Is PHP or Node.JS Better for Building Custom Software?

Once you venture into the custom software development world, you’ll quickly learn about the debate of whether to use PHP or Node.JS.

In the past, PHP was one of the most popular scripting languages for back-end development (on a server), or the software that works behind-the-scenes to provide the data. Conversely, JavaScript was strictly for front-end development (in a web browser), or the software you see and interact with.

That is until Node.JS came along in 2009, making a way for JavaScript to set foot in back-end development, and pretty soon, developers were at odds when it came to deciding whether PHP or Node.JS is better.

To select the appropriate solution for you, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.

What is PHP?

PHP (hypertext preprocessor) is essentially an HTML-embedded web, server-side (back-end) scripting language. Created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994, PHP went on to become one of the most prevalent scripting languages of the Web 1.0 era.

Since its advent, the latest versions of PHP have seen dramatic improvements in terms of its capabilities and speed, and as of today, PHP is most widely known for its use as the back-end in content management systems (CMS), including WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.

Pros

  • Powerful Code Base - PHP is known as one of the best software solutions for ecommerce sites because it works well with popular platforms and frameworks, making sites easy to deploy and customize, which is due in part to it being open source.

  • Flexibility with Servers & Platforms - If you want code with an ample amount of flexibility, PHP can definitely offer you that in terms of servers and platforms. As such, PHP is an accessible development solution for small and large companies alike.

  • Built for the Web - Unlike some programming languages, PHP was designed for the web and, because of this, offers the ideal functionality for managing HTML. For a comprehensive server-side solution, that won’t overload the client-side, PHP is often ideal.

Cons

  • Slower Initiating Process  - As an older script, PHP generally adheres to the traditional client-server model in which each page request initiates the application, database connection, configuration parameters, and HTML rendering, which can make it run slower than preferred.

  • Difficult Code Maintenance - Ideally, code should offer a clear Separation of Concerns (SoC), or distinct sections that separate each individual concern. This in mind, PHP can mix HTML and language syntax, and if developers don’t adhere to best practices, this can make the code difficult to maintain.

What is Node.JS?

Shortly after PHP, JavaScript arrived on the scene in 1995, thanks to James Gosling. While PHP is strictly a back-end scripting language, JavaScript was originally used strictly on the client-side (front-end). More recently, however, JavaScript branched into the server-side (back-end) via Node.JS, a JavaScript framework that runs on a server.

Originally designed to develop programs for set-top boxes and handheld devices, JavaScript has since evolved into one of the most common languages for creating web applications, largely dominating the client-side of development.

But with the launch of Node.JS in 2009, JavaScript became useful in more ways than one: Node.JS is a runtime environment that allows JavaScript to be used for server-side development. Since it’s release, Node.JS has become particularly popular for developing I/O-heavy applications.

Pros

  • JS throughout the stack - JavaScript is the modern browsers’ go-to language for client-side frameworks. This can simplify development, as your team has the option to use the same language on both the front- and back-end of your software.

  • Asynchronous Processing - While PHP uses a multi-threaded, blocking I/O (input/output) to process tasks, Node.JS allows for asynchronous processing with its non-blocking I/O model. This model allows one thread to process multiple requests, without any request blocking the thread, making for a faster server-side solution.

  • Newer code, newer features - Because Node.JS has only existed in the server-side of development for roughly a decade, the code is by nature more up-to-date. In addition to more current plug-ins, Node.JS was also designed with current architectural approaches in mind.

Cons

  • New Isn’t Always Better - While the ‘freshness’ of Node.JS has its benefits, there are several drawbacks to such new technology. While PHP has had the time work out its kinks, Node.JS likely still has its share of bugs and version inconsistencies to work through.

  • Not Built for CPU-intensive Apps - While one of the ‘pros’ of Node.JS is its single thread process, that same process can make it less effective for building software designed to accommodate multiple users or multi-tasking, and here’s why.  

    Since Node.JS can only process one request at a time, if one request takes too long to execute, the user will simply be left waiting. With PHP, however, if one task is delayed, its multi-threaded process allows it to continue processing other requests all the while.

What Should You Choose?

When it comes to choosing between PHP and Node.JS, one can’t definitively say which is better than the other because which language you choose is heavily based on what you wish to create.

Generally, if you’re building an ecommerce website, for example, PHP is the better way to go. Not only is PHP compatible with popular platforms, like Drupal, but it also offers greater flexibility in terms of hosting. Built for the web, PHP is typically the ideal choice for building a website.

On the other hand, with the client-side friendly JavaScript at its core, it should come as no surprise that Node.JS typically has more to offer in that department: In this way, for real-time applications or single-page applications, Node.JS may be the better option.

That being said, building custom software is never cut and dry process. However, with over 10 years in software and web development, ClikFocus has the skill and knowledge base necessary to select the appropriate tools to build software that meets your needs and expectations.  

To find out how we can help, contact us now.