destroying your performance. Let me explain.

Typical mysqli statement:

$sql_i = "SELECT name FROM table WHERE id = ?";
$dbi = mysqli_connect(...
$stmt = $dbi->prepare($sql_i);

echo $name;

Ok, still a few functions to run through. Not bad though when you compare with how Yii, or Zend 2 propel queries for the same data. let me explain.


Yes, it looks smaller, but you’ve just added at least another object, and two more function calls. This is in addition to the back end mysql calls that happen to actually get that data. As far as micro optimization goes, this sucks. You’re not just adding two more function calls and an object; you’re adding an object and two function calls for EVERY QUERY that you run against the database.

In one of my previous work places, the lead developer was so obsessed with micro optimization that he would create arrays that would be build with brackets instead of array_push(). Obviously, the function call is more expensive when it comes to micro optimization. So, it’s ok to not be optimized when it comes to database calls only?

Then, they were wondering why their website loads at over 4 seconds. They had over 100 http request calls. No website should have over 25 calls, I don’t care how complicated your business logic. In the end, that’s what matters. Site speed is mostly determined by the amount of http requests. The problem was that with the framework they were using, it would have been nearly impossible to refactor the site to allow for concatenation of css and js files without writing it in Core PHP. What’s the point of this framework? Which brings me to my second point.

2. No flexibility for custom code

No matter how robust a framework is, it will always have constraints. There are limits to the things you can do with it. Symfony 2 for example, only allows for either sessions or cookies to be set in one call. Sessions are overwritten by cookies. So, in the end, we ended up writing Core PHP to handle both being set. Explain to me exactly what the win was there. If we’re going to avoid the framework and not use the framework’s internal functions, what’s the point of using the framework? Only to have it as a “cool” layer of abstraction? Because you think you’re cool that you know the framework?


Whenever PHP had an update, it was still PHP. New functions that would allow for more things to be done, and deprecated functions slowly making their way out. Slowly. You could still run your old code on the new PHP platform. You didn’t have to change anything, unless you wanted to optimize some of your code.

Have you ever tried upgrading from Zend to Zend 2? Symfony to Symfony 2? A freakin’ nightmare. And what’s ever worse is that with any new update to PHP, you couldn’t take advantage of this new version inside your framework. So, now you’re stuck using an older version of PHP, and a never changing framework, until the new version comes out, not having the guarantee that the new version of your framework will work with your old code.

When PHP updates, it has been usually tested by many more developers than if Yii updates. There’s a larger support group that will help you understand this new functionality. When a framework updates, the only ones that fully understand the framework are the developers of that framework. You have to pick up from the beginning and re-learn it. Sometimes this can take months. And once it’s perfected, a new version comes out. How is this progressive towards development?

PHP on its own is a framework. A much more robust, and opened framework. It will allow you to do whatever you want.

In conclusion, my theory holds true about frameworks. The best framework is the one you build from the ground up. I keep saying the same thing over and over:

“It’s not the tools you use, it’s how you use them”.


Update: 8/1/2014

Happy Friday! Just to make sure we’re on the same page, I found an awesome article that pretty much states what I stated. Do not use an out of the box framework for project that require long term maintenance. Build your own with as little abstraction as possible, and only make functions out of code that absolutely repeats itself. No parameters. Read for yourself and decide. Yes, it’s a bit long of a read, but definitely worth it!