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32 web frameworks to choose from for your next project

Whether you’re wanting to build a tech startup or enhance your company’s online presence you are going to be facing two constraints. First, a limited budget and second, a tight deadline.

A solution to these problems is a web development framework. Frameworks are built on top of programming languages and provide methods of streamlining some of the more mundane and common tasks associated with web development. In essence, they allow developers to achieve more with less coding, saving both time and money. They provide a range of simple methods that help you connect to a database, authenticate users and build an admin backend, all with a few lines of code.

Web development frameworks come in all different shapes and sizes and there is no “best” framework as each has its own specialty and learning curve. Thus, in choosing a framework, you need to know what you require and understand what the framework can do for you.

Below, we review some of the most popular frameworks to help you in planning you next project:

Ruby on Rails

Rails is one of the most popular frameworks in the web development world. Built on the Ruby programming language, it is most well known for its failure to power Twitter. The idea that Rails is unable to perform effectively at scale is a missnomer and can rather be attributed to Twitter not using Rails appropriately. Many large websites have successfully leveraged Rails, most notably, Scribd and Hulu.

Rails follows convention over configuration, and a religious devotion to the principles of the MVC model, though this may steepen the learning curve, it will ensure that code remains simple and easy to understand.

Screencasts and tutorials make it easy to dive in to the rails community.

Built on Python, and orignally developed to cater for online-news operations, Django prides itself on the ability to build high performance web applications in rapid time. Python was designed with readability of the code as a key factor. As a result, the framework adheres to the the principle of Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY) and tries automate as many tasks for you as possible. Django builds a proffessional and production ready admin interface for you, and provides a powerful templating system that lets you separately design, content and code for easy editing.

Being one of the largest and most popular frameworks Django has an excellent community to turn to when you get stuck.

Used by NASA Science and commenting platform Disqus

Drupal is commonly perceived to be a Content Management System (CMS). This is no mistake but such a description does not illustrate Drupal’s powerful versatility. At it’s core, Drupal fits the bill for a web framework. With its long list of features it is no surprise the at the php based framework powers 1.5% of the world’s websites. Drupal appeals to all levels of developers, allowing the more experienced ones a set of tools to greatly manipulate the framework. Less skilled users, meanwhile, can tap into the 10 000 free community built addons.
Drupal is great for powering content rich sites.

Drupal powers large websites such as whitehouse.gov MTV United Kingdom and Yahoo! Research.

CakePHP is not only one of the most popular frameworks but it is one of the oldest too. The framework, built on PHP, has a large community where you can turn for tutorials and support.

CakePHP draws many of its concepts from Ruby on Rails. As a result, you have a set of strict conventions. Althought CakePHP may, in some cases, lack flexability you can be sure that your application will be uniform throughout – making code easy to understand and modify.

Used by The Onion Store and followmy.tv

With a small learning curve, CodeIgnitor attempts to get anyone coding. Built on PHP and designed to take advantage of shared hosting, CodeIgniter has a small footprint that requires very little configuration. The framework offering is very flexible and does not require you to stick to the rigid coding practices like frameworks. CodeIgnitor is a good starting point for beginners who wish to explore web frameworks.
Powers: The Mail & Guardian

And for good measure, here’s a much longer list of other’s out there:

PHP Frameworks

DooPHP: fast, lightweight and easy to learn with great documentation.

Horde: primed for use as an email client and groupware, comes with a modern library and a complete application stack.

Joomla!: although traditionally used as a CMS, you can leverage to power of Joomla’s MVC framework to build your own apps.

Kajona: PHP5 based it provides a great base for developing hooks and plugins.

Kohana: designed to be secure, lightweight and easy to use Kohana provides the right set of tools for building PHP5 applications.

Lithium: adhering to no nonsense philosophies Lithium wants you to build better applications without sacrificing quality.

Rain Framework: installed with a simple copy/paste action, seeks to help teams work together.

Symfony: build robust applications for enterprise deployment.

Yii: a framework that is quickly gaining traction, great for developing Web 2.0 applications.

Zend Framework: powering some of the world’s most trafficked sites, build applications of any size.

Java Frameworks

Apache Click: A free and opensource framework that is built on top of the Java Servlet API.

AppFuse: Build apps quickly with a large number out-of-the-box features.

Google Web Toolkit: Develop and maintain complex frontend Javascript applications in Java.

Play!: inspired by Rails and with scala support, harness the power of Java to build web applications.

Apache Sling: Bring back the fun to web development in the creation of content centric web applications.

ZK: code enterprise apps and slick looking user interfaces with no Javascript and little programming.

Python Frameworks

CherryPy: wants you to build object orientated applications as you would normally do in Python

CubicWeb: build applications quickly and efficiently with cubes.

Flask: a mircoframework which has a very simple core. Developers only add on what is necessary.

Grok: emphasizes agile web development, sutable for all levels of developers.

Nagare: a web framework dedicated to application development rather than content publishing.

Pylons: strongly influenced by Ruby on Rails, pylons gives you a near complete third party stack of schools with which to code.

web2py: originally a teaching tool, development and easy are key.

TurboGears: built with a large number of components and libraries, TurboGears attempts to make application developed easy, rapid and maintainable.

Ruby Frameworks

Camping: Ruby goodness in less than 4k, fully compatible with Rails if you ever out grow your tent.

Ramaze: keeping things straight forward and simple

Sinatra: dependent on the Rack web server interface, very flexible and allows you to create applications quickly.


  1. guillo

    June 29, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Some notes about Ruby on Rails section:

    Quora is based in Python (maybe in Django): http://www.quora.com/Quora-Infrastructure/Why-did-Quora-choose-Python-for-its-development
    Twitter still using Ruby on Rails for frontend, it was replaced for the backend.

  2. André Van Der Walt

    June 29, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Late to the party

    Microsoft with ASP.NET MVC for those who know C# :  http://www.asp.net/mvc

  3. Fred

    June 29, 2011 at 9:36 am

    ASP. NET only finds traction in the enterprise world. No one else cares for it. 

  4. Simunza S. Muyangana

    June 29, 2011 at 10:00 am

    what about CodeIgniter for PHP?

  5. JorisGoud

    June 29, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I’m surprised you’ve omitted Plone (http://plone.org) one of the python based CMS’s with a very substantial  install base.
    Site running Plone (2183 globally): http://plone.org/support/sites
    South African site running on Plone (39 sites): http://plone.org/support/sites/sites_listing?countries%3Alist=za

  6. Ian Whiteley

    June 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Please can TECHCRUNCH please remove that stupid “twitter Buzz On Feed” – it adds absolutely NO value and just wastes resources and bandwidth.

  7. Chase Hutchins

    June 30, 2011 at 3:05 am

    You should’ve mentioned FuelPHP (http://fuelphp.com) – Its kicking some serious ass right now.

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  9. Php Web Development

    June 30, 2011 at 7:04 am

    create a website using PHP is a very simple and not other development tool like
    ASP.Net and Java, VB.Net. The functions, methods and syntax of this scripting
    language simple and easy, and developer and programmer understand it easily.

  10. Anonymous

    June 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Truer words were never said…

  11. Foobar

    July 1, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    When I would start a company, I would choose the liftweb framework!
    It features … developer productivity, raw performance, scalability, out of the box security and top notch AJAX/Comet support.

  12. Haso Keric

    July 1, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    are you kidding ? FuelPHP is horrible and it was written by someone who used CodeIgniter for his entire PHP Career without any real PHP Kickass knowledge… were you drunk when you wrote this comment ?

  13. Tiarod

    July 1, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I’ve used OutSystems for the last 3 years with amazing results. Visual language, automated deployment, integrated monitoring. Great

  14. omid p

    July 2, 2011 at 4:47 am

    i didn’t see JBoss Seam, u forgot it, everything u need for developing RIA

  15. joke

    July 2, 2011 at 6:16 am

    because it’s too hard for spaghetti chefs?

  16. Артур Терегулов

    July 2, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Whatsashit, where is my ASP.NET MVC on third position?

  17. Jelmer Schreuder

    July 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Do you have any actual clue what you’re talking about? Fuel is developed by 4 guys (me among them) and was created by Dan Horrigan who has experience with many PHP and non-PHP frameworks (and probably tried all PHP frameworks).

    Also I’d like to know what “real PHP Kickass knownledge” entails according to you, knowing how we’re pushing and using many of the latest PHP 5.3 capabilities…

  18. Terry Tompkins

    July 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I have found that the Grails framework has been a very powerful and easy to use Rails-like framework built on the Groovy language (“new and improved” dynamic implementation of Java) and a number of existing frameworks and tools, such as Spring and Hibernate.  The static scaffolding functionality in Grails provides a means to generate decent CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) screens with code that can be easily read and modified.  Lately I’ve been working with a couple of plugins that integrate the Grails and Zk frameworks. 

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  23. Yoshi Sakai

    July 25, 2011 at 5:02 am

    I’d like to put on the XOOPS Cube.

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  29. Anonymous

    January 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks for this article, thoroughly informative. I’m gonna have a look at CodeIgnitor and then CakePHP for starters. PHP development really excites me and developing for massively installed user bases where there’s a built-in economy/market for your apps is that much better (like Joomla for example)…

  30. Greg Benison

    April 6, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    I believe that a lot of the need for templates would go away if it were easier to represent the DOM naturally in the language being used.  Use a language in which a simple native data structure maps easily to HTML, and you have much less need to build a template on top of the language.  This is one thing I like about Scheme as a web development language: http://gcbenison.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/guile-vs-php/

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